Elections 2013: Water availability a key issue for Islamabad’s NA-48 constituents

An edited version of this article was first published in The Express Tribune on May 10, 2013.

Islamabad – When urban residents of the federal capital head to the polling stations of May 11, they will be voting for, among other things, the adequate supply of water to the city during the summers.

Water shortage is one of the biggest problems faced by residents of the federal capital’s urban areas, which mostly fall in the NA-48 constituency, and the political party candidates vying for the national assembly seat have come up with some ideas to resolve the water crisis.

At least two major political candidates are banking on water supply from the Ghazi-Barotha dam, which is built on the River Indus near Attock in Punjab for hydro power, to meet the water demand of the capital’s burgeoning population.

Both Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz politician Anjum Aqeel and Jamaat-e Islami (JI) candidate Mian Aslam have promised to complete the Ghazi-Barotha water project — the project which would help supply water from the dam to the federal capital.

The project, which if completed is expected to supply water to Islamabad and Rawalpindi till 2050, has languished due to lack of funding and also due to reservations from Sindh over sharing the water of River Indus.

Aqeel, who is on a re-election bid from NA-48, told The Express Tribune that if he is elected the project will be completed within a year. He said Nawaz Sharif has given him a guarantee that the both Rawalpindi and Islamabad will share the water. Aqeel blamed the Pakistan Peoples Party government for his failure to get the project up and running during his five years as Member National Assembly (MNA).

Aslam said the project has already received approval from various government departments and is only in need of funds to go through. The Capital Development Authority (CDA), which is responsible for handling the city’s municipal affairs, tried to get a concessional loan from China through the Government of Pakistan’s Economic Affairs Division but has not received a positive response.

Aslam said he would ensure the loan comes through and if it does not he would get the federal government to bankroll the project through a grant.

The average demand of water in Islamabad is 176 millions gallons per day (MGD) but the CDA faces a shortage of around 106 MGD in the summers, according to a previous The Express Tribune report. The city gets its water from the Simly and Khanpur dams.

Both candidates said the reservations of Sindh could be allayed through negotiations.

Ali Nawaz Awan, the campaign manager of Pakistan Tehreek-e Insaf’s NA-48 candidate Javed Hashmi, spoke to The Express Tribune on Hashmi’s behalf. Awan said the job of providing water to constituents is not an MNA’s responsibility. He said the PTI-led government, if it comes to power, has promised to hold local government elections in 90 days and the elected Nazim from Islamabad would then be tasked to resolve the water crisis.

Pakistan Peoples Party candidate for NA-48 Faisal Sakhi Butt, who has campaigning with the promise that he would turn Islamabad into a “modern metropolis”, was not available for comment.

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