DI KHAN: As the days get longer and hotter, residents of Tank district scratch their heads as they try to find a way to prevent a likely drought.
Tank city is dependent on Tank Zam water channel which comes from the mountains of South Waziristan. The storage and pipeline systems are old and inadequate in this day.
However, even worse off than Tank city are the villages on the outskirts where there is an acute shortage of water, leaving locals dependent on dirty water ponds.
These ponds and bodies of stagnant water are either filled from channels or hold contaminated rainwater which is fetched for household use and even drinking. These days, locals are making a beeline to Tank city with their tractor-trolleys and donkey carts. “I took water from a private tube well in Umar Adda and purchased an eight-gallon drum of water for Rs150,” Abdul Sattar from Gura Baloch village tells The Express Tribune.
Villages like Ranwal, Kari Hyder, Gura Baluch, Jatathor, and Gomel are all facing a water shortage and each place has its own set of problems. Kari Hyder is one such village where residents are dependent on stagnant water. In the absence of rain, this water has become contaminated. “We have no other option, but to use it and even drink it,” says a resident, Malik Gul Rang.
“There was a tube well set-up back in the 90s, which is now defunct. The transformer was stolen and the pipeline was either torn apart or is missing,” Gul Baz Khan points out. “It has been dry for the last 10 years.”
“We lodged several complaints with government departments, but there is nobody to hear us,” Rang adds.
Dam-ed if you do
Tank’s Gomel village faces another type of problem. The village is dependent on an old water channel which is now mainly dry. The reason – Gomel Zam Dam in South Waziristan. “Since two weeks, Gomel’s people [from 25 small villages] are not receiving water via the channel,” says a local elder, Arif Zaman Burki. “Our crops are affected and we have little drinking water.”
He claims there are differences between the dam project’s administration and the Frontier Works Organization (FWO). Burki alleges the latter is not only delaying work, but also using substandard material in the construction of the new channel from Gomel Zam Dam.
“We are deprived of water from the old source and have no idea when the new channel from Gomel Zam Dam will be completed. Even then, the question of us getting water is up in the air,” adds Burki. “We are highly concerned. If the issue is not resolved in a timely manner, we will resort to protests and block DI Khan-Wana Road.”
Empty ponds and crocodile tears
Ranwal is another village facing the worst sort of crisis. Not only are residents dependent on ponds, but often find the one in their village dry.
Ranwal is the hometown of Pakistan Tehreeke-e-Insaf (PTI) MNA Dawar Khan Kundi and now his brother Mustafa Kundi has been elected as a district councillor. He is also one of the potential candidates for the district nazim slot. Nobody from Tank is quite sure when PTI leader Azam Swati intends to take action. After all, “tears came to his eyes” when during a visit he saw women travelling long distances for water, said locals.
Spent and unpaid
Tank’s municipal employees have not been paid for three months now and locals wonder if the water issues will ever get resolved, especially when the relevant authority has its own battles to fight. There have also been reports that families have started migrating to neighbouring places such as DI Khan due to the drought.