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Water crises

By Rao Dilshad Hussain

With the induction of 69 new tube wells the number of tube wells across Lahore has risen to 450. As a result the water supply has improved and the lurking crisis of water shortage is over. Last few summers were tough as the government had to face demonstrations of people and even riots due to shortage of clean water and electricity. This year half of the problem is at least solved. New tube wells are pumping water around the clock.

In the Walled City people could be seen standing in long queues for hours to fetch water. Often quarrels broke out when people brought too many buckets with them or tried to bypass the queue to get water. The situation was getting worse. There were frequent eruptions of riots at several places in the city.


The Punjab government tasked Frontier Works Organisation to replace tube wells hoping for quick results. The decision to install new tube wells was taken in August 2008. The agony of water starved people and the enthusiasm of the new setup at Punjab required some drastic measures to overcome the looming crisis and FWO took the responsibility to change the scenario. Timely completion and quality work was the yardstick for this project.

It was a challenge both for Punjab government and FWO as some quarters were sceptical that the later being new in tube well installation may face difficulties however the positive experience of Punjab government for the Lahore Roads Project became the determining factor for the go ahead. The work started in October 2008 with a four cubic feet per second (CFS) capacity tube well at Kashmiri Gate and completed in 2010 with the installation of the 69th tube well in Tibbi Thana area that marked the completion of the plan of Rs432 million in about a year with a saving of 27 million of government funds. All the sites have been handed over to WASA however FWO is responsible for one-year maintenance as per contract.

A tube well is more like a glacier whose nine parts out of ten are submerged and for a depth of many hundred feet the quality of equipment and skilled workmanship becomes important. Shahbaz’s government that had politically benefited from the developmental work executed during its previous tenure of late 90’s had to fulfil the promise as well as expectations for the quality development of Lahore. That was the reason that the system of 3rd party consultant was incorporated and NESPAK was brought in as consultants for the designing, inspections and validations of the drinking water project.

The foremost thing in the current project was to get the pure water from the lower water table at a depth of an average 700 feet below. The average water table in Lahore is about a hundred feet below ground however tube wells were previously sunk at a depth of 550 feet. Lowering of the water table and the risk of any contamination in future was the determining factor for it.

FWO has completed and handed over 69 tubewells to the WASA. The tube wells are at Maskeen Pura, Fateh Garh, Mori Gate, Taxali Gate, Kashmiri Gate, Karim Park Goal Ground, 16-B block, Mushtaq Colony Kotli Pir Abdurehman, 5 C-2, RehmanPura, Kawan Kot WASA colony, C Bloc Faisal Town, Akram Park, Hamad Park, Hamad Colony, Piran Wali, Nabi Baksh Park, Moon Market, Qadri Park, Zubair Park, Firdous Colony, F & V Market, Umar Park, Shadman Nala, Kot Khawaj Saeed, Farid Kot House, Mental Hospital, Chanal Bloc A.I.T, Usman Park, Jamshed Park, LDA Quarter Walton, AL-Faisal Town, Ghaziabad Bus Stop, Islam Pura, 1 C-1 Township, Bogi Wall, Gujar Pura, Adda Crown Bus, G Bloc Sabzazar, Akbari Gate, H-2 Bloc Sabzazar Zar, Imam Ghazali, DO (North Office), Junior Model School, Gawala Colony, Apwa College, C Bloc Sabzazar, General Hospital, Waris Road, Sultani Park Sultan Pura, Patila House, Nishtar Bloc, Paisa Akhbar, Lavion Road, Faisal Park, Abikj Park, Nappier Road, FCC college, Polly Technical College, Chohan Road, Gulshsne Hayat, A Block Muslim Town, Munshi Hospital, Taika Mehmood shah, G Bloc Johar Town, Raj Garh Office, Tehsil Garden and Anad Road.

The absence of a master plan affected all types of developmental work including tube wells. Setting up of a tube well requires lot of coordination with different departments and local resident committees however due to lack of coordination, at earmarked locations after taking in hand preliminary working, FWO was told to move to the new alternate site which wasted lot of time and resources.

The tube wells are under the responsibility of FWO for their technical maintenance up to one year and an efficient and responsive round the clock maintenance system has been chalked out. It is however the tube well operator under whose charge the whole system is placed. The operators are generally employees who are illiterate with no training of operating the equipment. It was easy before due to the old mechanical technology. But enhanced electronic systems have necessitated the need and understanding of vocational training.

Some of the tube well sites could not be handed over to FWO even after a delay of 10 months. However despite of all odds, the dedicated team of FWO has delivered and completed this project of 69 tube wells in a scheduled time of 14 months.

“We have done our best however the life of these machines can be greatly enhanced with proper maintenance and adherence of the Standard Operative Procedure (SOP)” Engineer Azam Project Manager, Tube well Project.

The electricity fluctuations and breakdowns require a continuous presence of the operators. Fiddling with panels and disturbing the electronic settings creates more loss than controlling the situation. Late coming and absence of the operators from duty is another common problem. There have been incidents where the operator was absent even during fire.

Unsatisfactory electrical support system has led to many problems. Installation of substandard transformers, stealing of electric wires and replacement with substandard ones are the recurring problems.

Equipment worth millions of rupees needs trained operators. A basic course in tube well operation and some hands-on training should be a must for the operators. Yearly inspections and performance checks system should be incorporated in its earnest. The average life of tube wells is 10 to 15 years, which can be conveniently extended to 20 years by mere efficient maintenance.

FWO has issued guidelines to WASA for the maintenance of tube wells installed in different parts of the city: The tube well operator is to be employed on regular basis with proper instruction and training. The minimum qualification of the tube well operator should be matriculation. Specialized practical training essentially has to be imparted by WASA to the operators for operation and maintenance of tube wells.

The load shedding has almost become a regular feature, frequent closure and re-operation of tube well with erratic energy supply can result in burning of motor, and MCU. Therefore a watchful operator can save the machinery from damage and as well as utilize the available electric supply hours to the maximum.

It has been observed that at times the WAPDA transformer is giving under or over-voltage due to which the tube well is automatically tripped off. Instead of removing the fault of transformer by sending a complaint to WAPDA, the WASA sub division electrician change the setting of control panel at his own to non-permissible limit and as a result control panel has burnt several times.

Opening of sluice valve of main lines before operating a tube well is very important. It has been found that at time the sluice valve of main line is closed by WASA for repair work in general area. Later the tube wells are started without opening of the valves that result in bursting of mainlines due to back thrust.

Tube well panels have to be kept clean. This will enhance the electrical component. Every month all bolts should be tightened and cleaned regularly. To keep the tube well room cool during summers all windows and ventilators should be kept open.

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posted by S A J Shirazi @ 9:00 AM,

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