The Express Tribune Editorial 29 August 2019

Access to piped water


Half of Karachi households have no access to piped water, says a recent study. It does not mention how infrequently the other half gets water in their taps. They do get monthly water bills on a regular basis. They pay the bills for fear of disconnection. And they buy water tankers or cans to meet their water needs. They have to pay to two suppliers for the same thing. This is one of the strategies for survival in Karachi where water shortage is increasing by the day. The total water requirement of Karachi is around 1,100 mgd but it gets less than 50 per cent of the demand. The city is supplied water from Keenjhar Lake and Hub dam. Keenjhar is meant to supply 550 mgd but it provides 450 mgd only. Hub is supposed to supply 100 mgd to some areas of Karachi.
“We get less than the due share of water for Karachi,” says an adviser to the Sindh government. “The request to the federal government has been pending for the past three years.” He urged the common people not to waste the precious commodity. Perhaps he forgot the fact it is the elite who waste water. He stressed that if consumers paid their bills, they would get water in their taps regularly. Here too myopia is evident.
“Decades of increasing the private sector’s role in water provision has not adequately increased access, particularly for the urban under-served,” says Diana Mitlin, lead author of the report and principal researchers for human settlement at the International Institute for Environment and Development. She rightly says water is a human right. She says water, like air, is a free good. There is, however, a group of people who assert that God made water but He did not create its delivery systems, though they have nothing to do with the scientific aspects of water supply. They only write reports for those who pay them.
Water is for the most part a governance issue, especially in Sindh. Shah Latif Bhittai, one of Sindh’s great poets, says only a fool living near a river would die of thirst.


Very British coup’


Boris Johnson has given up on efforts for a smooth Brexit in just about a month of taking over as British Prime Minister. The new 10 Downing incumbent appears to have realised what could not have been achieved in more than three years and sent two prime ministers packing cannot be achieved in just about two months from now i.e. an exit deal with the European Union that could sail through the British parliament.
The Prime Minister has, thus, asked the Queen to suspend Parliament until October 14 in what is being likened by his opponents with “trashing the constitution”, “a very British coup” and “a declaration of war” because it may not allow opposition lawmakers to have enough time to pass laws blocking a no-deal Brexit. Remember Brexit — with or without a deal — has to happen by the October 31 deadline.
The lawmakers are very rightly furious, and they include many from the Conservative camp too. Speaker John Bercow says Parliament shutdown would be an offence against the democratic process and the rights of parliamentarians as the people’s elected representatives. To Tom Watson, the deputy leader of the Labour Party, the action is an “utterly scandalous affront to our democracy” and “we cannot let this happen”.
The PM’s bold move is widely believed to have threated the mother of all parliaments. And a no deal-Brexit is feared to rock financial markets and weaken London’s position as a global financial centre. The negative signs are already here: the pound has slumped to almost one per cent against the dollar, to $1.2196 from almost $1.2300 the previous day. What’s even more troubling is the fact that the options that are available — seeking an extension on Brexit beyond October 31; a second referendum to provide the Britons with a chance to rethink; and a general election — do not either have the potential to solve the puzzle.
While Brexit has put Britain in a spin, it has highlighted the perils of unchecked populism that has been on the rise globally.


New political age?

Perhaps one of the most frightening aspects that came out of the G7 Summit in Biarritz was Trump’s answer to the question on climate change. “I want the cleanest water on Earth. I want the cleanest air on Earth. And that’s what we’re doing. And I’m an environmentalist,” he claimed. This prescient comment, in itself, articulates more than its obvious meaning. It emanates a whole new brand of politics. In an era where politicians have now become political celebrities, Trump has managed to keep the world at the edge through his witty remarks and bizarre, sometimes absurd, statements. However, the dismal picture, of an empty chair, taken during the G7 climate change session says it all. It is evident that for many decades, in a world drugged with hyper-capitalism, politics has majorly been driven by economic incentives.

However, we have already entered an epoch that is unlike any in human history – The Anthropocene, an age where human activity has a direct impact on the geological sphere. It is no longer nature, rather man that is shaping the geological structures of the earth, putting in play a whole new political evolution. Rather than rethinking institutions, practices and principles on the basis of challenges in the Anthropocene, Trump wants the best of all worlds — imagining America as a Shangri-La, which can be brought about through geological and environmental restructuring. One cannot help but imagine an extremely polarised world — a utopia bordered by a dystopia.

Trump’s statement hints at a new factor, geology, which will govern politics. The foreshadowing of another great extinction event should shatter the idea of the Cartesian man — one that separates itself from nature — rather, people like Trump are reaffirming it. One needs to look beyond the aesthetical and commercial significations of nature and acknowledge the world as charnel ground. Politically we should emphasise the concept of co-existence that has long been forgotten.

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