The drinking water challenge
Among other important issues, Pakistan needs a crusade against water crisis; and within water crisis, the case of contaminated drinking water is no less. The lack of access to safe drinking water is fast becoming a countrywide phenomenon.
While per capita water availability is decreasing enormously in Pakistan, water quality too in most of the cities is receding quickly. The recent stats shared by UNICEF are mind boggling; it says that more than two-thirds of households are drinking bacterially contaminated water in Pakistan where every year, around 53,000 children die of diarrhea. Other diseases that are rampant include typhoid, cholera, dysentery and hepatitis.
According to WHO, only 36 percent of the Pakistani population on average, has access to safe drinking water. Whereas according to a recent study “Drinking Water Quality Status and Contamination in Pakistan”, published in BioMed Research International, about 20 percent of the whole population of Pakistan has access to safe drinking water; the remaining 80 percent of population is forced to use unsafe drinking water due to the scarcity of safe and healthy drinking water sources.
The main sources of concern to drinking water include both microbiological contamination, which is due to the leakage of pipe and sewage lines into drinking water supplies, and chemical contamination that comes from unplanned urbanisation, industries, pesticides and fertilizers.
There was a time when water quality in Punjab and especially Lahore was considered relatively better. But today, the situation in the province is no different than other parts of the country. After smog, Lahore seems to be getting worse in water quality too. Just recently, The Supreme Court has expressed great concern over the increasing quantity of arsenic in drinking water in Punjab. Also, the condition of River Ravi, which is a big source of water for the inhabitants is aggravating with increased dumping of pollutants and waste into the water by the industries.
Water situation in Karachi is known for its notoriousness. It has long been known that over 90 percent of water in Karachi is not fit for drinking; and while the main sources of contamination are not different, this contaminated water is much expensive thanks to the tanker mafia that claims its reigns over the metropolitan’s water supply. Rawal Lake and its distributions channels -the main source of drinking water for the residents of Rawalpindi and Islamabad – have also deteriorating water quality due to spillage and garbage dumping.
With such poor water quality in some of the biggest urban cities, one can imagine what the situation is like in smaller cities and rural areas. There is an urgent requirement for appropriate and protective measures to make clean water available to the masses. There is no proper framework for legislating water supplies. There is a lack of treatment plants and many of the filtration plants are obsolete. Quality standards for water treatment should be set and the laboratory tests, inspection, and sampling analysis should be conducted occasionally for maintaining the quality. Industries should be made to have their own water treatment plants and strict action must be taken by authorities against industries that that are dumping waste into the water supplies.