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CDA deprives 2m residents of free, healthy drinking water

THE world’s model cities that boast a healthy lifestyle start it from the water quality. Well, Islamabad is neither in such a race nor does it care. Its master plan has never been sacrosanct for the Capital Development Authority, which has a dark past of colluding with the violators. Saving trees from pest diseases, preventing greenbelts from transforming into car lots and maintaining supply of clean and healthy drinking water have been least of its priorities. Even when electricity is available, various water filtration plants installed in Islamabad don’t function. Yet the citizens come in large number with storage cans of varying sizes, believing that their effort can save them and their children from water-borne diseases.The filters need regular maintenance, a habit the Capital Development Authority has never adopted fully. Some parts of the heavy-duty plants are to be replaced while others checked for smooth functioning. In sector G-7, for example, the water filtration plant site is alleged to have dengue mosquitoes. With millions of rupees spent on advertisements, the same precautions are not being adopted by the CDA staff responsible for maintenance of the plant.After a barrage of such and an assortment of other complaints and even protests, the CDA had to announce that it has very kindly made all 37 water filtration plants across Islamabad functional. Ever since, there has been a radio silence. Given the scale of water-borne diseases, the CDA Engineering Wing and as well as WASA, in case of Rawalpindi, must not only regular publicise water filtration plant’s maintenance work but also the water quality duly tested by the Pakistan Water Research Council (PCRWR).An insider told Daily Times that the maintenance work conducted in 2012 was marred with irregularities. “More than protecting health of the citizens, the project was launched for the benefit of a PPP-era political appointee,” he explained, requesting anonymity. Like other upright officials, he also said an impartial financial audit of CDA’s funds can not only help plug holes but also improve quality of service.The task forces, then supervising the project, had claimed to have fixed 25 filtration plants. Since the funds have lapsed and interest in the scheme has obviously waned, there is no official follow-up as to how many of the centres provide clean and healthy drinking water to the capital’ites round the clock. Once that is achieved, then the citizens may ask another fundamental question of filtration plant and the population ration. Obviously, 35 or 40 water filtration plants are just an eyes wash for a city with over two million population. Ironically, there are hardly any water filtration plants in rural areas of Islamabad, while the sub soil water quality remains far from healthy. Scientific tests by the PCRWR have previously suggested that 60 percent water samples collected from Islamabad are unfit for human consumption. CDA’s each project, especially those related with environment and health, need strictly transparency and public oversight. Not only the institution lacks capacity but also credibility in the eyes of a common man, external donors and the watchdogs alike.The authority’s website can do more than being a post office for press releases, photos and names of some glorified bureaucrats. The platform should actually be used share budget, expenses, periodical efficiency reports and receive public complaints backed by an efficient talkback team. Last but not the least, Islamabad needs environment managers, which should be young and qualified. The trend is prevalent in cities purposely designed and planned. 

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