People at high risk of infectious diseases due to contaminated water


ISLAMABAD: People in the country are at high risk of gastroenteritis, cholera, diarrhoea, dysentery, hepatitis A and E, typhoid, acute respiratory infection (ARI) as well as Blue Baby Syndrome, as safe drinking water is available to only 15% people in urban and 18% in rural areas.
The quality of drinking water supply is poor, with bacterial contamination, arsenic, fluoride and nitrate being the factors of major concern. The vast majority of the population does not have access to safe drinking water, due to which incidence of waterborne diseases is increasing rapidly. 
High population growth rate, urbanisation, industrialisation and new environmental constraints are aggravating the problem. 
It has been estimated that water, sanitation and hygiene related diseases cost Pakistan’s economy about Rs.112 billion per year, in terms of health costs and lost earning.
While the filtration plants installed in the federal capital are supplying highly unsafe water contaminated mainly with microbial contamination.
Situation is even worse for the rural areas of the country where 88 percent of the population lacks access to safe drinking water. 
Talking to APP, Director Pakistan Council of Research in Water Resources (PCRWR) Lubna Naheed said the groundwater samples collected by PCRWR has revealed that only 10%-15% samples were found safe for drinking both in urban and rural areas of the country. Around 79% of sources of functional water Supply Schemes (WSS) in Punjab are unsafe for drinking, she added. 
“Around 40% of these schemes are unsafe due to microbiological contamination while about 23% contain major pollutants like Total Dissolved Solids (TDS), Chloride, Sodium, Iron, Arsenic, Fluoride which could cause diseases like Diarrhoea and Dysentery”.
Director said that 59% of water samples collected from rural areas in Islamabad were found unsafe for drinking, adding situation is even worse in Rawalpindi, with 83 percent of the samples collected from villages across Rawalpindi district are unsafe.
Commenting on poor water quality, ex-chairman PCRWR Muhammad Aslam Tahir said, “Such high levels of water contamination are a result of insanitary and unhygienic practices in the rural areas, particularly due to lack of education”.
Besides, Minister for Science and Technology, Zahid Hamid has also emphasised that water quality testing and treatment technologies must be commercialised with public-private partnership to benefit the common man.
Talking to APP, Chairperson Pakistan Council of Science and Technology (PCST) Dr Mudasar Israr said appropriate legislation is required to ensure compliance with the Pakistan Standards for drinking water by individuals and institutions.
She said serious research efforts to develop and test simple technologies for sustainable availability of safe drinking water are required on an urgent basis.
Dr Mudasar told that the project for establishing water treatment plants in all union councils is still under implementation and needs to be expedited on a fast track basis. Development of inexpensive desalination techniques for converting the brackish groundwater into safe drinking water needs to be pursued urgently, she said.
When contacted, Member Science Pakistan Council of Scientific & Industrial Research (PCSIR), Dr SS Tahir said 45 percent of filtration plants in the federal capital are providing contaminated water, which is used by 75 percent of the citizens. 

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