Water is an essential component for the existence and survival of life on earth. Water might be everywhere but one must never take it for granted. At home, we rarely give it a thought. Usually, we are right. Why should we care for the reasons of death while illuminating candles for dead infants? Why should anyone care if some industry is releasing toxic effluents? Our ground water sources are always under siege from human activities. Solutions will not be possible if we dont know what is happening and what we have lost. Continuing demise of ground water sources is paving the way towards ecological surprises in future which can be famines, disease outbreaks or something new. Our ground water resources are exhausting and the ground water table is lowering at a high speed. During 1986-2001, the ground water table of Islamabad has lowered by 50 feet.
The ground water table of Lahore has dropped by 20 feet during 1993-2001 according to AlamZeb Khan. Major reasons of this water depletion are wastage, leakage and pollution. Additionally, our body has its own special drought management system but a mere 2% drop in bodys water supply can trigger short-term memory, trouble with basic math, fatigue, problem in focusing, arthritis and many more. Water serves as a lubricant and temperature regulator. It transports nutrients and removes toxins from the body. In fact, all the cell and organ functions that make up our entire anatomy and physiology depend on water for their functioning. Besides, quality of water is as important as the quantity. Ailments of different types can be the result of drinking contaminated water.
Clean drinking water is a basic human right but only 65% population of Pakistan has access to safe drinking water according to a World Bank report. Overall, 80% of all diseases in Pakistan are water borne and these are responsible for 40% of deaths. According to an estimate, 250,000 children die every year due to diarrheal diseases only. Outbreaks of Cholera and Gastroenteritis have claimed many lives in flood affected areas of Sindh. Lack of water treatment plants near to Sunder Industrial Estate is causing bone deficiency diseases in children.
Residents of Manga Mandi, Kalanwala and MouzaShamkiBhattian are serious victims of dirty drinking water. Next ones will be the inhabitants of BallokiSulemanki where polluted water is discharged through Raiwand Drain and Khan KaeMor Drain. The sub-soil water in these areas contains chemicals, coliforms, solids, photogenes and chlorides. According to a report, water borne diseases lead to a loss of 25-58 billion rupees every year which is a tremendous loss.
“Water, water, everywhere, but is it safe to drink?” is an interesting question which compels us to ponder on the matter. Water may be coming after undergoing some treatment but the poor sanitation system does not allow the quality to remain intact. So our tap waters need a bit of testing and treatment. Now the question is, “How do I find out whats in my water glass?” Well, brackish colour, foul smell, bad taste, turbidity and transparency can act as initial indicators but the best option is to get the water tested from certified lab. If the lab declares water as unsafe, this is the time to get up.Some of the measures that one can take at home for the treatment of tap water include disinfection using UV light, chlorine or iodine tablets, boiling, filtration, distillation and the use of activated alumina, PUR sachets and water softeners. Easy to build filters can also be used e.g. solid block activated carbon (SBAC) filter, slow sand filter, bamboo charcoal filter, simple plastic bottle filter, portable water filter, plumbed-in filter and counter-top filter. Before applying any of these treatments one must get the water tested from authentic laboratory because water treatments methods are numerous but vary depending on filtration needs, budgets, working efficiency and lifestyle preferences.
Although some government Institutions as well as private NGOs are working to supply safe drinking water to under-developed areas especially to tribes and villages but the current scenario demands a wide-ranging attention of government towards water stewardship strategy that involves internal water efficiency along with external engagement. The first line of defense in ensuring the safety and quality of drinking water is to make certain that water sources i.e. lakes, rivers, streams and aquifers (porous underground formations that hold water) are protected from pollution.
At ground level, to keep contaminants out of tap water, first step is identifying where pollution is coming from. Once these sources are known, the water utility, city planners and citizens of a municipality must work together to figure out how to reduce the threats of contamination and depletion.Still, it is true that global water crisis cannot be solved without furthersupport from the private sector. The challenge is how to take them along? One practical approach can be to promote better governance.Government can only do two things in this case i.e. to regulate and incentivize. Water is a shared resource, so water risks are shared, and solutions for water problems can never be achieved by a single stakeholder. Water scarcity issues need to be addressed by collaborative action and cooperation among water suppliers, regulators, NGOs and businesses. The crisis of our diminishing water resources is as severe as wartime conditions. Our survival is just as much at stake as it was at the time of world wars. Hence, we have to take immediate action as soon as possible.
The author is M.Phil student in Quaid-e-Azam University, Islamabad, and intern in the Botanical Science Division, Pakistan Museum of Natural History. Her Supervisor: Dr. Sumaira Sahreen. The author can be reached at <email@example.com>