A RECENTLY conducted nation-wide Assessment Survey of more than 10,000 water supply schemes (1808 urban and 8320 rural water supply schemes) carried out by the Pakistan Council of Research in Water Resources (PCRWR) reveals that 72 per cent schemes are operational and only 23 per cent and 14 percent of the water supply schemes in urban and rural areas respectively are supplying safe drinking water. It identified four major water quality tribulations: bacteriological contamination (68 per cent); arsenic (24 per cent); nitrate (13 per cent) and fluoride (5 per cent). Presently, only 8 per cent of urban sewerage water and 1 per cent of industrial waste water is treated before disposal. Though the lack of awareness among the people about the negative effects of contaminated water on human health is considered a major reason of human diseases like typhoid, intestinal worms, diahorrea and hepatitis, yet the official authorities are equally responsible for this critical situation in the country. According to a WHO report, about 30 per cent of the diseases are gastro-intestinal in nature triggered by the poor quality of drinking water. It goes without saying that inadequate quantity and quality of potable water and poor sanitation facilities are associated with a host of illnesses and a study conducted by UNICEF found that 20-40 per cent of the hospital beds in Pakistan are occupied by patients suffering from water-related diseases. What to say about other urban towns of the country when the federal capital Islamabad, which uptil recent past had been the sole city of Pakistan and amongst the worlds few towns developed under the set rules of town planning, is presently witnessing majority of the dysfunctional filtration plants supplying contaminated water. All this discouraging data gives the impression whether the authorities have any mechanism to ensure provision of potable water especially in mega urban cities where drinking water pipes are laid very close or through sewerage drains and are considered one of the potent reasons of human diseases spread. While on the other hand, around 84 per cent of rural population does not treat water be using it, resulting in 100 million cases of diarrheal diseases registered in hospitals, with 40 per cent of deaths attributed to drinking polluted water while up to 3.5 million children are at high risk from deadly water-borne diseases in the country. At the same time, putting all the blame on the official quarters is not the point as it is also a collective obligation of all the stakeholders to ensure provision of potable water. However, the government needs to take extra steps and besides launching more potable water schemes in more areas, it should intensify the public awareness campaigns through seminars, workshops and discussions at grass roots level.
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