No potable water for 85 per cent of Pakistanis

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ISLAMABAD – Only around 15 percent of Pakistan’s urban population and 18 per cent of the rural population have access to safe drinking water and 1.44 pc of the GDP is spent annually on treatment of water-born diseases whereas the allocation for water treatment is less than 0.05 pc of the GDP, the Standing Committee of the National Assembly on Science and Technology was told on Friday.
Dr Aslam Tahir, Chairman of Pakistan Council of Research in Water Resources (PCRWR) told the committee that the 85 per cent of country’ urban population and 82 per cent of those living in rural areas were consuming contaminated water. He attributed this health hazard to under-spending (0.05 pc of the GDP) on water treatment.
He informed the committee that PCRWR’s total budget for research on water resources this year was Rs 0.7 million, which he said was meagre when compared with the task assigned the institute. He cited that South Korea was spending 11 pc of its GDP on provision of safe drinking water to its people. Dr Tahir, however, admitted that the PCRWR had received Rs100 million from different donors.
He said that Pakistan can only treat 8 percent of the contaminated water while an estimated 200 million gallons of contaminated water is drained into rivers and ultimately into sea that poses threat to marine life. He deplored the fact that only one percent of industries in the country could treat their liquid effluents while the rest 99 pc wastes would aggravate the environmental degradation.
He recommended that instead of devolution to the provinces, the PCRWR must be retained by federal government. “Water does not know any manmade geographical boundaries and hence this issue warrants a responsible approach, particularly when the provinces often fight over water disputes”, he added.
When Abdul Kadir Khanzada, chairman of the committee, inquired as to what the PCRWR was doing to improve water resources for irrigation purposes, Ch Akram, Director General of Irrigation Water Management told that the PCRWR was running a project in Cholistan. He said that it had successfully cultivated crops in desert area using minimum quantity of stored water. He also added that PCRWR would expand this programme to other desert areas of the country.
The committee was also told that 500 acres of land in desert areas of Balochistan province had been taken on lease where they would initiate cultivation using less water within this year. “The project is meant to convince the people living in desert areas that cultivation and livestock can be maximised with minimum water resources,” Akram told the committee.