CM’s brainchild Punjab Municipal Water Act lying in limbo


LAHORE – The first-ever Punjab Municipal Water Act, a brainchild of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Punjab government envisioned to ensure safe drinking water to 90 million citizens is lying in limbo since 2008, Pakistan Today has learnt.
The water act was envisaged by Punjab CM Shahbaz Sharif in wake of alarming statistics of the environment ministry that 40 percent infant deaths were due to polluted water and 50 percent population did not have access to clean water in Punjab. But three years have passed and drafting of the act is still going on and the sluggish momentum indicates that the Punjab Municipal Water Act will not see the light of day anytime soon.
In absence of the water act, the Punjab government lacks regulations regarding piped, hand-pumped, welled and bottled water, an official of the Punjab Housing Urban Development and Public Health Engineering Department told Pakistan Today. “The Punjab government does not have the comprehensive authority to set the water tariff and check wastage of drinking water,” he added.
URD and PHE department Deputy Secretary (Technical) Salman Yousaf said that the draft had almost been finalised in consultation with officials of irrigations and environment and foreign donors. “The draft is now at the stage of knitting and padding of legal formalities to prepare an error-free act and in this regard, a legal firm will be hired within a month,” he added.
After its approval from the Punjab Cabinet, the act will be presented in the Punjab Assembly to make it the first ever Punjab Municipal Water Act, Yousaf said. Water and Sanitation Agency (WASA) Managing Director Javed Iqbal expressed concerns on the delay but said that the act will go a long way in checking the acute wastage of water.
“Upon coming into force of this act, all water used, or intended to be used for drinking, domestic, recreational, horticultural, industrial or commercial purposes and such other purposes, as may be prescribed, shall be declared as municipal water. Use of water for drinking purposes shall take precedence over all other water uses,” an official of the Punjab Environment Department said.
According to the copy of the draft of the act available with Pakistan Today, The act will declare safe drinking water a fundamental human right and responsibility of the state. It will work for conservation, protection, utilisation, exploitation and development of water resources and regulation of all municipal water services, including quality assurance of water and water services. The act will set technical and supply standards for municipal bodies and make them accountable to the general public.
The act will constitute a commission that will be responsible to regulate the water tariff to ensure that operational costs of the municipal entities are fully met. A high-powered commission will be constituted to enforce the water act.
The commission will consist of secretary of the local government, secretary of Housing and Urban Development & Public Health Engineering Department, secretary of the Environment Protection Department, secretary of the irrigation department, around four professional members from the private sector with no less than 20 years experience in the field of water resource management, water supply and sanitation or environmental and public health engineering and two members of the Punjab Assembly, one from rural and one from urban areas, to be nominated by the Punjab government.
According to the draft of the act, the Punjab CM will be chairman of the commission. Under the act, the provincial government will formally adopt the Drinking Water Quality Standards through appropriate legislation and proper measures will be undertaken to ensure its enforcement.
Appropriate legislation will ensure compliance with the Pakistan Drinking Water Quality Standards and appropriate penalties for any institution or individual not adhering to the standards. The Punjab government will develop medium-term plans for the drinking water sector keeping in mind the Medium-Term Development Framework (MTDF) and the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) in conjunction with relevant municipal authorities to guide and steer the future developments in the sector.