Oh precious clean drinking water, where art thou?


While countries around globe, by celebrating the World Water Day on Thursday, will be focusing on water resources and how the water is embedded in the food that humans consume everyday, millions of people affected by the floods in the lower districts of Sindh still await safe drinking water and basic food items.
A national survey jointly conducted by the Aga Khan University (AKU) in collaboration with United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) under the title National Nutrition Survey (NNS) 2011 reveals that despite being one of the important agricultural provinces of Pakistan, Sindh is the poorest and the most food-deprived province of the country with 70 percent of its total population (estimated at 35 million) facing food insecurity.
 When disasters like floods hit such a poor population, the conditions worsen. Monsoon floods hit the southern Sindh in August 2011 and officially uprooted more than nine million people. But despite several months, these survivors of the natural disaster are yet to be rehabilitated. During the floods, the survivors lost every thing. Besides standing crops, the massive floods washed away the water and sanitation infrastructure and forced these already-poor population to face acute food shortage.
Though, Pakistan will be among one of the countries celebrating World Water Day but rarely these flood survivors would rarely be taken on priority by the government authorities.
The International World Water Day is observed globally on March 22 every year to highlight the importance of freshwater and sustainable management of freshwater resources. The day was recommended at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in 1992 and the United Nations General Assembly responded by designating March 22 1993 as the first World Water Day. Since then it is being observed every day under different themes and for 2012, the theme is being set as “Water and Food Security”.
The World Water Day team has issued shocking figures that there are around seven billion people to feed on the planet today and another two billion are expected to join them by 2050.
Quoting official statistics, the team said each of us drinks between two and four litres of water every day, however most of the water we ‘drink’ is embedded in the food we eat: producing one kilo of beef for example consumes 15,000 litres of water while one kilo of wheat ’drinks up’ 1,500 litres.
Unaware of these figures, the people of Sindh are still waiting for basic facilities including safe drinking water and proper food. The survivors of the floods in Pakistan in 2010 and 2011 have lost everything and it is a dream for them to get all those facilities, which they had before the floods.
Ninety percent of the water supply schemes in nine districts of Sindh as well as sanitation facilities were completely washed away during the 2010 floods, the Pakistan Council of Research in Water Resources (PCRWR) disclosed in a recently-published report. But despite the passage of several months, neither the federal and provincial governments nor international and local NGOs have started reconstructing water and sanitation infrastructure in Sindh.
In the context of the millennium development goals, Pakistan claims 89 percent of the rural population has access to improved drinking water, but PCRWR’s Dr Murtaza Arain disputes the veracity of these claims.
“We took water samples from 19 out of 23 districts, and after a detailed study, we found that all samples had some biological contamination or that the level of total dissolved salts and turbidity was higher and the colour of the water changed. This meant that water in 19 districts is unfit for human consumption,” he said.
The PCRWR report further states that the water supply schemes in major portions of Larkana, Qambar-Shahdadkot, Shikarpur, Ghotki, Dadu, Jamshoro, Badin, Thatta and Kashmore-Kandhkot districts have completely been destroyed.
The report added that 75 percent of the water supply schemes in the remaining districts of the province were built in the early 1980s. Many are now outdated, or that ponds have either been filled with silt or have vanished altogether.