Water Day, without clean water

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The Punjab government that celebrated World Water Day 2012 on March 22 and also announced to address water woes in the province has yet to approve the “Punjab Water Act” envisioned in 2008 to ensure safe drinking water to the 90 million people population of Punjab.
CM Punjab Shahbaz Sharif decided to introduce Punjab Water Act in the wake of alarming statistics of Environment Ministry that 40 percent deaths in infants were due to polluted water and 50 percent population did not have access to water fit to human consumption in Punjab.
Situation proved worse in southern Punjab when results of a field verification research jointly conducted by the team of Japanese researchers from Tokyo Institute of Technology and National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) came to surface. The report revealed that water samples in the southern Punjab were having arsenic level above 10 ppb of the WHO standards, while major cities including Multan (10-100 ppb), Bhawalpur (10-70 ppb), Ahmad Pur East (10-70 ppb), Yazman (10-130 ppb), Rahim Yar Khan (10-90 ppb), Liaqat Pur, RYK (10-90 ppb) and Muzaffargarh (10-150 ppb).
However, three years have passed and the drafting of the Act being done at a snail’s pace and if the same pace continues, Water Act will not see the light of day for more than two years.
In the absence of Water Act, government lacks regulations regarding piped, hand-pumped, welled and bottled water, official of Housing Urban Development and Public Health Engineering department told Pakistan Today. “Government also does not have comprehensive authority to set water tariff and check wastage of drinking water,” he added.
An official of URD and PHE department said the draft had almost been finalised in consultation with officials of irrigations and environment and foreign donors. “It is now at the stage of knitting and padding of legal structure to prepare an error-free Act and in this regard a legal firm would be hired within one month,” he added.
After its approval from Punjab Cabinet it will be presented in assembly to make it first ever “Punjab Municipal Water Act” Salman briefed.
WASA Managing Director Javed Iqbal also showed his concern about the delay but said that Act would go a long way in checking the acute wastage of water.
“Upon the 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. Meanwhile use of water for drinking purposes shall take precedence over all other water uses,” official of provincial environment department said.
According to copy of draft of Act available with Pakistan Today, the Act will declare safe drinking water a fundamental human right and the responsibility of the State.
It will work for conservation, protection, utilisation, exploitation, development, of water resources and the regulation of all municipal water services, including quality assurance of water, 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 the operational costs of the municipal entities are fully met.
Under the Act, the provincial government will formally adopt the Drinking Water Quality Standards through appropriate legislation and proper measures would 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 provincial government will develop medium-term plans for the drinking water sector in keeping with the Medium-Term Development Framework (MTDF) and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in conjunction with relevant municipal authorities to guide and steer the future developments in the sector.