LAHORE: Serious structural issues in the water and sanitation sector are threatening of undermined progress following the deficit that has reached Rs159.7 billion within the past 4 years, Pakistan Today has learnt.
According to the Punjab government budget assessment documents, copies of which are available with Pakistan Today, scarce resources are available for the consumers owing to the shortage of money.
“Institutional fragmentation, piecemeal and heavily politicised planning efforts with little cohesion, and heavy and misdirected subsidies are marking negative sustainability. Evidence indicates that the gains of the past decades are likely to be reversed, and targets will in fact not be met,” state the documents.
Punjab budgetary analysis indicates that the capital expenditure (CAPEX) shortfall in the Urban Water Supply (UWS) has reached up to Rs99.5 billion and a shortage of Rs60.1772 billion has been recorded in the Rural Water Supply (RWS).
The documents show that the investment required for the rehabilitation of the degraded infrastructure could not be taken into account, both in the rural and urban sectors, while the requirements are likely to multiply considering the need for treatment facilities.
The budgetary assessment further points out that the sector landscape is characterised by ageing infrastructure and networks in need of rehabilitation and expansion, limited operation and maintenance, and serious quality issues were reported in the water that was delivered to consumers.
Moreover, the documents pointing at the donors state that they set the analysis of the financial bottlenecks against a backdrop of shrinking resources and limited investment.
“The lack of a sector-wide approach has, at times, obscured the ability to identify and systematically address structural flaws. A number of weaknesses in the service delivery pathway can limit the extent to which investments translate into effective services,” state the documents while adding that this includes the disjuncture between responsibilities for capital investments and their Operation and Maintenance (O&M), and the virtual absence of cohesive planning, monitoring and sector regulation.
In rural areas, a significant proportion of infrastructure lies dysfunctional while in urban areas, utility performance is extremely weak across the province and obstructed by lack of autonomy of the utility.
The virtual absence of regulation, inability to raise tariffs to recover costs and poor cost recoveries force all municipal entities to heavily rely on large annual subsidies that are increasingly difficult to sustain. It is notable that the amount of wastewater treated is minuscule with serious implications for those living in peripheries of cities and rural populations downstream.
Virtually hundred per cent of the urban sewage in Punjab remains untreated and is disposed of in Punjab’s rivers and groundwater on a daily basis. There is a strong need for piloting appropriate technology options in this sphere, which remains to be explored.