Water arsenic level in Multan five times higher than permissible

Young girls drink water from a canal flowing between nearby refugee camps and the main road in Peshawar, Pakistan

MULTAN: The World Health Organisation has established 10 micrograms per litre as the permissible concentration in drinking water while Multan district is stated to have 50 micrograms per litre arsenic in underground water which is five times higher than permissible, according to a report of Public Health Engineering (PHE).

Arsenic is a chemical element, the elevated levels of which may cause different deadly diseases like diabetes, cardiovascular problems and various types of cancer.

Moreover, early childhood exposure has been linked to negative impacts on cerebral development that leads to increasing deaths in young adults.

The city is running with over 100 water filtration schemes are running under Public Health Engineering and Rural Water Management in the city, with 100-102 tube wells working out by Water and Sanitation Authority (WASA). However, what the authority termed the lack of requisite resources, was halting maintenance of filtration plants up to the desired level.

A water plant once being checked out by two monitoring evaluation officials takes next turn for the checking after four or five months at least by the same administrators.

“The department is able to look after all filtration plants by two monitoring officials only with single motorbike,” according to secretary of water testing laboratory Khalid Javed.

He also pointed out that although water testing laboratory offers free of cost water testing for common households of the city yet the latter least come up to acquire the service.

The rapid expansion of the local population through unplanned colonies structure has worsened the situation as the builders don’t pay heed to situation of underground sewer system network where the dirty water is getting mixed up with drinking water so that the authority could adopt alternative measures to revert the hazard on time, said the PHE report.

Water Xen [executive engineer] Abudsslam, however, didn’t agree with the report, saying that Water and Sanitation Agency (WASA) has so far able to manage pure water for larger parts of city by extending a strong net of underground water pipelines. “I don’t agree with excerpts of report as arsenic level has touched around 50 micrograms per litre arsenic in whole district. “We use to conduct TPV (third party valuation) of water after every three-week here to ensure purity of drinking water, he said.

Nonetheless, the arsenic level at different places is traced different, well, and, “I think it might be higher than permissible level at Jalalpur Pirwala, Shujabad, Khanewal and adjacent towns”. The Xen insisted that WASA was offering clean water, or maybe having in minor proportion arsenic in the city.

A top-ranking water department official, talking on the condition of anonymity proceeded that the detection of unseen particles in water like arsenic, lead, mercury, PCBs have had never been top priority of any authority concerned now or before.

The decades-old underground water pipelines have got leaky, rusty and that water was mixing up with industrial and sanitation runoff pushing life relatively at risk, he added.

According to a web link, in US and European countries, the maximum contamination level for arsenic in drinking water is lowered by using alternative methods of using membrane filtration of arsenic from drinking water. Underground water beneath 400-500 ft below surface gets contaminated with rocks due to arsenic-pollution owing to effects of rocks. The membrane technology includes reverse osmosis (RO), ultrafiltration and microfiltration.

However, Pakistan by and large seems to be behind such a way of life to use that advanced technology to offer arsenic free water to its people.