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Report on safe drinking water highlights complex issues

Curious case of water quality in twin cities

Islamabad—Despite a large number of water filtration plants installed at various points, water quality in the twin cities remains a big issue. Its quality and unchecked supply continue to pose challenges to the Water And Sanitation Agency (WASA) in Rawalpindi as well as CDA’s Water Directorate in the federal capital. According to a report launched here Wednesday, out of 120 water filtration plants in Pindi, 11 are supplying water which is unsafe for consumption.

The report “Ensuring Access to Safe Drinking Water” launched by TheNetwork for Consumer Protection with assistance from the USAID tells about the nature, issues, complexities and challenges in supplying safe, potable water to the residents of the twin cities.

According to it, in Islamabad out of 35, five have been pointed out supplying contaminated water. The report has also shared the details of such faulty plants. In Rawalpindi water plants in Arya Mohalla, Banni Chowk, Holy Family Hospital, Khayaban-e-Sir Syed, A Block UC No. 23, Dhoke Hassu Model Colony and Railway Scheme are supplying unsafe water, the report says.

Likewise, in Islamabad water from the filtration plants of F-6/1 near NEFDEC Cinema, F-10/1, G-7/4, G-7/1 I&T Centre, Aabpara Markaz G-6/1-4, G-7/3 Gulshan Market, G-8/2 Opposite St 11, FIA Building, G-8/1 street 13 and G-11/2 has been found with arsenic or chemical s or microbiological contamination.

The report is sufficient to send shudders down the backbone of the citizens of the twin cities since in both the cities tall claims have been made of resolving water issues. According to experts, the dream of safe drinking water in Islamabad seems further distant as water directorate has been put under the Mayor office. By the time capacity of the Mayor office is built the issue will remain unresolved and citizens will continue to collect contaminated water from these plants, say they.

Chief Executive of TheNetwork, Nadeem Iqbal briefing about the tricky situation of water quality in twin cities said ideally, the ordinary tap water that is supplied in almost every household should be safe for consumption. However, unfortunately this is not the case. In October, 2015 TheNetwork collected samples from 35 water filtration plants in Islamabad and randomly selected 44 water filtration plants in Rawalpindi. A comprehensive microbiological analysis was performed on the samples submitted to four different laboratories. Interestingly, the results of the samples vary from one lab to another lab, he said.

He called upon the consumers to invoke various laws like Islamabad Capital Territory Local Govt Act of 2015, Consumer Protection Act of 1995 which bind “the local government to provide or cause to be provided to its local area a supply of wholesome water sufficient for public and private purpose.”

In Punjab, Consumer Protection Act 2005 provides for protection and promotion of the rights and interests of the consumers and in case of faulty/poor supply of water or bad quality the law can be invoked. He suggested formation of committees at mohalla level to resolve consumers’ issues.

Lubna Bukhari, DG of Pakistan Council of Research in Water Resources (PCRWR) also spoke on the occasion. She said PCRWR conducted fortnightly sampling and testing of water from filtration plants and other sources. She regarded unchecked population and urbanization as two main sources of water contamination. She also called for separation of sewage track from those water channels/reservoirs. If necessary measures are not taken we are going to be deprived of even the polluted water, she said.

Article by Zubair Qureshi; Published in Pakistan Observer on July 21st, 2016.