Around 62 percent of Pakistan’s urban and 84 percent of its rural population do not treat their water, resulting in 100 million cases of diarrheal diseases registered in hospitals, with 40 percent of deaths attributed to drinking polluted water.
Unsafe drinking water is a source of many diseases including
diarrhoea, typhoid, intestinal worms and hepatitis and an estimated 250,000 child deaths occur each year in Pakistan due to water-borne diseases. It is estimated that more than 1.6 million DALYs (Disability
Adjusted Life Years) are lost annually as a result of death and ailment due to diarrhoea and almost 90,000 as a result of typhoid.
Inadequate quantity and quality of potable water and poor sanitation facilities are associated with a host of illnesses and a study conducted by UNICEF found that 20-40 percent of the hospital beds in Pakistan are occupied by patients suffering from water-related diseases. According to the Climate Change Vulnerability Index Pakistan is considered as a high risk country.
The United Nations has estimated that up to 3.5 million children are at high risk from deadly water-borne diseases in Pakistan as a result of the country’s devastating flood of 2010. In terms of financial loss, the country is bearing Rs.112 billion per year as water, sanitation and hygiene-related diseases cost more than Rs. 300 million per day to treat.
Talking to APP, Pakistan Council of Research in Water Resources (PCRWR) spokeswoman Lubna Naheed said: “PCRWR has played its role as a national research organisation, by undertaking and promoting applied as well as basic research in various disciplines of water sector.” It includes irrigation, drainage, surface and groundwater management, groundwater recharge, watershed management, desertification control, rainwater harvesting, water quality assessment and monitoring, development of innovative water resource management, conservation and quality improvement technologies.
Naheed said keeping in view the deteriorating water quality situation, the PCRWR initiated water quality assessment and management programmes for the first time in Pakistan and the first National Water Quality Profile (urban and rural) was compiled in 2010. The water quality monitoring (2001 to 2010) conducted in rural and urban areas of the country revealed that the access to safe drinking water is only 15 percent in urban and 18 percent in rural areas.
The findings of the survey identified four major water quality tribulations: bacteriological contamination (68 percent); arsenic (24 percent); nitrate (13 percent) and fluoride (5 percent). Presently, only 8 percent of urban sewerage water and 1 percent of industrial waste water is treated before disposal.
The Nation-wide Assessment Survey of more than 10,000 water supply schemes (1808 urban and 8320 rural water supply schemes) carried out by the PCRWR revealed that 72 percent schemes are operational and only 23 percent and 14 percent of the water supply schemes in urban and rural areas respectively are supplying safe drinking water.