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TAXILA SLUMS: How the other half lives

Pakistan has been in front of several major dilemma that include terrorism, the Balochistan and Karachi issues, electricity and gas shortages besides economic stagnation. It is unfortunate that some major crises have diverted the attention of the government and people away from other major issues. The water shortage that has hit the country and is about to become much worse is one of those. Only recently, it was reported in the media that Pakistan was on the verge of being classified as a “water scarce” country by the Asian Development Bank (ADB). A report recently issued by the bank states: “Pakistan is one of the most water-stressed countries in the world, not far from being classified as ‘water scarce,’ with less than 1,000 cubic meters per person per year.”
Being part of our project we have to visit some slum areas of the Taxila and Jand, the two cities of the Punjab. Jand is a town of Attock District. Taxila is an important archaeological site in Rawalpindi district of the Punjab province. Taxila is situated about 32 km north-west of Islamabad and Rawalpindi; just off the famous Grand Trunk Road. Water is the basic requirement of human life. Though nature has provided our country with a lot of natural water resources in the form of stream, rivers, lakes an glaciers but we are unable to utilize them. I have visited the slum area ‘kurmaal’ located near the cantonment area. There are very poor breathing conditions there, destitute of the basic facilities of life. Poor hygiene and water situation prevails there. People are dispossessed of the basic facilities of life. Education is very rare and the occupation of the people is mostly farming. Though I have to focus on the water supply and sanitation situation there so I have conducted interviews with the indigenous people. The major source of the water is the ground water extracted through pumps there. Electric motors are used to propel water in some houses while in others hand pumps are used to draw water, due to the electricity shortage which is the most common dilemma of our country. In summers water level jump down so down that the people do not even locate water to carry out the basic domestic everyday jobs. As poverty prevails in the vicinity so the most astonishing issue that I have seen there is that these people do not have adequate budget to buy aqua tanks. Small water containers are used to store water. Almost all of the houses do not have the toilet facility. Sanitation system is so bad there and the foul of garbage and other wastes is all over in the air. There is no proper system for the dumping of wastes. Due to these sanitation problems these people are more prone to health disorders. The only demand that the locals are asking for is to provide them with the water supply and also to install a tube well in the area so that it would be easy for them to acquire water. When I have asked them about the concern of any authority to their problems then they just swing their heads pessimistically.
Coming towards the slum area of Jand. Here I must thank IUCN for providing me a forum for which I was searching for years. The people living in the slum area of ‘Dingi Naaree’ are existing in a very low standard of life. As it is my home town so I am observing it since my childhood. Five years back there are only mud houses, no light facility, no gas pielines, no properly planned paved roads, no water supply. About two years ago the government had provided this area with the electricity and water supply. The ground water there is very brackish and salty and is not functional for carrying out household activities such as cooking and washing purposes and also the level of ground water is very low. Mean annual rainfall is very low there. Land is fertile full of nutrients but due to the lack of water people are unable to utilize that land. Talking about the water supply which government is so called offering them, only once in a week or sometimes once in a month they bestow water. So to fulfill the demand of water, people are dependent on the natural ponds and natural reservoirs. But in summers these ponds also get dry. Every year many people die because of the water that is very scarce. Coming towards the sanitation systems most of the families donot have the toilets and other household refuse and garbages are thrown at the open places. Due to this air pollution and water pollution problems are the most common. Animals when consume these wastes, they get various diseases which in turn are transferred to humans when they consume them. They utilize their organic wastes as compost which they consider as an effective natural fertilizer.
Most of the people living in these slum areas are uneducated still in this continuously rising world. So they have no awareness of their rights. These people should fight for their own rights and demand the authorities for these basic rights of living. In various human right conventions to which Pakistan is also a signatory, various basic human rights of living has been mentioned so it is the obligation of the concerned authorities to take notice of these depriving souls and try to solve their issues and create a better living condition and better environment for every living soul.