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Water blues in Lahore By Zulqernain Tahir

Documents: 

Ten-year-old Ali, who lives inside the Walled City, does not go to school as he helps his father sell fruits in different areas of the city. However, before going to work, he –– along with his elder brother, Rahim –– have to get up early in the morning to fetch water from a nearby tube well.

Ali’s family is one of several of Bhati Gate area, which has to depend on a nearby tube well for daily water consumption as they have erratic water supply in their area. Most of the time the water supply remains suspended, sometimes for a week or so. Therefore, Ali and Rahim, try to reach the tube well a bit earlier than their neighbours to avoid long queues and bring sufficient amount of water.

Similar scenes can be witnessed in several areas of the city such as Shahdara, Misri Shah, Badami Bagh, Shad Bagh, Tajpura, Gujjarpura and Bilal Ganj, where there is no proper water supply system.

“The City District Government of Lahore (CDGL) has planned to install 35 tube wells in the areas where water supply is not regular,” says Tariq Zaman, District Environment Officer. He further adds that the commercial centres in such areas have illegal suction pumps, which results in water scarcity in the vicinity.

The supply of contaminated water is the other major problem in several localities of Lahore. Last year, at least eight people, including children of the Ravi Road neighbourhood, lost their lives after consuming contaminated water.

Nafees and Jaffer of UC 67 complain that despite the government’s claim of replacing water supply lines of the area, supply of contaminated water continues. “Our claim can be verified by getting a water sample tested from a recognised laboratory,” they say and add that none of the residents of the area drink water without boiling it first. They demand the government machinery, which had responded swiftly to the tragedy, to visit the area to check whether the problem has been completely eliminated or not.

It is pertinent to mention that the CDGL’s health department and the Institute of Public Health’s bacteriology department had confirmed that the samples of drinking water collected from the Ravi Road areas were contaminated with sewerage water. They reported that the water pipes laid some two to four decades ago have apparently broken down from different places and sewerage enters into the lines.

According to some reports, besides Lahore, over 64 per cent of water samples collected by the Punjab Environment Protection Department (EPD) from half of the districts of Punjab some time ago, have also been found to be contaminated.

The EPD had launched a sub-soil water survey in districts including Lahore, Gujranwala, Sialkot, Gujrat, Faisalabad, Jhangh, Sargodha, Rawalpindi, Sheikhupura, Kasur, Sahiwal, Multan, Bahawalpur and D.G.Khan. Some 20 samples from each district were collected. Following the results, EPD recommended the health department to conduct a thorough study in these districts to figure out the number of people who have been affected by drinking contaminated water.

The department suggested that the water supply agencies should take necessary measures to provide clean drinking water to the consumers and a ban should be imposed on the industries, which are spilling huge quantities of polluted water.

It was also recommended that all Tehsil Municipal Administrations (TMAs) should prepare an action plan for effective drainage and clean water supply at municipal and Tehsil levels. Ironically, none of its suggestions have been implemented so far.

Tariq Zaman holds broken and rusty water supply lines responsible for supply of contaminated water to the people. “Unless the water pipes are replaced, the problem will persist.” Moreover, people don’t replace dilapidated water pipes inside their houses nor do they bother to clean their water tanks, he adds.

The Water and Sanitation Agency reportedly provides 80 gallons of water to each consumer of the city per day. A huge quantity of water is being wasted by watering plants, lawns, and streets and this practice must be stopped to avoid shortage of water in the coming months.