By Shoaib Ahsan
Every human being, irrespective of his education, knows well the importance of water in life but unfortunately such a life saving component is being wasted due to irresponsible behavior of society.
Water was always considered vital for human life and rightly is but its contamination on the hands of none other than other but human beings themselves has made it not only injurious but poisonous.
In Pakistan and particularly in Punjab, the usual irresponsible behaviour of the people is a matter of grave concern because it is also impossible for the governments alone to totally change the things until and unless every person being a member of society does not realize his social responsibility and plays a role accordingly.
Lahore, the capital city of Punjab and most populous one of the province, in presence of various government and private bodies working on the subject, is facing challenges of water contamination and severe shortages.
Among others, disposal of untreated municipal liquid waste, leaking sewer lines, Industrial waste water remains major water pollution sources and can cause drinking water contamination, pollution of water bodies such as River Ravi, Hudiara drain, Lahore Branch Canal, sub-soil water pollution, loss of aquatic life, crop damages, heavy metals in food chain, increased rate of water borne diseases and others.
Waste water in Lahore, remains virtually untreated and is deposited into the Ravi river, which is a source of water for downstream communities.
Streams have become non-conducive for the survival of fish and macro invertebrates.
These are indicators of a severely damaged ecosystem, natural streams, and waterways across the country.
Industries are also a major source of surface and groundwater pollution in provincial capital as they dispose of their effluents into nearby streams, rivers, lakes and agricultural fields, which on the one hand cause diseases and on the other degrade the overall water quality.Chemical production,(fertilizer and pesticides), textiles, pharmaceuticals, tanneries, cement, electrical equipment, and others are leading industries for production of polluted wastewater.
According to data available online, only 21 out of 1,000 large industrial units of textile, steel and others in Lahore have waste treatment plants.
The high pollutant load of the sampled effluents, in quantities exceeding the National Environmental Quality Standards (NEQS) limits many times over in certain parameters such as the Biochemical Oxygen Demand (BOD) and Chemical Oxygen Demand (COD) coupled with the large-scale sugar production.
In terms of pesticides most used, Punjab leads all the provinces followed by Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and Balochistan.
The use of pesticides on cotton crops is almost 70–85 percent, whereas the rest of four pesticides are used on crops such as wheat, sugarcane, maize, rice, tobacco as well as vegetables and fruits.
These pesticides later become the part of agricultural run-off and ultimately result in contamination of soil and water.
The problem of quality impairment is not only limited to surface water as groundwater situation is equally precarious.
Those at greatest risk of waterborne disease are infants and young children, people who are debilitated or living under unsanitary conditions and the elderly.Environment Protection Agencies of Provinces, Tehsil Municipal Administrations (TMAs),
Water and Sanitation Agencies (WASAs), Public Health Engineering Departments (PHEDs), District Councils, Development Authorities and relevant NGOs are key bodies which are directly and indirectly dealing with the subject.
The basic responsibility rests with the government as it should make strict laws in support of protecting water resources and its contamination.
Water treatment plants are the primary need to manage water contamination particularly in populous and industrial cities.Government bodies including Environment Protection Agency, Water and Sanitation Agency, Public Health Engineering and others should take measures for resolving the challenge.
But at the same time, it is the equal responsibility of the citizens to play their due role for protecting future generations and saving the environment by protecting water. However, the Punjab government led by Chief Minister Punjab Sardar Usman Buzdar, also observed “Fix A Leak Week” to enhance efforts for water conservation.
Provincial Minister Housing & Urban Development Mian Mehmood-ur-Rasheed, said that only 2.5 per cent out of a total water available on this earth is freshwater, adding that careless attitude towards urban water leaks could waste millions of water gallons annually, depriving millions of people of their basic water needs.Mian Mehmood-ur-Rasheed said that development authorities, water & sanitation agencies (WASAs) and parks & horticulture authorities (PHAs) had been instructed to raise public awareness as well as fix all leakages in offices or public places.
WASA has been instructed to fix the tube-wells and disposal stations’ leaks to preserve water, he maintained.He said that WASA Lahore has successfully completed the biggest underground water tank project of the country at Lawrence Road with a storage capacity of 1.4 million gallons.
Water recycling plants had also been installed at 111 car service stations of the city to overcome the challenge.
All government measures could only bring desired results when every individual realizes his social responsibility and plays a due role for the betterment of society.