Major cities in Pakistan have no safe drinking water, NA reveals worrisome stats

The underground water obtained from nine sources, each in Sialkot and Gujrat, is 100 percent safe for drinking purposes.

According to the government, the majority of Pakistan’s cities do not have safe drinking water for citizens. The shocking revelation was disclosed on Monday in the National Assembly.

The data presented by The Federal Minister for Science and Technology Shibli Faraz shows that out of the 29 cities where underground water was tested by the Pakistan Council of Research of Water Resou­rces (PCRWR), there are 20 cities where more than 50 percent water was obtained from various sources was found to be unsafe.

Cities with Unsafe Drinking Water

The PCRWR has declared 100 percent underground water as unsafe for drinking in three cities — Mirpurkhas and Shaheed Benazirabad (Nawabshah) in Sindh and Gilgit. The underground water obtained from nine sources, each in Sialkot and Gujrat, is 100 percent safe for drinking purposes.

The other cities having more than 50 percent of their underground water contaminated, according to the PCRWR, are:

  • Multan (94 percent)
  • Karachi (93 percent)
  • Badin (92 percent)
  • Sargodha (83 percent)
  • Hyderabad (80 percent)
  • Bahawalpur (76 percent)
  • Muzaffarabad (70 percent)
  • Sukkur (67 percent)
  • Faisalabad (59 percent)
  • Peshawar (58 percent)
  • Tando Allah Yar (57 percent)
  • Sheikhupura, Abbottabad, and Khuzdar (55 percent)
  • Loralai (54 percent)
  • Quetta (53 percent)
  • Gujranwala (50 percent)

Contamination of the Underground Water

Reports state that the underground water was found to be contaminated with arsenic, iron, fluoride, and bacteria.

The Federal Minister for Science and Technology said:

The water quality monitoring (2020-21) of other 29 cities of the country had revealed the prevalence of bacteriological contamination (39 percent), followed by arsenic (8 percent), nitrate (4 percent), and fluoride (4 percent), etc. Overall, 38 percent of the monitored water sources were found safe for drinking in 29 main cities.

The Minister further shared:

The first symptoms of long-term exposure to high levels of inorganic arsenic are usually observed in the skin. They include pigmentation changes, skin lesions, and hard patches on the palms and soles of the feet (hyper Keratosis). These at later stages may result in developing skin cancer. Long-term exposure to arsenic may also cause cancers of the bladder and lungs.

What did the Minister say about the Contaminated Water during the National Assembly meeting?

Explaining what steps the Federal government has taken to provide safe drinking water to the citizens, the minister said:

Water was a provincial matter after the passage of the 18th Amendment in the Constitution. The job of my ministry was only to carry out tests of water through the PCRWR. The periodic water quality monitoring reports of the PCRWR were published and shared with the provincial and local governments for undertaking improvement measures at their end.

Federal Minister Shibli Faraz continued to state:

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab governments have approved water policy and laws to improve water quality, making it mandatory to check water once a year. I advise the other provinces also to do the legislation in this regard.

Terming the situation worrisome and critical, the minister said:

Polluted water is the main cause of many diseases, including cancer, in the country. Long-term consumption of arsenic beyond the safe level may result in various health implications. I urge the provincial authorities to take the matter seriously. Not everyone can afford mineral water for drinking.

Speaking about the presence of dangerous chemicals in underground water in Bahawalpur, the minister said:

The PCRWR has been undertaking periodic water quality monitoring of major cities of Pakistan since 2001. In 2020, there was some improvement in drinking water quality due to the installation of filtration plants in Bahawalpur.

Since the National Assembly failed to take up the majority of the agenda items due to lack of quorum, the speaker declared that the house was not in order and adjourned the sitting till Tuesday morning. More talks on the contaminated water in cities will continue today, and the article will be updated accordingly.

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