Health & Fitness Pak Affairs

Flood victims struggling for clean water, safe sanitation

KARACHI: Tens of thousands of delude people in Sindh’s most of cities and towns hit by disastrous flood are still struggling for clean drinking water, safe sanitation facilities and sufficient food.

Reports have increasingly poured in from the affected areas, particularly Shikarpur, Kashmore-Kandhkot, Dadu, Badin and Thatta that a large number of people still have no choice but fall back on tainted, brackish subsoil water for satiating their thirst in hot summer days. Because most of the water supply system ruined by the flood remain still non-functional, said relief workers.

According to a latest study of the Pakistan Council of Research in Water Resources (PCRWR),  over 85  percent of the water supply schemes in Shikarpur, Kashmor-Kandhkot, Qambar-shahdadkot, Dadu, Sehwan, Thatta, and Badindistricts of Sindh as well as sanitation facilities were ruined seriously during the last year’s ravaging floods.

But despite the passage of seven months since the floods, neither thefederal and provincial governments nor international and local NGOs have started reconstructing water and sanitation infrastructure in Sindh.

Government functionaries are faced with daunting challenge to address water problems in the flood-hit areas, where 77 per cent of 451 water supply schemes were washed away.

According to Sindh Public Health Engineering Department, of the 451 schemes, 65 are located in Dadu, 24 in Ghotki, 69 in Jacobabad, 57 in Kashmore, 8 in Qambar-Shahdadkot, 21 in Shikarpur, 20 in Larkana, 58 in Thatta and 69 are in Jamshoro.

The figures were corroborated by the Drip and Reclamation Institution of Pakistan (DRIP) of the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology.

Senior officials at the DRIP`s office in Tandojam told Pakistan Times that DRIP study carried out between December 2010 and January 2011 concluded that a water supply scheme, especially in rural areas, met need of 10,000 to 20,000 people and in urban settlement it reached 50,000 to 100,000 people.

The schemes, which were completely damaged, required complete rebuilt and the remaining could be made operational, one official said.

An old study referred to date by experts, 85 per cent of underground water in Sindh has turned brackish or saline.

Scarcity of sweet water, according to experts, is called `confined aquifer`which recharges with rains and floods. Usage of water in agriculture sector contributes only two per cent to recharging aquifers.

In Sindh water table has fell down drastically owing to excessive application of tube-well system, posing a serious threat to shallow water that may turn brackish if it is not recharged regularly with rains or floods.

Besides, river flows have not been adequate over the years.

Sindh`s water table has improved after floods and it has come up to 12 to 13 feet. Before floods, it had sunk down to 30 to 35 foot, officials in the provincial irrigation department claimed.

They warned, however, that once this sweet water became saline then it would remain saline or brackish.

About 80 per cent groundwater in Sindh was brackish, which rendered it unfit for human consumption and at times for agricultural use too, they further said.

Safe drinking water is a sub-indicator of millennium development goal (MDG) No-7 that pertains to environmental sustainability.

The country may miss this vital target which calls for provision of safe drinking water to 93 per cent of people by 2015 and government claims that 65 per cent of population has already access to safe drinking water.

Water issue is attaining increasing significance in local and international relations. Whether it is inter-provincial discord or dispute between India and Pakistan water is the core issue.

Besides, there are worrying reports that next world war will be fought over water and the fear has perturbed peace activists in Pakistan and India. Therefore, they seek solution to all contentious issues between the tow neighbours.

About the author

Saleem Shaikh

The writer is a development journalist. He writes on water, sanitation, environment, climate change, agriculture, women development, human rights, education, health, development budgets and economy.

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