ISLAMABAD: More than 80pc Pakistanis consume contaminated and unsafe water, Minister for Science and Technology Rana Tanveer informed the Senate on Tuesday.Responding a question from PPP Senator Sherry Rehman, the minister said the Pakistan Council for Research in Water Resources (PCRWR) had conducted various water quality monitoring projects in the country.
He said 69pc to 82pc water samples collected from 2,807 villages in 24 districts across the country were found contaminated or unsafe for drinking.
The PCRWR, which is a research and development organisation of the Ministry of Science and Technology, reported that major contamination was due to bacteria (coliforms), toxic metals (mainly arsenic), turbidity, total dissolved solids (TDS) and nitrate and fluoride pollution, said the minister.
Minister says 69pc to 82pc of samples collected from 2,807 villages in 24 districts were unsafe for drinking
The upper house was informed that besides setting up 24 state-of-the-art water testing laboratories around the country, several other initiatives had also been undertaken. These included the development of microbiological testing kits, low-cost arsenic detection testing kits and production of chlorination and disinfection tablets.
However, bacteriological, arsenic and turbidity are the leading causes of contamination in the drinking water.
He said bacteriological contamination, detected in drinking water in most parts of the country, was as high as 69pc, arsenic 24pc in some parts of the country and turbidity 14pc.
While microbiological contamination remains one of the leading causes of cholera, diarrhoea, dysentery, hepatitis, typhoid etc., arsenic can cause various types of diabetes, skin, kidney, heart, black foot diseases, hypertension, birth defects and multiple types of cancer, according to the PCRWR.
A senior official in the PCRWR told Dawn that the function of its laboratories were in jeopardy due to the lack of funds.
Set up at a cost of Rs1.2 billion, the labs were to identify contamination in drinking water and ensure the availability of potable water to the citizens.
Initiated in 2007, the “Provision of safe drinking water” project has seen more setbacks.
“Its staff members have remained without salaries for months. The promises to regularise the services of contractual employees have not been fulfilled. Most of the technically qualified staff, including PhDs, have left for better paying opportunities,” said the official requesting anonymity.He said the chairman of the PCRWR, Dr Mohammad Ashraf, had been struggling to keep the project operational, taking up the case of the 200 staff members and meeting its expenses by diverting funds from other departments.