Faulty sewerage system, unhygienic drinking water increase risks of water-borne diseases

By: Salman Raza      Published: 11:45 AM, 23 Nov, 2021
Faulty sewerage system, unhygienic drinking water increase risks of water-borne diseases
File photo.

More than 30-year-old sewerage system coupled with a dearth of clean drinking water offered in Multan being blessed with adequate water resources are caused to diagnose water-borne diseases among its residents, particularly lower strata of society having little access to basic necessities of life.

Growing urbanization followed by unsustainable water consumption practices fall out upon the quality and quantity of water resources in the country, it's learnt.

Worse water quality and contamination of lakes, rivers, and groundwater aquifers damage the body's immune system after increased risk of diseases is borne through consuming impure liquid maximum in a day. Salinity of groundwater is found increasing with passage of time. Industrial wastewater polluted with toxic chemicals and heavy metals is discharged directly into public sewers, results into outbreaks of diseases like cholera, typhoid, hepatitis and dengue fever.

Most of the local population who can afford access to clean drinking water, either install mini filtration plants or buy it at their homes from commercial companies. A ten-liter water cane costs nearly Rs110 is used through water dispenser worth Rs20,000 approximately emerged to be need of every home by and large. 'A large bottle filled with the said water quantity lasts a week in current winter season while ends in two days maximum during summer, said a household lady. Filtration plant fitted inside home also gets changed on weekly basis costs around Rs.500. 'But it doesn't have surity as the water being produced through homely fitted plant is pure and arsenicless following its short capacity to clean the water, said Kashan and Zainul Abidin.

According to research report published in the book titled as "Sustainable Social, Economic and Environmental Revitalization in Multan City: A Multidisciplinary Italian- Pakistani Project",

Chenab River is the main stream of the area as well as main source of surface water and groundwater recharge in historic core of Multan city.

"Contamination of water supply has become a critical issue in the city, since the majority of households use their own wells. Concerning sewerage, the municipal facility is serving at present 55 % of the population. Only one treatment plant is currently available in north of town. Sewers are currently overexploited, with chronic overflowing, arising from the combined effects of low capacity, silting, and inadequate control of industrial wastewater".

in February 2020, the district health department had set up a five-day hepatitis screening camp in the city during which it was revealed that 2,140 people were suffering from hepatitis, around 1,934 people were tested positive for hepatitis C and 206 for hepatitis B. Total 3,435 people were tested at the District Headquarters Hospital and of them 277 were tested positive for hepatitis C and 56 for hepatitis B. Further, 2,837 people were screened at the Tehsil Headquarters Hospital, Shujabad, and of them 1,235 were tested positive for hepatitis C and 113 for hepatitis B. As many as 2,288 people were screened at Tehsil Headquarters Hospital, Jalalpur Pirwala, and of them 422 and 37 were tested positive for hepatitis C and B respectively.

According to the record received under the Right To Information law: two mega schemes comprising replacement of old underground water supply lines and installation of network of new pipelines at urban places including Muzaffargarh, some areas of old Shujabad, Khar Pur, Basti Khawaja Gharib Nawaz and Vehari road etc worth Rs1,000 million are underway. Following this, overhead reservoirs and tube wells are proposed to be constructed in upcoming few days at targeted points as part of the schemes. Not a single penny being earmarked for the development is lapsed in past two years, answered the authority.

Punjab Minister for Energy Dr Akhtar Malik, said in this regard that major problem of the city was drainage and provision of clean water supply. He said that record development funds of Rs190 billion have been allocated during the current fiscal year budget. He termed providing basic services to citizens on their doorstep is top priority of the government.

Director Engineering WASA Abduslam, talking to the scribe, said a mega project comprising laying out new underground water channels and replacement of old ones is in the pipeline. According to him, the project costs Rs.1000 million through which overhead reservoirs and tube wells are being constructed. Currently new water supply pipelines costing Rs. 300 million are being spread in some places of Garden Town, Basti Khuda Dad, old Shujabad, Khar Pur, Basti Khawaja Gharib Nawaz at Vehari road.

All schemes are initiated after brief survey and in consultation with The National Engineering Services Pakistan (NESPAK). As per survey, water lines in Mumtazabad, Willayat Abad, Gulghast Colony, Naqshband Colony, Shamsh Abad, Nawan Sher, Justice Hameed Colony, Shah Rukn Alam Colony's blocks including W, L, Y, Z, New Multan etc are deteriorated, while work visa-a-vis replacing water lines is completed well at Tariq Abad, Timber Market, Khooni Burj road, MDA Chowk and other places worth Rs. 100 million through schemes approved for 2020-21. He said Rs.100 million is earmarked for the said development plan for the year of 2020-21, while Rs.200 million reserved for continuation and enhancement of same water supply schemes to be carried out from June 2021-22.

A complete check and balance has been ensured to hold transparency in public money used in schemes through third party validation (TPV) process and concerned supervisors which is kept as profound importance, said the director.

It's the reason that none of financial scam visa-a-vis carrying out water schemes reported anywhere and any level in the past, he added.

Instead corruption, political interference appears sometimes as a stumbling block to execute projects smoothly, said the director.

As for as replacing of old and rustic sewer lines are concerned, Director Works Chaudhary Shehzad said about 1200 out of 1800 km sewer lines spread across the city are outlived mostly by dint of crown failure. The labour gets expedited where crown failures incidents are come out, he said. The official said about 150 km lines worth Rs. 2.25 billion have been changed so far in different parts of the city, while work for similar replacement is running fast at Ansar Chowk, Nawab Pur Road, Surij Kund Road, Shamsh Abad and other places.

"No funds reserved for sewerage projects have been lapsed in past two years, rather we are demanding additional capital from provincial authority to complete or start new projects" he said. Work is continued in phases since we have to ensure maintenance of uninterrupted traffic flow at concerned locality, he said.

Both of the plans including replacement of sewer lines as well as water supply schemes have to completed until 2040 while it been started in 2015, it is said.

Managing Director (MD) WASA Nasir Iqbal said it has reached an agreement with Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) couple of month ago to provide latest machinery and equipment for resolving sewerage problems in the city. According to the pact, Japan would provide modern machinery worth over Rs2 billion to the native town in upcoming few months. Following this, Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) would provide 18 suction machines to WASA for evacuation from urban areas. At least 18 jetting missions would be offered to the local authority to remove blockages of sewerage lines, it said. Machinery would be included with modern cameras. The decay of sewerage lines would be detected ahead of time. Equipment would also be provided to check quality of water. JICA would supply WASA with crane, cleaning machine, dumping truck, de-watering pump and pick-up truck. The company would give three lifters to WASA authority.  With the installation of modern machinery, the long standing problems of water and sanitation department would be solved remarkably, said Managing Director (MD) WASA Nasir Iqbal.

According to the MD, it would save the upcoming generation from hazards of contaminated water along with issues pertaining to environmental. Whether the goal would be achieved or get limited to claims merely better decided by the future.