Dear Colleagues! This is Pharma Veterans’ Blog Post #508. Pharma Veterans welcome sharing of knowledge and wisdom by Veterans for the benefit of Community at large. Pharma Veterans Blog is published by Asrar Qureshi onWordPress, the top blog site. Please email to firstname.lastname@example.org for publishing your contributions here.
Ms. K. Tabreek from Institute of Environmental Studies, University of Karachi has contributed this post. The topic is directly related to health landscape and is therefore published. I welcome Ms. Tabreek and thank her for this contribution. No editing has been done. AQ
The Dilemma of Water Pollution
In Pakistan, the issue of water pollution has become adverse and is only intensifying with each passing day. According to the United Nation International Children Emergency Fund (UNICEF), 20%–40% of hospital beds in Pakistan are filled with patients suffering from waterborne diseases. Moreover, Pakistan has a horrifying rate of infant mortality caused by water-related diarrhea that is 60%, which is the highest ratio in Asia, as per the report of International Union on Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
There are multiple sources of water pollution in Pakistan. The Industrial sector constitutes one of the biggest chunks in water pollution sources. A number of factories release their effluents without prior treatment into the fresh water body resource such as lakes and rivers. The wastewater from industries contains hazardous pollutants in greater amounts such as heavy metals, toxic chemicals, radioactive waste and organic pollutants. The main water pollution contributor industries in Pakistan are petrochemicals, tanneries, refineries, textile and sugar industries, paper and pulp, food processing. As per special report of WWF on water pollution in Pakistan, Environmental audits are conducted by only a marginal number of industries (about 5 % of national industries). Textile and sugar industry are the major sources of industrial water pollution. The problem of industrial water pollution has remained uncontrolled because there have been little or no incentives for industry to treat their effluents. The role of provincial environmental protection agencies (EPAs) to combat this issue effectively is not adequate.
Another big source of water pollution is the agriculture sector. Agriculture is the main contributor to country’s annual GDP. However, this sector also lacks good planning and management so as to prevent water losses and pollution. The fertilizers and pesticides used in the crops leach directly into a natural water body which deteriorates the quality of fresh water. Most pesticides are classified as Persistent organic pollutants that accumulate in plants, animals and humans- a phenomenon known as Bioaccumulation. Pesticides are severely toxic pollutants that can cause cancer, neurotoxicity, hormonal and blood disorders, birth defects, developmental problems and other health issues.
Domestic waste water is another constituent of water pollution sources. The untreated sewage flowing through nullahs and storm water drainage ends up in the streams, lakes and rivers. The municipal waste water causes microbial diseases. More than 2,000 million gallons of sewage is being discharged to surface water bodies every day according to the reports of Pak-SCEA. The polluted water leaches into the ground water aquifers, thereby reducing the quality of groundwater. Hardly 10 per cent of the sewage is treated in cities across the country. There is a dearth of waste water treatment facilities in urban centres of the country. The existing municipal wastewater treatment units are either under-resourced or not working effectively due to technical constraints. Adding to the plight of citizens, there is also lack of adequate disinfection facilities and quality monitoring units.
It is a dilemma that only 20 per cent of the country’s population has access to clean drinking water. The remaining 80 per cent population is forced to consume unhealthy, contaminated water for drinking and other domestic purposes. The consequences of this situation are manifested by the fact that approximately 80% of all diseases and 30% of deaths are related to water pollution. The health issues and human losses subsequently leads to economic losses for the country.
It is a high time that the government bring out effective policies and concrete implementation to arrest the issue. Access to clean water is basic human right and a fundamental duty of public service delivery on the part of country’s administrators. Clean Water and sanitation is number 6 Sustainable Development Goal, whose fulfillment is promised by the government of Pakistan. Therefore, measures such as establishment of waste water collection and treatment facilities for industrial, agriculture and municipal sources should be done in each province. Disinfection units and quality monitoring agencies are needed be developed. Moreover, environmental audits of industries should be carried out with strict compliance requirements so as to bring positive change in this scenario. There is also a greater need of aggressive implementation if the 2018 National Water Policy. It is a fact that only through concerted efforts by the governmental agencies, the issue of water pollution in our country can be resolved.
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