Ensuring Safe Drinking Water in Pakistan: A Critical Analysis of Quality and Contamination Issues
December 28, 2023
Pakistan, a country rich in natural resources, faces a pressing challenge in ensuring safe drinking water. This comprehensive review explores the geographical landscape, economic factors, and the profound impact of water contamination on public health, particularly in the context of medical crowdfunding for healthcare.
Pakistan's diverse topography, bordered by India, Afghanistan, and China, encompasses Himalayan and Karakoram mountains, Hindukush ranges, and the Baluchistan plateau. The agricultural backbone, the Indus River, flows southward, shaping the country's economic landscape. With 27% of land dedicated to farming, major crops include wheat, maize, rice, cotton, and sugarcane.
Water Resources and Industrial Impact:
Despite abundant surface and groundwater resources, rapid industrialization, urbanization, and population growth strain water availability. The major river, Indus, faces contamination from domestic and industrial waste, affecting the quality of water crucial for agriculture.
Water Pollution and Health Concerns:
Water pollution, arising from domestic and industrial discharge, leads to the spread of waterborne diseases. Inadequate treatment facilities and a parallel system of drinking water sanitation and drainage lines contribute to the deterioration of water quality, particularly in urban areas.
In many Pakistani cities, groundwater serves as the primary source of drinking water, harboring pathogens responsible for 2.5 million deaths annually from endemic diarrheal diseases. Microbial contamination, especially in rural areas, exacerbates health risks.
Chlorination for Water Safety:
To combat waterborne diseases, chlorination emerges as a vital disinfection method. However, challenges persist in implementing this universally accepted practice, especially in areas facing contaminated water sources.
Current Water Supply Issues:
With approximately 79% of water supply in Pakistan, improper management prioritizes quantity over quality. Lack of awareness, technology, equipment, trained personnel, and quality monitoring compounds the problem.
Health Impacts and Waterborne Diseases:
Unsafe drinking water is a significant contributor to health-related issues, with estimates suggesting that 30% of all diseases and 40% of all deaths in Pakistan are linked to poor water quality. Waterborne diseases like diarrhea, typhoid, and hepatitis afflict a considerable portion of the population.
Water Scarcity and Future Projections:
Per capita water availability has drastically decreased over the years, raising concerns about water scarcity. If current trends continue, projections indicate a further decline in water availability, posing severe challenges to the population.
Regional Disparities and Water Supply Systems:
Disparities exist among provinces in terms of water supply systems. Punjab appears to have a more robust system, while Sindh faces challenges with coliform contamination. Rural areas in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and Baluchistan heavily rely on surface and dug well water.
Chemical Contaminants and Industrial Impact:
Chemical contaminants from industrial effluents, agricultural runoff, and excessive use of fertilizers and pesticides pose a threat to water quality. Arsenic concentration, in particular, is becoming a severe problem in major cities.
Floods and Environmental Damage:
Floods in Pakistan, exacerbated by environmental issues, damage drainage systems, leading to sewage water spillage. This poses risks to aquatic life, and chemical contaminants mix with floodwaters, causing additional environmental and health concerns.
Sindh's Water Quality Challenges:
Khairpur, Sindh, faces challenges with coliform and fecal coliform contamination, rendering its drinking water unsuitable. Groundwater quality across Sindh reflects physicochemical imbalances, impacting both drinking and irrigation purposes.
Human Health Impacts and Future Recommendations:
Unsafe drinking water adversely affects human health, leading to waterborne diseases and long-term health problems. Regular inspection and upgrading of treatment plants are essential, emphasizing the need for proactive government initiatives.
This review underscores the critical importance of addressing water quality issues in Pakistan. From geographical nuances to industrial impacts and health concerns, a holistic approach is imperative. Government initiatives, public awareness, and technological advancements can collectively contribute to securing safe drinking water for the people of Pakistan.