The Government of Punjab is taking much needed and highly timely measures to preserve the aquifer of Lahore which has gone down to dangerous levels due to ill-planned and environmentally ignorant policies of the past.
A meeting of the AIIB Team working on the Lahore Water and Wastewater Management Project was held in P&D chaired by Habib Gillani, Chairman P&D Board. Lahore, with a burden 11.1 million population where water is extracted water is abstracted through 576 tubewells before pumping into the distribution system.
Currently, the groundwater abstraction by its responsible agency “Lahore Water and Sanitation Authority, LWASA” is 540 million gallons per day (MGD), or equivalent to 2.45 million cubic meters per day. In addition, about 1.2 million cubic meters per day is abstracted by Private Housing Societies, Cantonment Boards, Railway Colonies and areas under the jurisdiction of Local Government.
In view of increasing demand due to ongoing urbanization and increased commercial activities, the number of tube wells are also increasing with every passing day. On the other hand, Lahore receives an average annual rainfall of about 715 mm, which does not contribute much in recharging the aquifer, as groundwater abstraction is much higher than recharge. Consequently, the groundwater table continues to deplete rapidly.
The current decline rate is observed at an alarming rate of more than one meter per annum. As a consequence, several existing shallow tube wells have dried up and are no longer operational, and the City has started to face severe water shortages. As for wastewater, there is currently no wastewater treatment facility in Lahore. All the untreated domestic and industrial wastewater is discharged directly in the nearby River Ravi and thus, heavily polluting the river.
It is estimated that River Ravi receives nearly 640 MGD wastewater as if converting a river into a sewage drain. On the other hand, River Ravi plays a major role in replenishing Lahore’s groundwater by up to 82 percent. Due to mass contamination of the river, polluted water seeps down making the groundwater unfit for drinking purpose, and affecting soil fertility. The pollution of groundwater has been causing diseases like diarrhea, typhoid, intestinal worms and hepatitis in several areas of the city.
The dual problems of clean water shortage and untreated wastewater overflow have been taken seriously by the Government of Punjab to urgently find solutions to address them in a synchronized manner. Through well thought out interventions, the Government has decided to save the aquifer and also save the River Ravi from further pollution and toxicity. Several environmentalists have hailed the urgency with which the government has taken action to prevent Lahore from becoming a water-stressed and ultimately water depressed city.