Healthy life

Tahira Irfa

Access to safe water is a fundamental need as it is not only a precondition for a healthy life but it is also a basic human right. Contaminated water jeopardizes both the physical and social health of all people which is an affront to human dignity. At the same time, water is a scarce resource and its shortage usually results in economic and health crises. This can be assessed from global trends as well as from Pakistan’s national and local struggles for better access to safe drinking water. Pakistan is also facing shortage of potable water in all provinces including Punjab. Comprising 144 tehsils in 36 districts, Punjab is the most populous of the five provinces of Pakistan, with an estimated population of over 100 million people. Main drinking water source is groundwater in the province, which once was considered to be safe but over the years it is increasingly found to be contaminated with bacteriological and chemical pollutants. Situation is worst in rural areas where access to tap water is very low – 13 percent – as compared to 43 percent in urban areas of Punjab and the quality of drinking water remains substandard as the major sources are hand pumps and turbines supplying contaminated or brackish water. Water contamination in rural areas is mainly caused due to discharge of domestic sewage directly or indirectly into water bodies, open defecation, agricultural run-off during rainy season containing chemical fertilizers and pesticides and effluents from agro-based industries. Majority of population in the province is exposed to hazards of drinking unsafe and polluted water from both surface and ground water sources. Contaminated water is a source of many diseases including diarrhea, typhoid, intestinal worms and hepatitis. Four major contaminants in drinking water sources are bacteriological, arsenic, nitrate and fluoride.

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