Southern Punjab and Central Sindh have significant concentrations of arsenic, a research study of Pakistan Council for Research in Water Resources (PCRWR) revealed. Comparatively higher arsenic contamination was found in districts of Multan, Bahawalpur, Kasur, Khanewal, Lahore, Vehari and Pakpattan, Dadu, Khairpur Mir, Matirai, Hyderabad and Sukkur, the study titled “Arsenic Monitoring and Mitigation Project” said.
An official of PCRWR told APP that the council has conducted the study in drinking water in 61 districts of Sindh and Punjab. In total 19,874 water samples were collected from 34 Districts of Punjab Province and 13,514 water samples were collected from all districts of Sindh Province to evaluate degree of arsenic contamination in under study areas, he informed. Data analysis revealed that overall 14 percent water samples were identified unsafe due to higher arsenic concentration in Punjab Province whereas 16 percent in Sindh when compared with World Health Organization (WHO) guideline values of arsenic in drinking water (10ppb).
Arsenic is a metalloid mainly classified as heavy metal in environmental chemistry due to its chemical behavior and high atomic mass, he informed, adding, it is present naturally in groundwater due to some mineral and rocks. It has no taste or odor in water. Chronic toxicity can result from a buildup of lower intakes. Arsenic is not geologically uncommon and occurs in natural water as arsenate and arsenite. Additionally, arsenic may occur from industrial discharge or insecticide application.
The excessive level of arsenic can cause various types of skin diseases, diabetes, kidney diseases, hypertension, heart diseases, birth defects, black foot diseases and multiple types of cancers etc. The guideline value for arsenic in drinking water given by World Health Organization (WHO) is 10 ppb whereas permissible limit by National Standards for Drinking Water Quality (NSDWQ) is 50 ppb.
Pakistan Council of Research in Water Resources (PCRWR) under the administrative control of Ministry of Science and Technology has initiated various water quality monitoring projects since 2001 and highlighted the water quality issues all over the country, he added. These project included ‘National Water Quality Monitoring Program (2002-2006) in 24 districts’, ‘Water Quality Monitoring in Rural Areas of Pakistan (2005-2009) in 24 districts.—APP