Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Millions consume polluted water in flood-hit areas of Pakistan

Mohammad Hussain Khan in Dawn (Pakistan): As the world observes World Water Day today, millions of people in most flood-affected cities and towns of the province are forced to use underground brackish water because flood has rendered water supply system non-functional.

This year the day`s theme is `Water for cities: responding to the urban challenge” and its objective is to focus international attention on impact of rapid growth in urban population, industrialisation, uncertainties caused by climate change, conflicts and natural disasters and their impacts on urban water systems.

The theme looks more relevant as one looks at the situation in the nine cities worst hit by last year`s flash floods. Government functionaries face a serious challenge to meet water needs of the population of these cities where floods have washed away 77 per cent of 451 water supply schemes.

…In-charge of DRIP`s office in Tandojam, Mohammad Khan Mari, said that DRIP study carried out between December 2010 and January 2011 found that a water supply scheme, especially in rural areas, catered to need of 10,000 to 20,000 people and in urban settlement it reached 50,000 to 100,000 people. The schemes which were completely uprooted would have to be rebuilt and the remaining however could be made functional, said the study.

According to a relatively old study referred to date by experts, 85 per cent of underground water in Sindh has turned brackish or saline. Sweet water can be found only in 15 per cent area close to the river or located near old river course on the Indus` left bank.

Scarcity of sweet water, according to experts, is called `confined aquifer` which recharges with rains and floods. Usage of water in agriculture sector contributes only two per cent to recharging aquifers. In Sindh water table has dropped drastically due to excessive application of tube-well system, posing a serious threat to shallow water that may turn brackish if it is not recharged regularly with rains or floods….

The Indus River delta, viewed from space

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