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| Last Updated:13/01/2014

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Pakistan losing 4% of economy to bad sanitation, water supplies

The Express Tribune, 12 January, 2014


The govt neither adopted the National Drinking Water Policy in 2009 nor the National Climate Change Policy in 2012. PHOTO: FILE


For the poor, water is a primary resource. The availability of water and proper sanitation is a global issue with over 884 million people suffering from poor conditions. Developing countries such as Pakistan suffer severe consequences.


This, according to Muhammad Irfan Tariq, the director of the Climate Change Division in the Pakistani government, means that investing in proper water and sanitation facilities is a crucial element for the social well-being of the country and should be a priority for the government.


Tariq was speaking at the second plenary session for the South Asian Cities Conference being held here over the weekend. It began with an elaborate presentation on the dire conditions of the country’s water and sanitation sector.


According to a study conducted by the Ministry of Environment, “Pakistan is losing 4% of its economy due to a lack of these facilities.” Tariq believed that investment in this sector will have a huge impact on women, as special focus should be given to menstrual hygiene.


For whatever it is worth, the government did adopt a National Drinking Water Policy in 2009 and more recently a National Climate Change Policy in 2012. He stressed that budget constraints on the national and provincial levels have kept the urban water development low.


Highlighting the rapid urbanization in Sindh, Khalid M Siddiqui, who is working with the Sindh government, spoke about the alarming rate of depleting water sources in the province. As Sindh is a lower riparian province it overly depends on the Indus River water which has been gradually declining. “Seventy-nine per cent of the population uses surface water and over 50% of the population has no access to proper sewer systems.”


Siddiqui outlined a list of challenges faced by the Sindh urban community and one of the central limitations he pointed was that even though national sanitation policies are in place the authorities are not adhering to them. To add to this, Sindh faces inadequate water treatment, high dependency on surface water and strong political interests that hamper a demand-driven water supply.


According to Siddiqui, a number of measures, such as ensuring strong private sector participation and establishing technically advanced water-testing laboratories, can be adopted.