* Paper by Anita Chaudhry says Lahore has no public storage capacity, sewage seeps into groundwater
By Khalid Hasan (writing for the Daily Times)
WASHINGTON: A hundred percent of samples taken from Lahore’s water supply and tested in 2006 were found to be contaminated, according to a paper presented at a conference on Pakistan’s water problem held at the Woodrow Wilson Centre.
According to Anita Chaudhry, who teaches Economics at the California State University, the contaminants found in Lahore’s water were iron, arsenic and bacteria.
Four years earlier, only 56 percent of the samples were contaminated. She also said that the average groundwater depth in east Lahore is 100 feet, while it is 40 feet in west Lahore. Access to safe drinking water in Punjab’s urban areas in 2002 was 95 percent against 87 percent in rural areas. Access to sanitation in urban areas was 92 percent and 35 percent in rural areas.
Problems: Chaudhry found that Lahore has no public storage capacity and water supply lasts for a few hours a day and remains highly variable. She also observed a crumbling distribution network with leaks and ‘unaccounted for’ water, nor was there any effective metering of water use.
At least 35 percent of households in urban Punjab have private electric groundwater pumps, Chaudhry said. She found that the costs of decentralised water access could be several times the cost of a centralised efficient water system. Because of dynamic inefficiency, water was being depleted for future generations.
Sewage, she found, is not treated and eventually it seeps into groundwater. She noted that the Pakistan Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has established adequate standards for drinking water for physical parameters, bacterial contamination, essential inorganics and radioactive contamination.
Organic contaminants are, however, not regulated on a compound by compound basis. To avoid declining groundwater tables and deteriorating groundwater quality in fresh groundwater areas, and to ensure equal access to this increasingly important natural resource, the water portfolio, she suggested, should be diversified.
There should also be harvesting of rainwater, a reduction in groundwater withdrawals, proper management of wastewater and an appreciation of the constraints on fresh water. Chaudhry said the increase in supply of water is fundamentally a question of ‘reallocation’