Safe drinking water

How does one explain the CDWA project’s failure to take off when the link between potable water and human health is clear even to the meanest intelligence? When the Rs15bn Clean Drinking Water for All scheme was launched in 2005 it envisaged the installation of 6,626 filtration plants all over the country by Dec 2007. Although it was periodically reported that work was in progress and some plants had been set up, the project was not completed on time.

As is the wont among our policymakers, a new government ushered in a new water policy that was announced in Sept 2009. This speaks of providing clean drinking water to everyone in Pakistan by 2025. Is this another pipe dream? Work on the CDWA project was initiated some years ago but we have not been told how much has been spent and where. Now there are media reports of existing plants falling into disuse. CDWA was to be a joint venture between the federal government as the financier and the district, tehsil and town governments providing land, labour and electricity. The provincial government was to be the executor. Now we have them indulging in a blame game to escape responsibility.

It is time the various tiers of government sorted out this issue. They should realise that the UN Human Rights Council is on its way to recognising access to safe drinking water as a basic human right of people. Millennium Development Goal # 7 also sets the target of reducing by half the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water. Leaving aside altruistic reasons, there is a down-to-earth pragmatic compulsion to provide safe water to people. Pakistan spends Rs30bn on healthcare for people who suffer from waterborne diseases. A fraction of that spent on safe drinking water projects would save a lot of money and human suffering.

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