March 22 is World Water Day, and this report in The News International explains why we need such a day: Water-borne diseases major health threat. Excerpt:
Water-borne diseases pose serious threat to public health in Pakistan claiming not less than 1.2 million lives every year while billions of rupees are lost every year to treat patients with water-borne diseases that can be avoided.
According to estimates, around 250,000 children in the country die under the age of five due to diarrhoea, mainly caused by the use of untreated water. The water-borne illnesses account for nearly 60 per cent of child deaths in Pakistan with approximate 630 children dying daily from diarrhoea.
Not less than 80 per cent of infectious and parasitic diseases are related to contaminated water and 25 per cent of hospital beds are occupied by people suffering from water-borne diseases. Globally, one child dies every 8 seconds due to water-borne diseases.
Head of Community Medicine at CMH Lahore Medical College Professor Muhammad Ashraf Chaudhry expressed this while talking to ‘The News’ in connection with World Water Day being observed on March 22 around the globe.
Important water-borne diseases are viral hepatitis A & E, poliomyelitis, rotavirus diarrhoea in infants, typhoid and paratyphoid fevers, dysentery, cholera and intestinal worms.
Dr. Ashraf believes that water pollution has become a very serious problem in Pakistan because of the rapid growth in population and the growth of the industrial sector. The most common sources of water contamination are a result of human activity such as discharges from factories, leaky and rusty underground water pipelines, storage tanks, cross-connections between water supply lines and sewerage drainage pipelines, improperly treated sewage disposal, agricultural chemicals and pesticides trickling and seeping in to underground water aquifers, he said.
It is important that water in many cities of Pakistan is unsafe for human consumption due to both bacterial and chemical contamination.
It is ironical that after 66 years of independence, we do not have a national drinking water policy and minimum mandatory safety and quality standards for drinking water in Pakistan, said Dr. Ashraf.
He added that those who are responsible for treating water at source like chlorination are either absent or not trained to do their job properly. Either their apparatus is not working or they have short supply of chlorine gas cylinders. You scratch of surface of any issue in Pakistan and ultimately you reach at “lack of governance” and “lack of political will”, he said.
He added that water table is falling from one to 10 feet every year and Pakistan may be officially declared ‘water deficit country’ by 2020. It has been predicted that next world war will be on water. Without safe water we would be poisoned to death by our own waste products and toxins resulting from metabolism, said Dr. Ashraf.