Pakistani Population Problem: Lack of Access to Safe Drinking Water

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Safe and high quality water is fundamental need for healthy living. It is not only the essential requirement but also the mean for preventing/water born diseases and controlling infection in general population. However, Pakistan is frequently facing challenges in term of provision of safe drinking water. According to estimation 44% of Pakistani population lack access to safe drinking water facilities and problem is proliferating quickly. In rural areas, 90 per cent of people don’t have access to this basic necessity of life.

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The problem is real and it is spreading fast with the rapid increase of population. It has been researched that the water born issues are affecting millions of lives, especially children due to many water born health issues. The key issue contributing the contamination of water is poor sanitation and sewage system. Despite of the known fact statistics show that majority of population is still using ground water. Though there are multiple sources available in Pakistan such as tape water, hand pumps, dug wells, etc. According to the survey by PSLM 2014-15, majority of the Pakistani population rely upon ground water through various sources such as Tap water 26% and Motor Pumps 33%.

Government has taken many initiatives such as The Ministry of Environment, in line with provisions of the National Environment Policy has formulated the National Drinking Water Policy 2009 through a countrywide consultation process which aims to increase public awareness about water safety, safe hygiene practices and water conservation but it’s not sufficient.

Looking into the issue there is desperate need of not only mobilizing the current resources to make key stakeholders aware about the issue but also to introduce some sustainable and clean alternative for water consumption.

Meanwhile there is also a need for renovating the ways of assessing the water related means and look into the social and cultural practices. The alternate source must be reliable, clean, economical and sustainable. Therefore, there is rising prospect of introducing the bottles water (Treated) but keeping in view the affordability of the targeted population and not compromising upon the quality. The most protective province for the intervention while considering the facts is Punjab. Further statistics and need is explained below.

Prospects of drinking water entrepreneur in Pakistan

Pakistan is country of more than 200 million people including 60% rural and 40% urban population. 88% of the population access only limited services of water while 64% have access to basic services of sanitation. Added to this is the phenomenon that 25 million people defacate in open, a risk to have more water contamination and the associated health and hygiene issues. Punjab is the most populous country of Pakistan with 55. 6% of the country’s total population. Over the period of time Punjab has witnessed a gigantic increase in its population. From 20 million in 1951, and 73 million 1998, it has reached to more than 101 million in 2015. The province is facing immense level of clean drinking water crises. Ground water was once used to be safe water source in Punjab which is not considered safe anymore. It is increasingly found to be contaminated with bacteriological and chemical pollutants. Water contamination in rural areas is mainly caused due to discharge of domestic sewage directly or indirectly into water bodies, open defecation, agricultural run-off during rainy season containing chemical fertilizers and pesticides and effluents from agro-based industries.

Majority of population in the province is exposed to hazards of drinking unsafe and polluted water from both surface and ground water sources. Contaminated water is a source of many diseases including diarrhea, typhoid, intestinal worms and hepatitis. Four major contaminants in drinking water sources are bacteriological, arsenic, nitrate and fluoride. Access to tap water is very low in rural areas - 13 per cent -- as compared to 43 per cent in urban areas of the Punjab and quality of drinking water remains substandard as the major sources are hand pumps and turbines supplying contaminated or brackish water to local populations. In this backdrop there is an intense need and reliance on safe drinking source such as bottle drinking water in the area.

The public is becoming aware of the contamination of water supply and the filtered water business is flourishing in Pakistan. There is a major opportunity for small entrepreneurs to invest in the business of bottled water. It takes Rs. 500,000 to set up a bottled water plant. The plant can last for 10 years providing an opportunity to avail safe drinking water for 10 years. It is one of the most economical way as well costing 25 paisa in producing one liter of bottled water. This is a very small cost in producing clean water which would make ultimate product affordable for consumers. The water crisis has become so severe that the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Pakistan had to take notice of that.

Upon the inquiry of Chief Justice, water experts informed the courts the Pakistan would face drought by 2025 if necessary arrangements are not in place by then. Later the Chief Justice opened an account urging the citizens to donate for the dam. The Prime Minister Imran Khan has also joined this campaign now. Given this scenario, the government has assured the water plant entrepreneurs to provide them enabling environment in terms of safety and security and good governance. In view of the increasing growth rate in the population, the water scarcity, contamination and the sensitivity of the government towards this issue increases the prospects of bottled water entrepreneurship.

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