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Accounting for water

Water is not only for life water is life. This quote by the United Nations Secretary-General has been used over and over at various forums, and by various experts, policy makers and stakeholders alike. However, where these words signify the critical importance of water for all human aspects, its practical presence at home is quite clamant the removal of Karachi Water and Sewage Board Managing Director by the Supreme Court during the hearing of a case on the governments failure to provide safe drinking water and sanitation facilities to the people of Sindh is a recent reminder.

There mere access to water is turning into a crisis; Pakistan Council of Research in Water Resources (PCRWR) in its report titled Provision of Safe Drinking Water points out that 84 percent of population lacks access to safe drinking water, which means less than 20 percent have access to clean water. Thats unfortunate!

So what is the water landscape in the country? What are the key challenges, and what can be done about them? What are the suggestions for the policy makers? A good place to start would be a thorough analysis of water resources in urban cities cities with a growing population and usage of water. WWF Pakistan that brought the concept of water stewardship in the country has done one such analysis of Lahore city. The report titled, Situation Analysis of the Water Resources of Lahore Establishing a Case for Water Stewardship is a comprehensive water accounting for Lahore city; it identifies gaps in current knowledge and analyses the key water risks at the city level and problems and challenges faced by Lahore both in terms of water quantity and quality.

The report highlights that in the absence of any municipal water act or water-right law, groundwater is pumped indiscriminately by private housing schemes and industry in Lahore. The report also states that Lahore is in constant danger of health and environmental risks and ecosystem challenges due to huge discharges of untreated domestic and industrial waste. There are 2,700 registered industries in Lahore that are the main users of groundwater, and the wastewater generation in the city is estimated at 231 litres per capita per day, and almost all is disposed of into the River Ravi without any treatment. This discharge contains liquid and solid waste from domestic, industrial, and commercial premises.

Such studies are needed to build a case for water accounting in the country. While there have been some initiatives like ‘Clean Drinking Water for All’ project launched in Punjab, and the National Climate Change Policy (that provide appropriate action plans enhancing water storage and infrastructure, better water resource management, enhancing institutional capacities and creating awareness), a lot needs to be done in cities to address the erupting water crisis.

Reporter. Accounting for water. Business Recorder, March 9, 2017.

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