Elevated arsenic level in water puts Multanites’ lives at risk

Elevated arsenic level in water puts Multanites' lives at risk
Elevated arsenic level in water puts Multanites' lives at risk

By M. Salman Raza

MULTAN, Oct 24 (APP): With an estimate of over four million, about 45 percent population of Multan city is deprived of clean drinking water while leaving the residents affected by multiple viral diseases.

The faulty underground sewerage system like breakage of decades’ old pipelines has caused to increase heavy metals and arsenic contamination in drinking water poses a serious threat to human life because of its toxicity.

The city’s interior location like Khooni Burg with areas spread in gates namely Dehli gate, Harram gate, Boher gate along with Rasheeda Abad, Surij Miani towns etc have become prone to arsenic-mixed water following the said reasons.

“I’m put on dialysis mainly under the reason that I’m not able to access clean drinking water” said Saleem, father of the four surviving at affected place of Khooni Burj vicinity. According to him, he used to rush at the lone nearby water filtration plant to queue for having safe drinking water as it opens for two hours in a day.

The World Health Organization has established 10 micro-grams per liter as the permissible concentration in drinking water while Multan is stated to have 50 micro-grams per liter arsenic in underground water which is five times higher than permissible, according to report of Public Health Engineering (PHE) came out in 2018-19 through field investigation, survey and data collection.

Arsenic is a chemical element, the elevated levels of which may cause different deadly diseases like diabetes, cardiovascular problems and various types of cancer. Moreover, early childhood exposure has been linked to negative impacts on cerebral development that leads to increasing deaths in young adults.

According Assistant Professor of Pathology, Nishtar hospital Dr. Abuzar Raza, it has reported increased cases of impaired nerve function, peptic diseases, cardiovascular, pulmonary diseases and gastroenteritis.

The city is running with over 100 water filtration schemes under joint venture of Public Health Engineering and Rural Water Management in the city, with 100-102 tube wells working out by Water and Sanitation Authority (WASA).

However, what the authority has termed as the lack of requisite resources is halting maintenance of filtration plants up to the desired level.

A water plant once being checked out by two monitoring evaluation officials takes next turn for same checking after four or five months at least by the same administrators. “The department is able to look after all filtration plants through two monitoring officials by single motorbike,” according to secretary of water testing laboratory Khalid Javed.

He also pointed out that although water testing laboratory offers free of cost water testing for common households yet the latter least come up to acquire the service.

The rapid expansion of the local population through unplanned colonies structure has worsened the situation as the builders don’t pay heed to situation of underground sewerage system network where the dirty water is getting mixed with drinking water so that the authority could adopt alternative measures to revert the hazard on time, said the PHE report.

Water Xen [executive engineer] Abudsslam, however, didn’t agree with the report, saying that Water and Sanitation Agency (WASA) has so far able to manage pure water for larger parts of city by extending a strong net of underground water pipelines.

“I don’t agree with excerpts of (WHO) report as arsenic level has touched around 50 micro-grams per liter in whole of the district. “We use to conduct TPV (third party valuation) of water after every three-week here to ensure purity of drinking water, he said.

Nonetheless, he said, “The arsenic level at different places happens to be different and I think it might be higher than permissible level at Jalalpur Pirwala, Shujabad, Khanewal and adjacent towns as compared local areas of Multan city.” The Xen insisted that WASA is offering clean water, or maybe with minor proportion of arsenic in the city.

The decades-old underground water pipelines have got leaky, rusty and that water was mixing up with industrial and sanitation runoff pushing life relatively at risk, he added.

According to WASA Public Relation Officer, Hassan Bukhari, about 80 percent water pipelines consisted of around 1400 km were laid in 90’s decade in the city.

The expansion with replacement of the rustic lines was kept on with the passage of time after WASA was established formally here, he said.

According to a web link, in US and European countries, the maximum contamination level for arsenic in drinking water is lowered by using alternative methods of using membrane filtration of arsenic from drinking water.

Underground water beneath 400-500 ft below surface gets contaminated with rocks due to arsenic-pollution owing to effects of rocks.

The membrane technology includes reverse osmosis (RO), ultrafiltration and microfiltration.

Nasir Iqbal, the Managing Director of WASA in his remarks said that clean drinking water schemes would start here from January, next year. He said schemes that were going to be started with an amount of Rs. one billion. However, it would take about two years to provide clean drinking water to the citizens across the city, he added.