In Pakistan, 38.5 million people do not have access to safe drinking water and 50.7 million do not have the facility of proper sanitation. These high statistics result in more than 24 percent of Pakistan’s hospital beds being occupied by the people suffering from waterborne diseases. Moreover, diarrhoea is the leading cause of mortality and second leading cause of morbidity among children under five years of age, said experts at a meeting in Karachi.
Addressing the session of the first day of Aga Khan University’s 13th National Health Sciences Research Symposium on ‘Impact of Water and Sanitation on Health: Our Problems and Our Solutions“, Pakistan government Health Director General Dr Rashid Jooma said that the work being done on the water and sanitation sectors in Pakistan is not like that being done in other countries, such as India, worsening the sanitation conditions.
Jooma said that the bad sanitation conditions are not only affecting human health but the environment too. He added that the estimated cost of environmental degradation in Pakistan is Rs 365 billion per year, of which Rs 112 billion [US$ 1.34 billion] is caused by inadequate water supply, sanitation and hygiene conditions.
Talking about the government’s response to these challenges, including legislation and policy, and initiatives for safe drinking water, sanitation and hygiene, he said there are several projects in the pipeline and more is yet to be done.
Senior Architect and Urban Town Planner Arif Hassan underlined the fact that over the last 50 years the government has invested considerable money, including aid, in drinking water and sanitation programmes. However, these projects have not been successful and have increased Pakistan’s foreign debt considerably. Some NGO projects have delivered positive results but unless their methodology becomes a part of the official policy, planning and implementation procedures, they cannot be successful to the extent required for servicing the growing demand for water and sanitation. In the past two years, the government has legislated a sanitation and drinking water policy which, to be successful, will need to relate to ground realities.
[...] Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture at MIT Professor Dr James Wescoat said landscape planning has an increasing role to play in helping expand household and neighbourhood water and sanitation solutions to rural and urban areas. “Environmental design has played a vital role in linking water and health, from Mohenjo Daro to Boston,” he said.
Addressing the Symposium via the Internet from India, Dr Bindeshwar Pathak, founder of the Sulabh Sanitary Movement, said low-cost sanitation technology is available and by adopting these technologies, any country can improve the sanitation sector. Sharing his experience of introducing a two-pit pour flush toilet that uses only 1-1.5 litres of water, he said that the technology is flexible and affordable and can be implemented at costs starting from USD 30, depending on the quality.
AKU’s Dr Iqtidar A Khan said that in Pakistan 90 percent of water is used for agriculture and less than 10 percent for drinking and sanitation. He said the water availability has fallen from 5,000 cubic metres per capita in the early 1950s to less than 1,500 cubic metres today. Quoting the words of former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan, he said that AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and other infectious diseases will not be defeated until the battles for safe drinking water, sanitation and basic health care are won.
Source: Amar Guriro, Daily Times, 28 Oct 2009