Every day, about 320 children die in Pakistan because of contaminated water. With only 60 per cent of the population having access to clean water, the natural resources are under increasing pressure to provide for the changing times. This was said by Karen Allen, representative of United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), at a national workshop on Tuesday.
This year’s theme for the World Water Day is “Water and Cities: Responding to the Urban Challenge”.
Ministry of Environment (MoE) Director General Javaid Ali Khan, MoE Director Environment Irfan Tariq, students from various schools of Islamabad and Rawalpindi, their parents and civil society representatives attended the workshop.
Allen said use of contaminated water is also aggravating the issue of water-borne diseases in the country.
Khan said Pakistan is facing a serious challenge of depleting water resources. The scale and pace of urbanisation itself poses a big challenge for the provision of safe drinking water, he added.
Khan informed the participants that water availability per capita had decreased at an alarming rate and the situation was deteriorating by groundwater pollution and depletion, rapid urbanisation and growth of urban slums and squatter settlements.
“Unfortunately, most water supply, whether protected and treated at source or not, gets contaminated in transmission or in handling at home or in the water tanks and containers,” said Khan.
Diarrhoea and other diseases of the alimentary canal are caused by bad sanitation and poor hygiene practices, he said.
“A report estimates that in the urban areas, 11 per cent of the children fell ill with diarrhoea in February, this is in fact somewhat higher than in the rural areas of the country,” he added.
On the occasion, students from various schools proved their commitment as agents of change and conveyed messages through skits, poems and debates. They stressed the need to boil water before drinking, covering it properly and highlighted the importance of having an efficient sanitation system.
The debate competition was worth listening to, as the young students expressed their concern over water getting contaminated in the country and asked the people to conserve water and not waste it.
“This year we have decided to observe the World Water Day as a demonstration of children-led initiatives for water purification at point of use,” Khan said afterwards.
The event was organised by Ministry of Environment in collaboration of UNICEF, UN-Habitat, PIEDAR, Water Aid and WASH to celebrate the World Water Day.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 23rd, 2011.