KARACHI: The Sindh government has missed a self-imposed deadline for setting up water testing laboratories in at least nine districts without setting up a single such facility, The Express Tribune has learnt.
Under the directives of the Supreme Court-mandated Water Commission, the provincial government had to establish water-testing labs in 17 of the province’s districts. In compliance with the directives, the Sindh Public Health Department had promised it would establish labs in at least nine districts by June 2019 and complete the remainder in 2020.
Administrative and technical issues, however, kept the department from setting up even one lab to date even though the Sindh government allocated Rs105.5 million for this purpose last year, officials said.
“The delay has been mainly caused by budgetary issues,” Sindh Public Health Department Secretary Roshan Shaikh told The Express Tribune. “Sindh is facing a shortage of funds because the federal government has not released all of the amounts the province is owed. This is why we couldn’t meet the deadline for setting up the labs,” he said.
The secretary also revealed that the provincial government could not secure space for the labs in certain districts. “We intend to expedite this process now and hopefully, we will complete the task by year-end,” he said.
“In the meantime, we have planned some changes in the execution of the project. Instead of completing the project in two phases as planned earlier, we will now finish it in one phase,” Shaikh added. Justifying the shift in approach, he said it would be economically unviable to award the contract for the same project in different phases.
Under the original plan, labs were to be set up in Matiari, Mirpurkhas, Sanghar, Tando Allahyar, Mithi, Khairpur, Jacobabad, Shikarpur and Dadu districts in the first phase which was to be completed by June 2019. The second phase would cover Ghotki, Larkana, Kashmore, Naushehro Feroze, Kamber Shahdadkot, Tando Muhammad Khan, Thatta and Sujawal districts.
The project was launched after it came to the Water Commission’s notice that most of Sindh residents were being provided unsafe water for drinking. Water samples collected from different parts of the province under the commission’s directives revealed that most drinking water sources were contaminated.
Although Sindh currently has six water-testing labs in Karachi, Sukkur, Nawabshah, Hyderabad, Badin and Tando Jam, these were set up by the federal government-run Pakistan Council of Research in Water Resources (PCRWR).
PCRWR has also set up water-testing labs in other parts of the country. Ten of them were set up in Punjab’s Lahore, Faisalabad, Gujranwala, Mianwali, Sahiwal, Sargodha, Sialkot, Bahawalpur, DG Khan and Multan districts. Another three were established in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa’s Peshawar, Abbottabad and DI Khan districts and two laboratories were set up in Balochistan’s Quetta and Loralai districts. PCRWR also set one lab each in Gilgit and Muzaffarabad.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 16th, 2019.