Water is life, and clean drinking water is health. Unfortunately, both the significance and signification of this common adage seem to have been lost on our governments. Seventy years have gone by, yet the rulers have failed to provide clean drinking water to the people. A report in this newspaper says even after a year of its formation, the Punjab Aab-e-Pak Authority (PAPA) — which is tasked with providing clean drinking water across the province — remains dysfunctional. Obviously, this project, like most schemes aimed at bringing about improvements in public health, has fallen victim to bad governance and official apathy.
The provincial government had allocated Rs7.5 billion for the project but, for inexplicable reasons, it has transferred this money to other provinces. The authority’s PC-1 has not yet been approved, and the service rules and regulations department has not okayed the appointment of employees at the authority due to which a permanent chief executive officer is yet to be hired. Since the finance department has not provided funds for the establishment of the authority, it does not have its own office building. Now the district monitoring officer of the Water and Sanitation Agency (WASA) has been given the additional charge of the PAPA’s CEO and he uses the WASA’s office to look after the affairs of the authority. Not only does the authority lack funds, but it is unable to fully utilise the allocated funds due to circumstances created by the coronavirus pandemic. However, lack of interest on the part of the government is mainly responsible for the PAPA remaining dysfunctional.
As it usually happens, NGOs have stepped in to fill the gap. They are assisting the provincial government in restoring dysfunctional water filtration plants in Lahore, Gujranwala, Sargodha and Faisalabad. The Punjab Governor is said to have been working hard for the clean water project. People in developing countries need clean air, clean water and ever more food.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 17th, 2020.
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