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Educating about drinking water

Dr Hafiz Rafique

The importance of water can be judged by this verse from the Holy Quran:“We made from water every living thing” (Qur’an, Surah, Al-Anbiya, 21: 30). Seas, lakes and rivers are all made up of water. It falls as rain and erupts from springs. It occurs in nature abundantly. It also plays a unique role in our life and has countless influence on human activity.
Pakistan has enough water resources for supplying good quality drinking water for human, livestock, wildlife, and for irrigation of agriculture crops as well as for industrial use. Clean drinking water is necessary for human life. Contaminated drinking water has negative effects on human health. In developing countries, a significant part of the population suffers from health issues either due to shortage of drinking water or its contamination. Waterborne diseases are the second major cause of death among children out of which the majority of them are from developing countries. The problem has worsened due to burgeoning population that hinders effective management of water quality.
It has been reported that 2 billion people worldwide exploits ground water for drinking. People in Pakistan obtain drinking water from different resources such as piped network (house water supply) by Water and Sanitation Agency (WASA), hand pumps, tubewells and injector pumps. Water from these resources is contaminated as little attention has been paid to the quality of drinking water in Pakistan. Most of the water supply is intermittent and outbreak of waterborne diseases such as gastroenteritis, giardiasis, hepatitis, diarrhoea and typhoid are common. In metropolitan cities, the situation is not satisfactory as well. It has been reported that 30% of all diseases and 40% of all deaths in Pakistan are caused by contaminated drinking water. As a result, every fifth citizen in Pakistan suffers from waterborne disease causing 0.1 million deaths each year out of which 250,000 are children.
Lack of well-equipped laboratories, non-implementation of legal framework for addressing drinking water quality problems and poor institutional management have intensified the situation. Moreover, the public is ignorant about water quality issues, as 62% urban population and 84% rural population do not clean their drinking water. It is a need of the hour that these problems should be addressed seriously to find out their root causes so that proper precautionary measures and actions should be taken.
There are national or international standards or guidelines on which the drinking water safety is judged. World Health Organization (WHO)guidelines are the most important for the measurement of drinking water quality. WHO is an important agency of United Nations. It came into being on April 7, 1948. Its headquarters is in Geneva, Switzerland. The basic function of WHO is to improve public health throughout the world. It has191 members. The guidelines of WHO for drinking water quality were set up in Geneva in 1993.
Before the provision of pure drinking water, chemical, bacteriological and physical contaminants in the water must be analysed and set according to WHO standards. In the analyses of water, basic parameters such as temperature, taste, colour, and odour, physical parameters like Total Dissolved Solids (TDS), electrical conductivity, turbidity and pH are measured. Chemical parameters such as Sodium , Calcium , Magnesium , Nitrate and sulfate ions and other chemical elements are measured. In the analyses, at least the following contaminants are checked: To Be Continued
(The writer is Punjab University Physics Department Chairman and Member Syndicate on Professor’s seat. He cab be reached at: hafizrafique42b1@hotmail.com)

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