Only 5% water is used for drinking which needs to be raised: seminar told

KARACHI: Only 5% water is used for drinking and 5% for other living things while 90% is used for agriculture sector. The water share for domestic used, especially in Karachi, by reducing water wastages in agriculture sector. There is also need to improve outdated water and sanitation system in Karachi, Hyderabad, Sukkur, Mirpurkhas, Nawabshah, Umerkot, and other cities of Sindh, where water supply, sanitation and hygiene conditions are below satisfactory level. In most of the cities piped water supply system have become older and dysfunctional due to decay and lack of maintenance.

This was the crux of a seminar on the theme of “Private Sector – A Key Player of WASH in Pakistan, organized by Health And Nutrition Development Society (HANDS) in collaboration with USAID at a local hotel in Karachi on Wednesday. The seminar was organized to engage private sector in Water Sanitation Health and Hygiene (WASH). It was attended by the representatives of local government, USAID, UN agency, NGOs, INGOs, MSDP, Faran Sugar Mills, CSOs, media and academia.

Speaking on the occasion, Tameezuddin Khero, Secretary Public Health Engineering Department said that water and sanitation sector is more important than education. “The participation of NGOs in this sector is very low, which needs to be enhanced. Sindh government is committed to provide water and sanitation facilities to the people of Sindh, but the private sector will have to play a major role in this sector.

He said that the government has always been short of resources so private sector should be self-reliant and the government would help them in this regard. Media should avoid spreading fear among people through irresponsible reports. Facts should be given in the reports while negative reporting must be ended. Sindh government led by Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah has been doing a lot of work for the people of Sindh. “Only 5% water is used for drinking and 5% for animals and birds while 90% is used for agriculture.

MPA Pir Mujeeb said that there is need to enhance capacity building of town municipal administrations so that they could improve water and sanitation systems, while funds should be used properly. The local government departments also needs to be fully functionalized for facilitating citizens, he said.

MPA Rubina Qaimkhani said that bureaucracy and civil society need to play their separate due roles for provision of safe drinking water and ensuring better sanitation system. “Strong linkages between government and private sector are required to resolve people’s issues. Passing bills is a good job but more good is implementing them in letter and spirit,” she said.

HANDS Chief Executive Dr Shaikh Tanveer Ahmed stressed the need to resolve water and sanitation issues which are deepening in the cities. However, HANDS is playing a vital role to improve this sector in partnership with government and USAID.

He said: We know issues of water and sanitation in the country are multiplying and are influencing citizens. Increasing population has multiplied these issues as a result, people are facing miseries. Public sector needs to develop policies in association with private sector so as to resolve water and sanitation issues on priority level.

HANDS Services Chief Ghulam Mustafa Zaur said: “It is the matter of shame that we are behind other parts of the world in water and sanitation status.” The public sector could not get targets alone in this regard; therefore, the participation of private sector and people is mandatory to improve this sector, Zaur. He said that private sector in association with the government could play a major role in developing water and sanitation systems in the cities of Sindh. The outdated water and sanitation systems should be re-build in cities of Sindh so that people could take a sigh of relief.

Expert in health and hygiene sector, Ms Tania, said that safe drinking water is basic right of people as per international laws; therefore, such facilities should be ensured to people on priority basis. Water and sanitation are clubbed together but it is still not clear how much budget is allocated for water and how much for sanitation. There is need to allocate clear separate budgets on water and sanitation so as to bring real improvement, she said.

Three groups from participants presented recommendations that private sector could engage in WASH sector by making investments in installations of RO plants, chlorination of water, water quality lab research and drainage systems. The collaboration with government is mandatory in this regard, they said.

CE Tanvir and Zaur presented shields to Tameezuddin Khero, Abdul Nabi Memon, Imdad Ali Shah, Rubina Qaimkhani, Pir Mujeeb and other distinguished guests. The seminar proceedings were moderated by Team Leader of HANDS and USAID’s Community Mobilization for Health and Hygiene Project.