The News International
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September 05, 2016Print : Editorial
South Asia faces a water crisis and it may not be simply about water scarcity. Some reports have claimed that South Asia is water-scarce amidst abundance – as is evident in the frequency of major floods that continue to hit the region. However, flood water here cannot be harnessed for either drinking or for agricultural use. This can be managed if the right kind of water infrastructure is put in place. It is this problem that poses the greatest challenge. According to a report by academic journal ‘Nature Geoscience’, 60 percent of the groundwater in the Indo-Gangetic Basin is contaminated. The report challenges the commonly held idea that depletion of water resources is the biggest challenge facing the region. Instead, it says, the attention of authorities needs to turn to the severe contamination of the region’s water supplies. Hundreds of millions of people in the region continue to consume water that can cause serious short- and long-term diseases. The two major concerns are salinity and the presence of arsenic, which can cause cancer. We would do well to remember that last year authorities in Lahore reported that over 50 percent of the city’s water tube wells produced water high in arsenic.
So while people continue to consume water as a life force, the same water is acting as poison in the long term. The problem has emerged from the severe contamination of the regions’ rivers – the major source for replenishing the ground water supplies. The pollution of our waters is a problem of collective responsibility. Governments can lead the way but citizens will have to share in the responsibility. For its part, there are simple things that can be done by the government. First, there should be strong and effective attempts to tell people about the risks of drinking unsafe water. Second, water treatment plants must be installed to make sure that water is cleaned up and tested at regular intervals. Clean water is a right. Not getting it is a serious menace. This issue needs to be taken up on an emergency basis.