RO plants in old city areas leads to drops in waterborne diseases
Access to clean drinking water, declared as basic human right by United Nation General Assembly, has been a major issue in Pakistan. According to different estimates, over 50 percent of Pakistan population lacks access clean and safe drinking water. The lack of access to clean and safe drinking water result in water-borne diseases. The water-borne diseases pose serious threat to public health in Pakistan claiming not less than 1.2 million lives every year while billions of rupees are lost every year to treat patients with water-borne diseases that can be avoided.
According to estimates, around 250,000 children in the country die under the age of five due to diarrhoea, mainly caused by the use of untreated water. The water-borne illnesses account for nearly 60 percent of child deaths in Pakistan with approximately 630 children dying daily from diarrhoea.
Not less than 80 percent of infectious and parasitic diseases are related to contaminated water and 25 percent of hospital beds are occupied by people suffering from water-borne diseases. Globally, one child dies every 8 seconds due to water-borne diseases.
Access to clean and safe drinking water in Pakistan is a big challenge, as about 50 percent populations of Pakistan lacks access to clean and safe drinking water, while in rural areas 90 per cent of the population lacks such access.
In Pakistan, especially in Sindh, groundwater is being utilized through open wells, springs, tube wells, hand pumps and infiltration galleries. Groundwater studies carried out in various locations have revealed declining levels of water and lowering of water tables, brackish water that cannot be used for domestic purposes and human consumption. Many areas face acute water shortage and bringing water from other areas through pipeline has high cost. The RO plant has proved to be a perfect solution for such water-scarce areas where the ground water, which is in most cases salty and brackish, can be pumped out to be treated through the RO technology for human consumption.
In Tharparkar, more than 2 million people are living in 2500 villages in random manner and facing acute shortage of water. They are dependent for their livelihood on their livestock, who also need water to stay alive. Canal water is not available throughout the region and water supply from other regions through pipeline is also unfeasible due to heavy pumping cost and shortage of water at intake source.
The government of Sindh initiated most innovative method to supply water to the masses by using RO technology, to converting brackish underground water into purified water in Thar. This method is found most practical as people got highly purified water in their villages with desired capacities. This method also proved to be reliable, efficient and independent and highly economical, as cost of highly purified water is 4 paisa per liter in the remote desert of Tharparker, whereas same water in bottle is being sold at Rs 25 per liter.
After successful operation of the pilot project executed by Pak Oasis, people demanded more RO plants in the region. In wake of the success of the RO technology and for being most-viable and economical source to supply safe and clean drinking water, Sindh government planned to install more RO plants to supply safe drinking water to the residents of the most-water deficient area of the country. The provincial government is in process to install 750 RO plants in the desert, which would be a blessing for the people of an area, where human and animals have been consuming polluted water from a single source.
Owing to the highly success rate and being most economical, Sindh government has installed Asia largest RO plant in Thar to desalinate and clean the underground brackish water for human consumption by turning it into safe and clear drinking water through RO technology.
The important feature of plant is that it is hybrid and can also be operated on solar power. From this self-reliant scheme more than 300,000 people will get highly purified water daily from RO plant through water distribution system.
People of Thar are very happy and they believe that now their families will be protected from potentially harmful water borne diseases as well as their livestock will have water which will give them better earning and their living standard will improve.
The RO plants not only solved the decades-old problem of water shortage in many areas of Sindh, but also resulted in considerable drop in hospitalization rate due to water-borne diseases. Earlier, water borne-diseases prevalence was highest in interior Sindh as compared to other parts of the country due to consumption of unsafe and contaminated water, but with the installation of the RO plants, a considerable decrease has been noted in hospitalization rate in those areas where these plants have been installed.
In Karachi, the issue of water shortage is getting worse. Many city areas are facing acute shortage of water. Riots and protests have become common over non-availability of water in many areas of the metropolis.
In the wake of the above-mentioned situation, there is a need to work-out immediate and prudent solution to the problem. If we look at the gravity of the situation, RO technology seemed to be the most appropriate and feasible solution to the problem. The underground brackish water and seawater can be used to solve the problem by desalinating it through the RO technology.
Though, Sindh has installed some plants in the peripheries of the city in collaboration with Pak Oasis, which installed and operating these RO Projects under lifetime warranty at the rate of 4 paisa per liter. The cost is highly economical and covering all expense such as Diesel, Oil, Lubricants, chemicals, consumables, cartridge, filters, salaries, medical expenses, uniforms, water testing, replacement of major and minor equipment and allied expenses related to operation and maintenance of RO Plants, tubewell, distribution network and pumping machinery.
The Government has installed several reverse osmosis plants in defunct Lyari and Keamari towns.
The reverse osmosis (RO) plants installed in the areas have a capacity of producing from 1mgd (million gallons per day) to 0.5mgd of water.
The plants have been installed in Mauripur Road, near People’s Stadium, Ahmed Shah Bukhari Road, opposite Lyari General Hospital, KESC grid station, Chakiwara pumping station, Mohammadi Colony, Machhar Colony, Baba Bhit Island, Younusabad, Musharraf Colony, Grex Village, 500Quarters, Moach Goth, Hawkesbay, near Nasir Hotel, Kamela Chowk, Mauripur bus stop, and old Golimar and Sikandarabad.
The supply of clean drinking water has led to drop in waterborne diseases in the old city areas, besides resolving the longstanding issue of clean and safe drinking water.
Besides the old city areas, RO plants have also been installed in Baba and Bhitt islands. Baba and Bhitt are small Islands. Safe and clean drinking water has always been an issue for the residents of the tiny island. The RO plants installed there not only resolved the issue but also ensured supply of safe and clean drinking water to the residents, resulting in cut in water-borne diseases.
“Thanks to Pak Oasis for providing safe and clean drinking to the islanders,” said Dr Mohammad Yousuf, former UC Nazim of the area. The severity of the water issue in the area could be gauged from the fact that the people of island, comprising some 1200 houses, had to wait for their turn to receive drinking water for three months before the RO plant was made operational at its full capacity.
“This shows the incompetence of the KWSB that people were left with no other choice but to wait for 90 days or purchase water gallons at exorbitant rates,” said Dr Yousuf.
Dr Yousuf said that installation of RO plant in the vicinity has brought a sigh of relief for the people. “People are happy with Pak Oasis that it has been providing safe and clean drinking water for the last three months,” he added.
Reverse Osmosis plants (water desalination plants) are new and specialised technology to turn the brackish water in to sweat water. But in the case of Baba Island, Pak Oasis has moved one step ahead and taking water directly from the sea and turning it into clean and safe drinking water through RO plant that has a capacity to process 0.75 million gallons per day (mgd).