RAWALPINDI, June 11: Safe drinking water act, likely to be enacted this year, would set technical and supply standards for municipal bodies and make them accountable to the general public.

The Ministry of Environment has proposed the Act in its National Water Drinking Policy. The Act will declare safe drinking water a fundamental human right and the responsibility of the State.

Drinking water is the constitutional responsibility of all the provincial governments and the specific provision has been developed to create agencies in cities, towns and tehsil municipal administrations under the Local Government Ordinance 2001, states the policy document, obtained by Dawn.

It has been proposed that all water schemes will be based on the provision of a minimum of 20 litres per capita per day for rural households and 40 litres per capita per household for urban areas. It has also been proposed to provide at least one hand pump or spot source for every 250 persons; to establish district and tehsil levels, water filtration plants by 2007; to establish water treatment plants in all urban areas by 2015; and to ensure that water quality standards are approved and a system of surveillance, testing, monitoring and disseminating information regarding water quality is in place by 2007.

The current tariff will be revised to ensure that the operational costs of the municipal entities are fully met.

Under the policy, it has also been proposed that the Ministry of Health will develop drinking water quality standards using the drinking water quality guidelines formulated by the World Health Organization (WHO).

The Pakistan Drinking Water Quality Standards will be enforced through an act of Parliament before 2007. The Standards will come into force immediately in both urban and rural areas and the agencies responsible for the provision of water supply will ensure that the quality of water supplied through government- financed schemes does not fall below the standards at any given time.

The provincial governments would also formally adopt the Drinking Water Quality Standards through appropriate legislation, and proper measures would be undertaken to ensure its enforcement. Appropriate legislation will ensure compliance with the Pakistan Drinking Water Quality Standards and appropriate penalties for any institution or individual not adhering to the standards.

The federal government will be responsible for establishing overall policy and legislative framework for the drinking water sector at the national level, and be responsible for special initiatives and allocation of special funds to ensure coverage in underserved and disadvantaged areas.

The provincial and Area Governments will be responsible for establishing policy guidelines and legislation for the drinking water sector at the provincial level. All provincial and Area Governments will develop medium-term plans for the drinking water sector in keeping with the Medium-Term Development Framework (MTDF) and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in conjunction with relevant municipal authorities to guide and steer the future developments in the sector.

The drinking water system will not be separated from the existing system, which provides domestic water supply. The quality of water supplied through the domestic system will adhere to drinking water quality standards. A minimum distance will be ensured to separate water mains and sewerage lines to avoid contamination of drinking water supply.

At the federal level, Ministry of Environment will be responsible for monitoring the overall coverage in the drinking water sector at the national level. The Pakistan Quality Control Authority and PCRWR will be responsible for ensuring that bottled water marketed in Pakistan adhered to the required standards. Water testing laboratories will be established at district levels.

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