A STRING of reverse osmosis (RO) water desalination plants has been installed across the province of Sindh in what must be one of the most energetic initiatives undertaken by the provincial government.
The latest plant was inaugurated in Mithi, Tharparkar, by former president and co-chairman of the PPP, Asif Ali Zardari, accompanied by one of his daughters who was shown prominently in all the promotional photographs released after the event had taken place.
Salutary rhetoric accompanies the photographs, announcing that the latest project is one in a line of 750 such plants to be set up in Tharparkar, and declaring the plant to be “Asia’s largest solar RO plant”, with a capacity to filter almost eight million litres of water every day.
Over the years, so many such plants have been installed across Sindh that one loses count, and almost all of them appear to be sourced from the same company.
Providing clean drinking water to the people is an important priority without doubt. But it is also important to ask a few basic questions regarding these plants. For one, the filter on these plants is the main cost, and needs to be changed every few months.
Whose responsibility is it, under the contractual terms on which the plants are being procured, to monitor and replace the filter and bear the costs of doing so?
Given how high-maintenance these plants are, exactly whose responsibility is it to keep them in operational condition, and how well is that party discharging that obligation?
If utilised properly, there is no doubt that RO plants can help provide clean drinking water to the people of Sindh. But considering the growing investment that the provincial government is making in high-maintenance plants of this sort, the need for more disclosure regarding their maintenance contracts and records is becoming increasingly urgent.
Somebody in the provincial assembly should take the lead by asking for disclosure of the maintenance contracts and operational status of all the plants installed thus far.
Published in Dawn, January 9th, 2015