ISLAMABAD: Water supply from the Rawal Dam was restarted on Sunday morning after clearance from three separate laboratories, a spokesperson for the Water and Sanitation Authority (Wasa) told Dawn.
According to Wasa spokesperson Mohammad Umer Farooq, residents of Rawalpindi should use the water without any fear after the Pakistan Council of Research in Water Resources (PCRWR)declared thewater fit for human consumption.
Mr Farooq said that samples tested by the Pakistan Environment Protection Agency (Pak-EPA) were also declared fit for consumption.
PCRWR, Pak-EPA and Public Health Engineering dept declare water fit for consumption
In addition, the District Water Testing Laboratory of the Public Health Engineering Department has also declared the water samples free of arsenic.
On Saturday, samples from the water were sent to the PCRWR, the National Institute of Health (NIH), and the Pakistan Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (PCSIR).
Samples of the dead fish, meanwhile, were sent to the National Agriculture Research Council (NARC) and the Punjab Forensic Science laboratories in Lahore, and their results are still awaited.
Several local administration and Wasa officials, however, said that initial inquiries suggested that the fish were killed by a lack of oxygen in the water.
The Capital Development Authority’s (CDA) own labs, however, have yet to give the water samples a clean chit.
CDA Member Planning Asad Kayani told Dawn the water quality was not ‘up to the mark’ as the results of the water turbidity test were not satisfactory.
Turbidity is the measure of the relative clarity of any liquid, and in lakes and reservoirs, high turbidity can reduce the amount of light that reaches the lower depths, inhibiting the growth of aquatic plants and affecting the species of fish that are dependent on them.
But according to Punjab Environment Protection Agency (Punjab-EPA) Deputy Director Shahid Hassan, turbidity levels increased in surface water during monsoon when water from catchment areas that is rich in sediment flows into the reservoir.
When asked if the water of Rawal Dam was suitable for drinking, Mr Kayani from CDA said he could not answer that question without the results of a number of chemical and biological tests, which may take another day or two to complete.
“We are also waiting for the results of the coliform bacteria test, which plays a vital role in judging the quality of water,” he said.
But according to Wasa, raw water is cleaned at the Rawal Lake Filtration Plant and made safe for human consumption through disinfection with chlorination and lime-dosing before being transported to residents.
The Punjab government has also constituted a committee to probe the pollution of Rawal Dam to ascertain the real reason for the fishes’ death, Rawalpindi Mayor Sardar Naseem told Dawn.
He claimed the provincial government was taking steps to prevent pollution in the dam’s catchment areas and blamed the tussle between contractors and local fishermen for the recent problems, saying that the government would not spare those involved in fouling the waters.
The provincial government has also tasked Special Branch to compile a detailed report on the rumours of Rawal Lake being poisoned and how they were spread.
Islamabad Deputy Commissioner retired Capt Mushtaq Ahmed told Dawn that a team from the armed forces had also taken samples from the dam for testing. But he was also apprehensive about the cause of the problem.
“This is a local tussle between rival groups over a fishing contract, so there is a possibility that someone could have mixed some substance in the water which was harmful for the fish but not for human beings,” he said.
The Wasa spokesperson said that no water shortage was reported in any part of Rawalpindi after the administration rerouted water from Khanpur Dam and over 400 tubewells to supply the garrison city.
Published in Dawn, July 17th, 2017