OUR government would do well to remember that social deprivation stokes disillusionment and conflict in communities without basic rights. Poor sanitation services and unsafe and unsustainable water supplies condemn millions to live with disease and poverty. On Tuesday, the Supreme Court intervened in this regard, reminding the Sindh government to provide access to clean drinking water and reliable sanitation. After concluding that measures recommended by an earlier judicial commission had not been given sufficient attention, Chief Justice Saqib Nisar summoned Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah to the next hearing. Mr Shah may need to explain why, for instance, 88pc of the population in Larkana — his party, the PPP’s traditional political base — are consuming filthy water; also why 80pc of Karachi’s population is devoid of clean water. Overall, the commission report found 78.1pc of water samples tested in the province unsafe for human consumption. And, with rising water demand — especially as urbanisation, poverty, drought and pollution put pressure on existing sources — it is imperative that the government improve and sustain safe water sources. Tackling the challenge of intermittent water supplies and the spread of water-borne diseases requires more investment in expertise, time and resources, and cohesion among ministries.
Meanwhile, although we have policies for clean water and sanitation, 21m people do not have access to potable water; 79m do not have a decent toilet; and nearly 19,500 children under five die annually from diarrhoea. Failure to meet water-related obligations can be attributed to incompetent government functionaries, organisational deficiencies and corruption at all tiers. If the government’s national priority is bringing clean water and sanitation facilities to all Pakistanis, then, funding for the water and sanitation sectors should be increased alongside formulating transparency mechanisms.
Published in Dawn, December 6th, 2017