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Environmental concerns

June 10, 2019

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IT was only last year that the Sindh Environmental Protection Agency had revived its water-testing laboratory and air quality-monitoring systems, after receiving instructions to do so by the Supreme Court’s water commission in 2017. According to a report published in this paper on Saturday, however, it has now come to light that Sepa’s air quality-monitoring stations and water-testing laboratory have been out of service for the past several months. The reason? It is the same issue that was pointed out after the 18th Amendment was passed and the agency came under the provincial government, and it remains a challenge that seems to plague many government departments in Sindh — the lack of finances. Three environmental monitoring systems were provided by the Pakistan Environmental Protection Agency and the Japan International Cooperation Agency in 2007. The functioning of these operations is vital to the health of Sindh’s population, where public health services are few and of poor quality. Sindh has also been hit by a series of health scares in recent years, along with severe water shortages. In fact, the water commission had pointed out that the quality of drinking water in Sindh had deteriorated, with 78.1pc of the water samples collected found not suitable for drinking purposes, largely due to untreated sewage water mixing with freshwater bodies.

It is widely acknowledged that the bad quality of water along with the lack of awareness of basic hygiene and sanitation practices leads to serious illness. In fact, many illnesses in the country are directly connected to the poor quality of water and air, which has led to a high percentage of entirely preventable illnesses in the population. The suspension of vital services cannot simply be an issue of lack of funds. That there is wide-scale lethargy, incompetence, mismanagement and misuse of funds in the government sector is common knowledge. Whatever the real reason may be, the provincial government must urgently look into the matter and not seek excuses.

Published in Dawn, June 10th, 2019