LAHORE: Efforts by the government and the Water and Sanitation Agency (Wasa) over at least five years have led to a halt in the depletion of the city’s groundwater table.

An analysis of the water table shows a stagnancy of 50 metre and 23m in 2019 and 2020 at Gulberg and Shahdara (near Ravi river), respectively, which are considered the deepest and relatively shallow points to measure the decline.

“The stagnancy is good news for the people of the city and will be officially announced in a press conference on Monday (tomorrow),” Wasa Managing Director (MD) Syed Zahid Aziz told Dawn on Saturday.

According to a report of a 40-year comparison of the water table (deepest and shallow), Lahore’s groundwater level (aquifer) in 1980 was 15.695m and 5.7m at Gulberg and Shahdara, respectively, which was 50.15m and 23.5m in 2018.

However, the depletion remained stagnant at 50m and 23m in both 2019 and 2020 and was likely to either remain the same or reduce (meaning a rise in the groundwater level). The data for this year will be issued by December.

According to the Wasa administration, there are 596 tubewells being operated by Wasa’s field formations to extract water and provide it to 750,000 consumers across the city. In addition, the agency also runs a massive drainage system in the city.

The main reason for the depleting groundwater levels is the extraction through Wasa-operated tubewells, which is further aggravated by tubewell operations in private housing schemes, industry, commercial centres, companies and others. Moreover, the misuse of water (washing of vehicles in streets, service stations, unnecessary watering of greenbelts) further added to the falling levels.

While official measures to control the decrease started around five years ago, Wasa got a proposal approved regarding imposition of aquifer charges on private housing schemes for tubewell operations by the Lahore Development Authority’s governing body in 2018. The decision was enforced on July 1, 2018 and Wasa started receiving the charges per cusec.

Moreover, the installation of a new tubewell was made contingent upon getting a licence from Wasa, which forced the housing scheme developers to stop unnecessary operations.

“We also reduced operations of our own tubewells from 18 to 14 hours during peak time and 14 to 10 hours during normal hours. It not only reduced extraction, but also controlled the unnecessary use of water besides saving cost of electricity bills. We also barred service stations from extracting water from domestic or commercial deep-bore connections and asked them to get new connections for extraction from comparatively shallow groundwater layer,” the MD explained.

“As many as 310 service stations were also bound to recycle the wastewater and reuse it for car washing.”

He said other projects were also launched to stop further depletion of the groundwater table, including reuse of the water consumed for ablution in mosques, watering greenbelts, parks, plants. This reduced operation of tubewells by the Parks and Horticulture Authority.

“Moreover, the storage of rainwater, which was wasted in drains, has been ensured through constructing reservoirs for using it for watering the city’s green areas to raise the water table,” Mr Aziz explained.

Published in Dawn, June 20th, 2021

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