ISLAMABAD: The Asian Development Bank will provide assistance to the Punjab government under a project to develop climate-resilient water supply infrastructure and services in Rawalpindi which is now considered as highly urbanised city in the province.

The ‘Developing Resilient Environments and Advancing Municipal Services in Punjab Project’ approved this week aims to enhance climate resilience and livability people in Rawalpindi. The project will support inclusive, resilient and sustainable urban infrastructure and services by expanding and modernising urban water supply systems in Rawalpindi and strengthening institutional capacity in service delivery to improve the quality, coverage, efficiency, and reliability of the service, as well as financial sustainability.

Drawings or data for hydraulic analysis are also lacking to assess the water distribution network accurately. As a result, some areas of Rawalpindi face severe water shortages while others experience an excess supply of water. The uneven distribution exacerbates the challenges faced by the city’s residents in accessing reliable and equitable water supply.

The rapid population increase is exacerbating the water stress and depletion of water sources in the city whose urban residents increased by 37.91 per cent from 1991 to 2017.

While the Rawalpindi Water and Sanitation Agency (Wasa) serves 74 per cent of the city area only 55 per cent of the population has water service connections on their property.

No connections are metered, and supply is intermittent, averaging two to four hours per day. The available supply of 230 million litres per day (MLD) (72 MLD from Rawal and Khanpur dams and estimated groundwater abstraction of 158 MLD) is unable to meet the current water demand of 293 MLD, the ADB project report says.

The deficit is amplified by physical and commercial losses of more than 60 per cent because of the aging distribution network and deficient level of billing and collection (70 per cent) by Wasa. Water demand projections highlight the need to develop new sources and improve the distribution network.

Many citizens have built their own deep wells for household use, accelerating rapid groundwater depletion. Yet, the groundwater is often of poor quality with a 2021 report showing that 38 per cent of the sampled points were unhygienic because of microbial contamination.

The ADB transaction technical assistance will support the project by addressing non-revenue water (NRW) through monitoring and analysis and the implementation of an intelligent water loss management system. The technical assistance will also support the project by strengthening the technical capacity of Wasa on smart water utility management with capacity-building activities including water operator partnerships.

Under the project, ADB will support the development and implementation of intelligent water loss management for the three district metering areas (DMAs) by adopting cost-effective digital technologies, including portable acoustic sensor, pressure sensor and flow meter, integrated with web and mobile applications. This output of the assistance will support and complement the project’s output on climate-resilient water supply infrastructure and services provided.

The project will strengthen the institutional capacity of Wasa while the capacity building will have an emphasis on drinking water treatment processes, water quality testing, water leakage detection, and NRW management to be delivered in the form of classroom lectures, hands-on exercises, study tours and on-the-job training.

This will be carried out through a potential water operator partnership with an experienced and advanced water utility. Fostering NRW experts within Wasa will help replicate DMA and NRW management for the rest of Rawalpindi and Punjab province.

The project aims to address these challenges by improving infrastructure and promoting sustainable practices, and will focus on expanding and modernising water supply systems while strengthening institutional capacities.

Published in Dawn, December 1st, 2023

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