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Our bodies are 66% water, which makes us increasingly dependant on this natural resource. Water is precious and wasting it is not only socially irresponsible, but also strictly discouraged in all major religions. Life simply cannot go on without water and that just puts us at risk of being victims of the impurities that may come along with it. Whether clean or polluted, at the end of the day, one is bound to succumb to the utmost necessity of consuming it even if one were to know the associated risks. Unfortunately, these days, what seems like merely quenching one’s thirst can turn into quite a major ordeal.

Being mothers I believe we have to constantly monitorthe health of our families and while we’re trying to deal with issues that seem more crucial at hand,we sometimes overlook the seriousness of something that may appear harmless.Water is such an issue; we know there’s a problem, but not knowing the gravity of it can just push it in the background. The core problem isn’t the decrease in the amount of water, but a decrease in the quality of it. In Pakistan there are ample surface and groundwater resources, however population increase, agricultural productivity, industrialization and irresponsible water utilization practices are taking a toll on water quality. This deterioration is sadly giving way to various diseases and negative health impacts.

Shockingly enough, 250,000 children in Pakistan die each year due to water borne diseases. Children have a greater absorption capacity than adults which is why they are more susceptible to the toxins that may be present in the water we all drink.Also, a child drinks more water than an average adult.The risk factor in children further increases because they spend a good part of the day away from home. At school or the playground there’s no telling what source of water a child may be drinking from.

According to statistics every third Pakistani drinks unsafe water. 85% of underground water samples taken from 14 districts of Punjab were found to be unfit for human intake compelling 2 million people from this region to drink unhealthy water. Subsequently 75% of the water in Islamabad and 87% of it in Rawalpindi is unsafe for human consumption. Such high figures are proof of the severity of the problem and the fact that nothing substantial is being done about it.

The major contributors of water pollution are the industrial, municipal and agricultural sectors. Wastewater from industries includes toxins, hazardous chemicals, heavy metals, organic matter and oils etc. Out of the total industrial effluent, only 1% is treated before being discharged into nearby rivers, streams and even the Arabian Sea. When industries release their waste in shallow groundwater, it seeps through the soil and reaches underground water aquifers. Sadly, the industrial sector is oblivious of its civic duties and as a result thousands of lives are put to risk every day.

To meet up with the demands of an increasing population, farmers are using a multitude of fertilizers to raise crop productivity. In addition, pesticides are also being sprayed to safeguard the harvest. When fields are watered, the chemical-laden runoff eventually reaches rivers or other water bodies including underground water.

Municipal waste is no different; only 50% of sewage is collected nationwide (out of which only 10% is treated) while the rest of it is discharged into nearest water bodies. This result in widespread bacteriological and biological contamination.

With so much chemical and organic pollution in both surface as well as underground water, it came as no surprise when our President General Pervaiz Musharraf acknowledged that 60%of diseases in Pakistan are water-borne. Diseases such as cholera, dysentery, diarrhoea and hepatitis etc. are reasons why 20-40% of hospital beds remain occupied throughout the year. Typhoid alone accounts for 900,000 lives annually. In many parts of the country, the presence of arsenic in water is threatening people with cancer of the lungs, bladder and skin, still births, lymph tumours, heart diseases, nephritis, hypertension etc.

We have environmental laws in place to keep a check on the polluters. We also have water quality standards that should be adhered to. However, there is clearly a lack of implementation. Under such circumstances we can take measures to minimize the risk of being infected by water borne impurities. Boiling water before drinking is a must. Make sure that when water comes to boil, it should remain at that temperature for at least 7-10 minutes to eradicate all contaminants. Filtered water is also good enough, but the quality of your water greatly depends on the kind of filter system you are using. Just have a sample of the filtered water checked from any laboratory to make sure. When using bottled water, go for a good brand. Spending more on your water would save you much more on health expenditure. According to reports, 28 brands of bottled water were tested out of which 15 were found to be unsuitable for drinking. Strictly forbid children to drink from an unknown source when away from home. Get them used to carrying their own water bottles. Parties and functions like weddings etc. are also times when one may become careless. Either take your own bottle of water or, if you feel too awkward, then avoid drinking water altogether. Remember, it’s always better to be careful than sorry later.






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