Time to act

September 18, 2022

Massive awareness campaigns should be undertaken to preserve and conserve groundwater

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T

he groundwater level in the provincial metropolis is depleting by a metre a year. If the trend is not reversed or stopped, there can be a catastrophe in future.

Preserving groundwater for future generations is our responsibility. This calls for timely action. One of the main ways to preserve the falling water level is to reduce our reliance on this precious natural resource. Otherwise, the future generations will curse us when they have to buy water for their daily needs.

The Water and Sanitation Agency (WASA) has now ordered the use of treated surface water in the provincial metropolis to reduce excessive pumping from the city’s aquifer.

Currently, the WASA Lahore is providing about 540 million gallons per day (MGD) or the equivalent of 2,450,000 m3/ day (1,000 cusecs) to its service areas. The water supply in Lahore is completely dependent on groundwater currently. According to WASA’s estimates, this is resulting in rapid depletion of the water table.

In order to deal with the situation, the WASA Lahore in its Master Plan Study (2040), has proposed the induction of surface water in a phased manner to reduce the stress on ground water and shift towards surface water use.

In September 2017, a team from the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) visited the Punjab followed by the visit of the Board of Directors in November 2017. During the Board visit, the Government of the Punjab presented several infrastructure projects for consideration and financing of the Bank including the Construction of Surface Water Treatment Plant at BRBD Canal, Lahore.

Consequently, the Economic Affairs Division, Ministry of Finance, Revenue and Economic Affairs, requested the vice president of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) to consider the subject project.

WASA Managing Director Ghafran Ahmed tells The News on Sunday (TNS) that under Phase-I of the project, 54 MGD/ 245,000 m3/day water is proposed to be taken from the BRBD canal (downstream of Ravi Syphon) to be supplied to four selected service areas of the provincial metropolis after treatment. These areas are Shadipura, Baghbanpura, Fatehgarh and Mustafabad.

One of the main ways to preserve the depleting water level is to reduce our reliance on this precious natural resource. Otherwise, the future generations will curse us when they have to buy water for their daily needs.

Ahmed says the project involves the implementation of the components like rehabilitation of the Ravi Syphon, construction of the intake structure, gates and raw water channel etc, construction of surface water treatment plant (SWTP) of the required capacity, transmission, feeding and distribution network including rehabilitation/ replacement of distribution network and metering.

Ghufran Ahmed says that the approved PC-I cost of the project is Rs 21.045 billion. He says the PC-I of the project has already been cleared/ approved by the PDWP, the CDWP and the ECNEC. The completion time of the project is 42 months (six months for the design and 36 months for construction).

The WASA MD says that hiring a project management consultant is in process and the WASA is shortlisting firms for the joint venture. He says the final approval of the AIIB board is awaited. The process of land acquisition (120 acres) is in progress.

Environmental experts say that the project can be a big help to conserve and preserve the water table under the city. They say the reduction in reliance on groundwater will also help in countering the impacts of climate change.

They say that surface water generally lacks dissolved minerals. However, it can be highly vulnerable to pollutants like industrial waste, pesticides, animal waste, algae and other organic substances.

They say the purpose of the surface water treatment plant is to reduce illnesses caused by the pathogens in the drinking water. The disease-causing pathogens include legionella, giardia lamblia, and cryptosporidium.

“Surface water treatment is a very sensitive process. Advanced technology should be used to make surface water consumable,” says Dr Zaigham Habib, a renowned hydrologist. He says Karachi and Islamabad are already consuming surface water but Lahore’s dilemma is that the River Ravi, which is also the main source of Lahore’s underground recharge is dead.

Dr Habib suggests that other than using treated surface water, rainwater harvesting should be looked into. He also says drainage and rainwater should be separated, reduction in groundwater pumping and a massive awareness campaign should also be undertaken as measures to preserve and conserve underground water.


The writer is a senior reporter at The News



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