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March 15, 2019

Call to save City’s aquifer

Lahore

March 15, 2019

LAHORE: The government of Punjab is taking timely measures to preserve the aquifer of Lahore which has gone down to dangerous levels due to ill-planned and environmentally ignorant policies in the past.

A meeting of AIIB Team, working on Lahore water and wastewater management project, was held at planning and development department. P&D chairman Habib Gillani chaired the meeting. “With a burden of 11.1 million population, where water is extracted through 576 tube-wells before pumping into the distribution system.

Currently, the groundwater extraction by its responsible agency ‘WASA’ is 540 million gallons per day, or equivalent to 2.45 million cubic meters per day. In addition, about 1.2 million cubic meters per day is extracted by private housing societies, cantonment boards, railway colonies and areas under the jurisdiction of local government. In view of increasing demand due to ongoing urbanisation and increased commercial activities, the number of tube-wells is also increasing.

On the other hand, Lahore receives an average rainfall of 715 mm annually, which does not contribute much in recharging the aquifer, as groundwater extraction is much higher than refill. Consequently, the groundwater table continues to deplete rapidly. The current decline rate is observed at an alarming rate of more than one meter per annum. Consequently, several existing shallow tube-wells have dried up and are no longer operational and the city has started to face severe water shortages. As for wastewater, there is currently no wastewater treatment facility in Lahore.

All the untreated domestic and industrial wastewater is discharged directly in the nearby River Ravi and thus, polluting the river. It is estimated that River Ravi receives nearly 640 million gallons per day wastewater as if converting a river into a sewage drain. On the other hand, River Ravi plays a major role in replenishing Lahore’s groundwater by up to 82 per cent.

Due to mass contamination of the river, polluted water seeps down making the groundwater unfit for drinking purpose, and affecting soil fertility. The pollution of groundwater has been causing diseases like diarrhoea, typhoid, intestinal worms and hepatitis in several areas of the city.

The dual problems of clean water shortage and untreated wastewater overflow have been taken seriously by the government of Punjab to urgently find solutions to address them in a synchronised manner. Through well thought out interventions, the government has decided to save the aquifer and also save the River Ravi from further pollution and toxicity. Several environmentalists have hailed the urgency with which the government has taken action to prevent Lahore from becoming a water-stressed and ultimately water depressed city.

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