Water-bornE diseases on the rise Water quality being compromised By Azizullah Sharif

Karachi — At a time when medical experts attribute different water-borne diseases to bacterial infection and the unhygienic tanker water being consumed by the residents of water-deficient pockets, the KWSB’s act of mixing non-treated with the treated water amounted to compromising the quality of water being supplied to the city. It was, perhaps, due to this factor that the much-dreaded Naegleria fowleri had already claimed 10 lives in the metropolis.

Eminent child specialist, Prof (Dr) Ghafar Billoo, prominent pathologist Prof Sirajuddaula and renowned physician Dr Ejaz Vohra while commenting on the poor quality of water being supplied to Karachi, said that the city which was already in the grip of a number of water-borne diseases such as gastroenteritis, diarrhoea, typhoid, hepatitis A and E has now been exposed to the brain-eating amoeba.

Amid the havoc caused by a tiny single cell living creature called `amoeba’ that has already perished the lives of 10 people, mostly youths, the KWSB managing director’s recent claim that the water utility would ensure that all parts of the city get `equally’ treated water was, in fact, his solemn confession to the ground reality that various parts of the metropolis were not being supplied treated water.

Though Mr Misbahuddin Farid, the KWSB chief who, during a news conference, held last Monday, claimed that the water utility with a view to raising public confidence in the piped water would start supplying `equally’ treated drinking water in every nook and cranny of the city and that too as per international standards, he failed to apprise newsmen of the magic wand by which he would be able to do so when the water utility did not have the system whereby it could treat entire supply of water being drawn from both the water supply sources – the Indus River and the Hub Dam —  of the city.

According to information gathered by Medical News and already published in its August 15-31 issue, the city is currently getting 629 million gallons of water per day — 100 mgd from the Hub dam source and the 529 from the distant source of the Indus River. However, of the total of 629 mgd, hardly 445 mgd of water is being treated at the KWSB’s seven filter plants, while the remaining 184 mgd is neither disinfected nor chlorinated before being supplied to consumers.

In fact, all the filter plants of the KWSB, except for the Hub pumping station, are operating much below their optimum designed capacity as two of them are 50 to 60 years old while the other four were also installed more than 30 to 40 years back. For example, Gharo pump house (old) filter plant was set up in 1943, with Gharo (new) filter plant in 1953, COD Hills filter plants in 1962 and 1971, Pipri (old) filter plant in 1971 and the NEK (old) filter plant in 1978. Besides, the KWSB officials failed to include the provision of filter plants in the original plan of 100 mgd K-III Project.

Under the circumstances, the KWSB in its bid to start supply of `equally’ treated drinking water in all parts of the city and, that too, as par with international standards, will either have to mix the remaining 184mgd non-chlorinated and disinfected water with the 445mgd treated water or the utility was already doing so at the cost of citizens’ health.
Insiders, however, claimed that though the system of mixing non-treated water with the treated one amounted to compromising the quality of water as was already in vogue and in support of their contention they pointed out laboratory reports of water samples which confirmed that the level of chlorine concentration in water varied from locality to locality.

These samples were drawn from various sources including KWSB pumping stations after news concerning Naegleria deaths surfaced in the city, the sources said, adding that the results of the water samples collected between July and October, 2012 by Karachi Metropolitan Corporation’s quality control and regulation department from various parts of the city, showed that around 22 per cent of 913 samples were non-chlorinated or insufficiently chlorinated.
Citing another report, the sources said that the addition of chlorine into water for its purification could not be confirmed in over 15pc of the samples fetched, on Oct 11, from various pumping stations and localities in the city. There was no chlorine in 20 samples collected by a KWSB team from Saddar, Jamshed, Malir, Landhi, Korangi, Lyari, North Nazimabad, Gulshan-e-Iqbal and SITE towns, they added.

Of the 79 samples which the KWSB had collected on Oct 10, the sources said that four of them did not have any chlorine, while traces of chlorine were found in 18 other samples. The quantity of chlorine ranged between 0.15 part per million and 0.25ppm in the remaining 43 samples and 0.5ppm in 14 other samples the same day.

October 3, 2012

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