Up to 40 percent of the population of Sindh – Pakistan’s second most populous province does not have access to drinking water, provincial budget document 2019-20 revealed.
With 47.9 million people Sindh caters 23 percent Pakistan’s 207 million population. However it cannot fulfill its drinking water demand of 1,538 million gallons per day (MGD) – situation attributed to multiple factors.
Yet again, for water provision schemes in FY-2019-20, Sindh government has reduced the funds as compare to last year due to, what it calls reduced funds availability from federal government.
Overall size of the Sindh’s zero-deficit budget is Rs.1217 billion for the financial year 2019-20. This is Pakistan Peoples’ Party-led Sindh government’s second budget of current term and twelfth consecutive budget in government.
Budget 2019-20 proposals document, presented by Chief Minister Sindh Syed Murad Ali Shah in Sindh Assembly on June 14 and later on approved on June 26 of same month shows that there was shortfall of 30 percent to 40 percent of water in the province because of less availability, system losses and inadequate infrastructure.
As per budget document, financial crunch has affected Sindh’s overall budget. For instance in 2019-20 ADP, Government has allocated Rs.35.90 billion water supply & sanitation schemes of Public Health Engineering and Local Government. In fiscal year of 2018-19, Government of Sindh provided Rs.37.73 billion for similar schemes.
However the number of water supply & sanitation schemes announced is higher than previous year. This year it is planned that of the 372 schemes, at least 218 would be completed. In contrast, in FY 2018-19, government provided funds for 267 water supply & sanitation schemes of Public Health Engineering and Local Government, however 27 schemes were completed.
In the outgoing 2018-19 year, Sindh could not complete many development schemes, including water supply & sanitation schemes – situation Sindh blames Islamabad for non-availability of funds. Sindh blames Islamabad for ‘poor receipts’ of funds from federal government than its due share.
On the other side budget document also acknowledges that apart from financial crunch, Sindh government failed to utilize half of the available funds.
Against the allocation of Rs.37.73 billion for 267 water supply & sanitation schemes of Public Health Engineering and Local Government, Rs.15.90 billion were released but Sindh government could spent only Rs.7.87 billion by June 2019.
CM Sindh also states that shift in residence of the population from rural to urban areas was adding the burden to the resources.
“Sindh is the most urbanized province of the country having 34 percent of the country’s urban population and we know that urbanization puts pressure on water supply, waste water treatment and disposal and solid waste management services,” he stated.
Sindh Drinking Water Policy, 2017 aims to enhance the coverage of safely managed drinking water supply in the province to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) targets. It also acknowledges that access to safely managed drinking water is a fundamental right of every citizen and that it is the responsibility of the Government to ensure its provision to all citizens.
Issued by Sindh’s Public Health Engineering & Rural Development Department (PHED), the main principles of Sindh Drinking Water Policy are adopted from the National Drinking Water policy 2009, and aligned with the SDGs.
Sindh Drinking Water Policy aims to improve the quality of water reducing morbidity and mortality caused by water-borne diseases.
But despite that recently Pakistan Council of Research in Water Resources (PCRWR) reported that 80 per cent of the water samples collected from 14 districts of Sindh were unfit for human consumption. In addition, 90 per cent of the water was found unsafe in Sindh’s capital Karachi.
In November 2016, cases of world’s first extensively drug-resistant (XDR) typhoid XDR typhoid were reported in Hyderabad. In 2019, the deadly outbreak has spread to the multiple cities of Pakistan. Experts believe that awful sewage and water systems are among the root causes of the spread of extensively drug-resistant typhoid.
According to a report by Supreme Court-appointed judicial commission on water quality and drainage in Sindh in March last year, not a single treatment plant is working in Sindh, all sedimentation-based water supply schemes are dysfunctional with faulty design and untreated sewage continues to flow in irrigation water or canals at 750 points.
As per budget document, this year PHED has included 13 schemes costing Rs.22.95 billion with allocation of Rs.6.25 billion in ADP 2019-20 relating to containing contamination of fresh water bodies. This includes “Elimination of Urban Sewerage Discharging in Irrigation Canals and Lakes” in Sindh Costing Rs.3.57 billion. Rehabilitation of non-functional water supply and drainage schemes in Sindh, costing Rs.4.01 billion is also included.
According to Pakistan Medical Association (PMA), in Pakistan, every year there are 3 million people, including 1.2 children, who get affected of various waterborne diseases because of contaminated water. Similarly over 250,000 children die every year because of contaminated water in Pakistan.
Dr Qaiser Sajjad, Secretary General PMA stresses upon the proper implementation of budget allocations.
“Every year government announces several schemes and allocates millions of rupees on provision of drinking water. That money comes from taxpayers’ pockets. But point is where is all money going? Is it being spent on right areas? Why we have not controlled the contamination of water,” Dr Sajjad asked.
“There are sewerage lines that mix with drinking water pipelines. This way unless you improve sanitation, you cannot control the diseases like polio that has direct link with sanitation,” he opined.
Raheema Panhwar, a representative of Strengthening Participatory Organization (SPO), a non-governmental organization striving for human rights says provision of safe drinking was a basic human right.
“This is extreme importance for government to work on policies of provision of clean drinking water, allocate budgetary funds and most importantly spending on right areas. It will also be helpful to achieve Sustainable Development Goals,” Raheema added.
According to Pakistan Education Statistics 2016-17 report which was launched last year revealed that 22.84 million children in Pakistan were still out of school. More girls are out of school than boys. The report said Sindh stood at number three whose 52 percent children were out of school.
Sindh Education Sector Plan & Roadmap (2019-23) focuses on providing additional classrooms to accommodate fresh entrants to the schools and ensuring a conducive environment in schools in terms of provision of clean drinking water facilities, toilets and compound walls to ensure retention of students especially girl students.
This plan is in the guidelines of Sindh Water Policy that also include safely managed drinking water supply and sanitation integration in health, nutrition and school health programmes.
As per budget document, this year the allocation for school education has been increased from Rs170.832 billion to Rs178.618 billion in the next financial year, 2019-20. Whereas, on development side, Rs15.15 billion have been allocated in ADP 2019-20.
Government stats reveal that under the School Education; major emphasis during year 2018-19 remained on the “Rehabilitation & Expansion of High Priority 4560 Schools”; The schools which had high enrolment and required adequate facilities of classrooms; washrooms; water; electricity and adequate teaching faculty to encourage better learning environment and create space for additional enrolment. The School Education Department would complete 1437 units by end June 2019. Further, 1973 Government Schools have been provided with Clean & Safe Drinking Water facilities and another 367 schools will be provided with clean & Safe Drinking Water through a new development scheme.
According to Raheema, main dropouts from the school are because of lack of WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene) facilities. Provision of WASH facilities can enhance the school enrolments which is utmost important in the society having low literacy rate. Until government does not convert its announcements into practical steps, objectives cannot be achieved.
This story was originally published in Balochistan Express on June 29, 2019.