Quenching thirst: Solar-powered solution to Sindh’s drinking water needs

Health engineering dept has finalised an ambitious plan to install water purifiers in govt schools, health facilities



KARACHI:Providing clean drinking water is something many of Sindh’s government schools and health facilities have long struggled with. Luckily for them, the provincial government has a noble, albeit ambitious plan: it will equip all of them with water purifiers powered by nothing more than the sun.

According to Sindh officials, the plan to install solar-powered reverse osmosis (RO) filtration units in government schools and health facilities have been devised in compliance with the orders of the Supreme Court-mandated water commission.

The plan, they said, has been divided into phases. In the first, 4,000 of Sindh’s roughly 43,000 government schools and 1,300 of the province’s health facilities will be equipped with the RO filtration units.

“The PC-1 for this initiative is almost complete. We have decided to allocate Rs2 billion to the first phase of this plan and will release Rs500 million in the current fiscal year,” Public Health Engineering Department Secretary Roshan Ali Shaikh told The Express Tribune. “Once installed, these solar-powered water filtration units should provide residents of areas with contaminated water supply with clean drinking water while running off the power grid.”

Sindh government sources said the public health engineering department has asked the provincial government’s education and health wings to identify schools and health centres that are struggling to provide potable water. In many remote areas, such as Thar, Kachho and Kohistan, residents spend much of their day fetching water from distant water sources, they said. According to them, the scheme should provide them with easy access to clean drinking water, making their lives considerably easier.

“We are also devising a plan on how to maintain these plants,” said Shaikh. “The public health engineering department is also going to build model villages with economically sustainable housing projects in Thar and other districts,” he added.

“Thar, in particular, is unique in terms of contrast. Although rich in mineral resources and possessing great tourism potential due to its natural beauty, its residents suffer serious food security, health, education and livestock issues,” noted Shaikh. “That is why the Sindh government has pinpointed this area in particular for model villages.”

Outlining the vision for these model villages, the public health engineering secretary said: “We have an integrated and a holistic strategic approach. Each model village will have a community water tank for human consumption and a pond for livestock water needs. Every village will also have RO filters, health facilities, and every house in the village will come with a kitchen, garden and a pitcher-irrigation system for fruit trees and vegetables.”

He added that the government also plans to introduce joint fodder cultivation under village community supervision and set up training centres for prospective artisans in coordination with the social welfare department and NGOs.

Speaking to The Express Tribune, Sindh Public Health Engineering Minister Mir Shabbir Ali Bijarani complained that “some sections of media highlight negative stories from the province, ignoring the positive work we are carrying out, especially in Thar.”

“We are working on water security in Thar by dividing it in seven zones. Our department has devised a plan so that people can get potable water at doorsteps,” he said, insisting that the construction and revamp of rural drainage and water supply schemes is the Sindh government’s priority.

Hafeez Tunio

Hafeez Tunio works as a reporter for The Express Tribune, Daily English newspaper affiliated with The International New York Times. Hafeez covers politics, environment, water and sanitation, human rights, minority and women issues. He says he wants to write on environmental issues because he loves nature - in spite of what it did to him.

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