Since the majority of Pakistan’s population lacks access to clean drinking water and more than 40 per cent diseases are waterborne, the Higher Education Commission (HEC) has decided to make research on water purification its priority in addition to the research on energy production.
When contacted, the focal person of the Inter-University Consortium for Promotion of Social Sciences, Murtaza Noor, told Dawn that according to a Unicef study, 20 to 40 per cent of hospital beds in Pakistan were occupied by patients suffering from waterborne diseases such as typhoid, cholera, dysentery and hepatitis.
These diseases were responsible for one-third of all deaths, and resulted in the death of an estimated 250,000 children every year, he added.
“A number of research projects have been initiated in universities which includes the development of renewable groundwater resources by the University of Balochistan. The objective is to secure safe drinking water for the people,” he said.
Murtaza Noor added that similar projects, including the removal of arsenic from drinking water, had been initiated by the University of Engineering and Technology (UET) Lahore, while the Quaid-i-Azam University was working on small scale sewage treatment.
The Vice Chancellor (VC) of the Karakoram International University (Gilgit-Baltistan), Prof Dr Najma Najam, while talking to Dawn, said a drinking water project for the university had been completed.
“There are two rivers, River Gilgit and River Hunza, near the university. We pump water in a tank and then send it to a purification plant. The project, worth Rs20 million, now provides drinking water to the whole university,” she said.
The VC added that the university was considering installing another plant on a stream which would ensure sufficient water for decades. She added that such projects could be installed anywhere in the country to obtain clean drinking water which was essential for health.
Commenting on these programs, Chairperson HEC Dr Javaid Laghari said the goal of HEC was to develop indigenous technology through the collaborations of research groups in leading universities.
“HEC has organised a number of workshops, conferences and seminars to give information to researchers aiming to resolve the issues of drinking water in Pakistan,” he said.