Arsenic in Lahore’s drinking water  

LAHORE: The issue of arsenic presence in Lahore’s drinking water has been highlighted several times by electronic media. According to the World Health Organisation’s guidelines for drinking water, arsenic is carcinogenic contaminant and its permissible limit is 10 parts per billion (ppb). Penetration of arsenic in groundwater, the major source of drinking water, is a potential threat to public health. The public’s naivety and the negligence by the Punjab government to tackle the issue on a priority basis are increasing the incidence of cancer.

Various agency surveys revealed that the arsenic level in Lahore’s groundwater has increased about 40-80 ppb. Limited measurements have been taken by the government. Around 1,000 arsenic removal filtration plants have been installed in Lahore, which are not enough. Generally, two effective techniques are in practice to eliminate this hazardous substance. The first one is reverse osmosis, which is not feasible everywhere due to high energy consumption and water wastage. The second one is an arsenic removal filter, which is more efficient and feasible but is not being manufactured in Pakistan. However, the major obstacles to getting rid of arsenic water are the absence of policies, poor planning, high costs of lab tests and the import of ferric hydroxide.

Water supply companies are urged to upgrade their previous schemes and include the above costs in planning their future water supply projects for the sake of public health. Early consideration is also required by schools, colleges, universities, hotels, hospitals and public institutions. If immediate mitigation measures are not taken by the government, along with the removal of all impediments, another irreversible public health danger will emerge.

Babar Imran

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