Introduction

Punjab is one of the most populous provinces of Pakistan with total population of over 100 million, approximately 56 per cent of the country’s total population (Bureau of Statistics Punjab’s estimate 2015). Total area of Punjab is 205,344 square kilometer and it comprises eight administrative divisions and 37 districts. Punjab is a land of five rivers with one of the best canal and irrigation systems in the world.

However, major source of drinking water in the province is groundwater, which is being contaminated due to rapid population growth, industrialization, unplanned urbanization, over exploitation of natural resources and discharge of hazardous and untreated waste into the water bodies. Ground water contamination is taking its toll in the form of serious health complications for the residents of the Punjab.

Under special initiative of Chief Minister (CM) Punjab, Muhammad Shahbaz Sharif, Punjab Saaf Pani (Safe Drinking Water) Company (PSPC) has been established by the Government of the Punjab with a mandate to plan, design, execute and manage safe drinking water supply solutions to an estimated 68.9 million rural population of the province. The proposed project will ensure the carpet coverage of safe and clean drinking water supply to every household at walking distance.

Detailed engineering design of the project is currently being carried out, and project implementation will be advertised/tendered in phases, commencing August 2017. Initial pre-qualification has already been started, and companies may continue to apply for pre-qualification (please see recent advertisements in print media or visit the Punjab Procurement Regulatory Authority (PPRA) Website http://www.ppra.org.pk/).

 

Vision

To transform the rural life-style through better hygiene, health and civic education.

 

Mission

To ensure 24/7 provision of equitable and free safe drinking water at the center of village

 

Objectives

  • To meet the Sustainable Development Goals (universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water for all by 2030)
  • To keep the cost of provision of free water to the citizens, as incurred to the government, to be minimal
  • To take a holistic approach of integrating the project with sanitation, health, food, livestock, agriculture and other Public Health related sectors (such as the Utility Water schemes)
  • To ensure sustainability by minimizing carbon foot-print, clean and safe disposal of waste, energy conservation, and community participation

 

Side Objectives

  • Self-sustainability through transfer of technology e.g., membrane technologies
  • Job creation e.g., through water distribution, operation & maintenance (O&M)
  • Improvement in the utility water schemes e.g., transfer of dysfunctional water supply schemes run by community to the PSPC

 

Water Quality & Access in the Punjab

According to Pakistan Council of Research in Water Resources (PCRWR) Survey 2011-12 Report, 79 per cent sources of water supply schemes were unsafe for drinking in rural areas of the province. In addition, 88 per cent water supply schemes were found unfit at consumer’s end. Moreover, 35 per cent of the existing rural water supply schemes were either abandoned or non-functional.

Pakistan Social and Living Measurement Survey 2012-13 reported that in rural Punjab, access to safe tap water was 13 per cent.

Public Health Engineering Department (PHED) survey carried out in association with UNICEF in 2014 highlighted that excessive chemical contamination levels (total dissolved solids, arsenic, fluoride & nitrate) had rendered water of 73 per cent of the total Punjab villages unfit for drinking purpose.

In terms of ground water quality, Punjab is divided into three zones i.e. predominantly brackish, mixed (brackish/barani) and predominantly sweet.

 

Groundwater Quality

Quality of groundwater varies widely in Punjab, with TDS ranging from less than 1,000 ppm to more than 3000 ppm along with some other water pollutants (arsenic, fluoride, nitrate etc.).

 

Concept

In order to improve the health and hygiene through provision of safe drinking water, the government of the Punjab is making all out efforts to ensure provision of this basic human need. Chief Minister Punjab’s Safe Drinking Water Program is the hallmark initiative aimed at serving the large segments of population in rural areas of the province.

 

Punjab Saaf Pani Company (South & North)

Realizing the sensitivity of the situation and to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) related to safe drinking water supply, Government of the Punjab formulated Punjab Saaf Pani Company as a Special Purpose Vehicle to execute this program.

Later, the company was bifurcated into Punjab Saaf Pani Company-North (PSPC-North) & Punjab Saaf Pani Company-South (PSPC-South) for swift and fast track implementation of the program. Division of tehsils of the Punjab among PSPC-North and PSPC-South is shown in Figure 3.

 

Methodology

Acting on the lead, local community has been engaged to ensure sustainability of the program. This is being led by local NGOs, which have been involved through a competitive process. PSPC encourages all kind of conventional, contemporary and innovative technologies to achieve the program objectives as per existing water quality.

Keeping in view the complexity of program in terms of technology, environmental sustainability, financial viability and associated risks, PSPC intends to engage well-reputed international companies, firms, consortiums and groups for installation, operation and maintenance of the safe water supply solutions all over the Punjab.

The first phase of the program is going to be implemented in 51 tehsils (administrative units of districts), which would cover an estimated 30 million un-served rural population in the province.

 

Phase-1 of the Program

Initially, Phase-I of the Chief Minister Punjab’s Safe Drinking Water Program is being implemented in 51 tehsils (a sub-administrative unit of the district) of 15 district of Punjab province.

 

Tehsils’ Profile of Phase-1

The project area of the Phase-I of the program is a profound blend of landscapes varying from tehsil to tehsil, particularly in terms of population density, geographical and environmental conditions. The estimated population, number of villages and Sahulat Centers (Safe Drinking Water Distribution Centers) in each of the tehsil.

 

The Way Forward

Provision of safe drinking water is closely related to human health and economic prosperity. Contemporarily, major water resources in rural areas of Punjab province are ground water aquifer and surface water bodies, which are continuously being disturbed by industrialization, uncontrolled urbanization, land use and climate change.

This has been revealed by various surveys and reports that the existing water quality is not fit for the human consumption in majority regions of the rural Punjab province. The contaminated water is resulting in transmission of water-borne diseases which are taking immense toll.

Those who remain impacted by this lack of safe drinking water are often the most vulnerable groups in populations including women, rural/remote/marginalized communities, indigenous groups and the extreme poor.

As hundreds of millions of people still struggle to secure access to safe drinking water resources, their capacity to gain access is becoming increasingly compromised by the uncertainty of availability of safe drinking water brought on by global environmental changes.

The urgency of this issue should not be understated. Protecting water quality to make water available to those who lack access, as well as protect the water sources of those who already have sustainable access, requires a concerted joint effort at all levels from communities to national leaders.

The Punjab government is all geared up to provide safe drinking water to rural population in the province.  Saaf Pani Program would go down in the annals of history as the program which transformed the lives of the millions of the people in the province.

The vision of the Punjab Chief Minister is to see the province as a development model to be emulated and this program is bound to transform his vision into reality. It will improve the health of the rural populations along with cut in their health budget and they would be able to live a healthy life.

Besides, Saaf Pani Program will also help supplement Pakistan government’s efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG 2030, 6.1).