Islamabad – Kinza, who is barely fifteen days old, is quietly gesticulating in a hospital in Islamabad, suffering from diarrhea and blood-borne infections due to polluted water, which is increasingly rare in Pakistan, is reaching dramatic levels of pollution. tens of thousands of victims.
Cloaked in a colorful blanket, Kinza moves in slow motion, like a tiny doll. His mother Sartaj, poorly dressed, does not understand: “every time I give him his bottle, I boil the water.”
It is the “water of the canal” of Faizabad, a district of the capital, that she says drink daily. The streams running through the city are nevertheless covered with filth.
According to the UN and the Pakistani authorities, between 30% and 40% of diseases and deaths are linked to poor water quality. (polluted water) “This is the number one problem in terms of public health,” says Professor Javed Akram, Dean of the Faculty of Medicine of Islamabad.
Every year, 53,000 Pakistani children die of diarrhea after drinking unsafe water, says UNICEF. Typhoid, cholera, dysentery and hepatitis are common.
In Lahore, 11 million inhabitants, the Ravi River, which serves the city, is used as a spillway by hundreds of factories upstream.
“Several studies have shown the presence of heavy metals in the bones of fish,” says Sohail Ali Naqvi, head of the “water” program for the NGO WWF. Fish that are then consumed by local people.
Ravi is also used to irrigate neighboring crops, which are themselves rich in pesticides.
– ‘Considerable needs’ –
“There is a need for considerable investment in sanitation,” insists the World Bank, which estimated in 2012 the cost of this pollution to $5.7 billion per year, or nearly 4% of Pakistan’s GDP.
The lack of infrastructure is glaring. In a country where “the environment is not part of the political agenda”, there are “almost no sewage treatment plants”, plague Imran Khalid, researcher at the Political Institute on Development Sustainable Development Strategy (SDPI). And none in Lahore.
“Those who can afford it buy bottles of water, but what about those who can not?”, He says.
In Karachi, a city of 15 million souls, mafias make up for the need of the local network, often cut off, by selling the precious liquid they bring by tanker trucks at a high price.
Justice has forced Sindh province, which Karachi is the capital, to submit a plan by mid-December to allow “all residents” to drink clean water, after a trial on the merits incompetence and corruption.
In the face of widespread indignation, Sindh and Punjab, provinces that are home to more than half of the country’s population, have already announced measures to improve the quality of their water.
This one is not only contaminated. It is also becoming scarce. According to all official projections, the country, which has seen its population quintuple since 1960 to reach 207 million inhabitants, will end up by 2025 in situation of “absolute shortage”, with less than 500 m3 available by Pakistanis. That’s three times less than in Somalia now, according to FAO.
– ‘Lack of education’ –
Pakistan, which is suffering from massive Himalayan glaciers and abundant monsoons and floods, has only three major storage basins, compared with more than a thousand in South Africa or Canada, says Bashir Ahmad, of the National Center for Research on Climate Change. agriculture.
No surplus water can be kept and reused during the dry season, said Mr Ahmad, who denounced “a lack of political vision.”
polluted water – polluted water – polluted water
While 90% of the country’s water is used for agriculture, according to official statistics, the large irrigation network, built under the British colonial presence, is sometimes holed, sometimes obstructed. And some cultures are made in spite of common sense.
“We neglect the lands of the North, where rainfall is frequent, to concentrate on those irrigated from the South.” Rice or sugar cane is grown in arid zones, where it is 45 to 50 ° C, which requires a lot of water, “he chokes.
“The crisis of polluted water is imminent, in the cities, the water level is decreasing day by day,” warns Muhammad Ashraf, chairman of the Pakistan Research Council on Water Resources, a public body.