CHAPTER NO 1
Contemporary world is facing plethora of environmental issues ranging from climate change to pollution and environmental degradation. Humans are directly contributing in exacerbation of these climatic catastrophes through population explosion and extravagant life styles. On the other hand, nature is paying in the same coin to humans and humans are footing heavy losses in terms of man and material due to pollution and other environmental problems. In 2017, a new report revealed that annually 9m people are engulfed by the curse of pollution which is one sixth of the total deaths on worldwide basis. Among these 9m deaths, 1.8m are caused due to water pollution. This report is derived by a two-year project which was supervised and sponsored by The Lancet Commission on Pollution and Health.
Figure 1.1 A grim picture of polluted drinking water (stseanika.wordpress.com)
Life has its origin in water; therefore, clean and pure drinking water is a basic human right as water is sine-qua-non for life (Sustainable Development Goals, 2017). Access to safe and clean drinking water is recognized as an essential human right by the United Nations General Assembly; prime condition for the sustainability of our lives and well-being (UNESCO, 2015).
Although water has 70% prevalence on earth surface but merely 0.01 percent of freshwater is present for human consumption. According to the report of UN, around 1.1bn denizens of earth are deprived of satisfactory access to water and there is dearth of adequate access to sanitation facility for about 2.4 billion people (PCRWR 2016). The population explosion in connivance with urbanization is creating plethora of societal problems. Among these problems, water scarcity and declining quality of drinking water is emerging as a major threat to life and living beings. Water contamination has deep-rooted consequences on the ecosystem and human wellbeing (Shahid et al., 2015).
According to a sound estimation, by 2025, nearly 3 billion people out of total 8 billion will be suffering from water shortage and 83% of them will be from developing countries (PCRWR, 2016). This grim situation is enough to provoke the policy analysts and environmentalists to state that third world war could be fought for water and water resources. Not only is this but water scarcity and water pollution are also a ticking bomb which could explode any now or then to ruin all the gigantic claims regarding sustainable human and economic development.
A major chunk of water resources is engulfed by mammoth population and unremitting industrial expansion. The following figure is depicting the current scenario where it could easily surmised that the regions having huge population are more prone to water scarcity and water related issues due to their high consumption patterns and never ending water needs (Zimmerman et al., 2008).
Figure 1.2 Overview of water availability versus population at global level (Zimmerman et al., 2008).
The extended droughts have further intensified water shortage and contamination. According to ASA, the per capita water accessibility in Pakistan in 1940 was 5,600 cubic meters (m3), and reduced by 40% from 5,260 m3 in 1951 to 1,038 m3 in 2010. If the status quo prevails, by 2020, the water accessibility in Pakistan will drop to 877 cubic meters and it will further decline to 660 by the year 2025 (Daud et al., 2017).
As the Pakistan emerged on the map of the world, it was a water surplus country with a bounty of tremendous surface and ground water resources, but per capita availability of water has declined from 5,600m to 1,000m3/annum (Shahid et al., 2015).
In Pakistan, Around 70 % of the yearly rain befalls from June to September while absence of large dams and water conservation system are adding fuel to the fire as most of the rain water is drain down into the Indian Ocean or turns into a natural calamity in the form of flash floods. Ground water resources of Pakistan includes Indus basin covering an area of 16.2 mha.
Figure 1.3: Per capita water supply is decreasing with time (derived from Daud et al., 2017)
Five major rivers links to the eastern side of Indus are Jhelum, Ravi, Beas, Chenab and Sutlej; Moreover three minor rivers are the Soan, Siran and Harow. On the western face of Indus, various small streams also join. The largest of such rivers is River Kabul. Additional water supplies from Mangla and Tarbela storage also contribute to recharge of groundwater.
Figure 1.4 Indus River System with its tributaries (www.wildlife.pk)
Below is the table of percentage of water shared by water bodies. The major water contributing body is Indus River with a sum share of 65% which flows from the entire length of Pakistan territory which originated from Tibetan Plateau in North and finally merged with the Indian Ocean in the south.
Table 1.1: Share of water by different water bodies (Indus Water Accord, 1991, IRSA)
Water body Percentage of water share
About 79% of the Punjab province has access to fresh groundwater (PCRWR 2016).
One in nine people worldwide uses drinking water from unimproved and unsafe sources. Precarious sanitation facility is the main cause of water pollution. Further, the people with meager household income are unable to meet the standard sanitation criteria. Third world countries and the countries of South Asia are facing the same dilemma where the denizens have minimal to zero access to safe drinking water and sanitation system. 90% of sewage in developing countries is discharged untreated directly into water bodies. Two million tons of sewage enters into the world’s water sources. Agriculture and industrial (non-point and point source pollution respectively) runoffs largely participate in increasing the total pollutant load (UNESCO, 2015).
Table 1.2: Classification of water sources as improved and unimproved. (Derived from Onda et al., 2012).
Source class Type of source
Unimproved drinking-water source Unprotected dug well, unprotected spring,cart with small tank, surface water(e.g. river, dam, lake, pond, stream, canal or irrigation channel) and bottled water.
Improved drinking-water source Piped water connection located inside the user’s dwelling, plot or yard, public taps or tube wells, protected dug wells, protected springs and rainwater collection
Drinkable groundwater is likely to be polluted with HM and pathogens from the neighboring sources such as underground broken sewerage pipelines, percolation of filthy surface water from open wells, tube wells and hand pumps (Sardar et al., 2012).
Water contamination is hugely affecting the large population in Pakistan and most of the scientific researchers have found it a major issue relating to shattered health indicators and water-borne diseases. (Shahid et al., 2015). A decline of nearly one-third of worldwide biodiversity is expected to be the result of deprivation of freshwater bionetworks largely due to water pollution. Re-use of polluted water in agricultural fields is essential for livings, but it is linked with severe health threats (UNESCO 2015).
Water pollution also affects the aquatic bionetworks in function along with structural degradation. Major water-borne diseases, ecological degradation and environmental catastrophes are regarded as direct consequences of water contamination and its related phenomenon.
Not only health sector, water shortage and contamination are also hitting the economy hard. Poor quality water and sanitation system are incurring the economic loses about PKR 300 million daily in Pakistan (Pakistan Strategic Country Environmental Assessment., 2006) which is harrowing keeping in mind the dilapidated economic status of Pakistan. Annually 0.2m children lose their lives due to diarrheal diseases (UN Commission on Sustainable Development., 2004). Mixing of untreated municipal and industrial effluents with the surface and ground water adversely affects the freshwater sources which consequently affects the human health. (Fink et al., 2011).
Different physical factors e.g. pH, Electrical conductivity and turbidity are considered as important indicator of safe drinking water (Karim et al., 2011). Presence of HM and their effects are dependent on various environmental factors such as pH, temperature, oxygen contents and microorganisms present in the aquatic ecosystem (Hall et al., 1999; Pizarro et al., 2003). In drinking water, the physic-chemical parameters are important and their high or low concentration directly or indirectly affects the human. The pH serves as one of the important indicators of water quality and level of pollution in aquatic system (Jonnalagadda and Mhere, 2001). Drinking water pH has no direct correlation with the human health indicators but it has some indirect health effects by acting as a stimulus for changes in other water quality parameters such as metal solubility and pathogens survival. However, high level of pH attributes bitter taste to drinking water (Said et al., 2010). The high pH indicates the corrosiveness of supply line and it can also elevate the metal concentration in water. Extreme pH can leads to skin or eye irritation. Turbidity comes from the presence of organic particles, silt and clay. Turbidity affects the visual acceptance of drinking water by the user (Shahid et al., 2015).
Heavy metals includes in those contaminants which have rigorously worsened the aquatic biomes (Ali et al., 2013). Heavy metals could be incorporated in water by various means. Natural source includes weathering of rocks and erosion of ore deposits. Whereas anthropogenic sources could be effluents from industries, wastewater plants, agriculture fields and mining. (Karim et al., 2011). The HM are known as severe pollutants due to their toxicity, ability to persist and bio-accumulative behavior (Said et al., 2011). Water becomes unfit for drinking when upturn in concentration of these metals beyond normal limits occurs (Summiya et al., 2014). Normal body functions require a specific amount of chromium. If present in high concentration, it causes kidney problems and cancer. High concentration of lead is also considered toxic and it may cause health risks as headache, abdominal pain, neuronal damage, kidney abnormality, irregularity of blood pressure and cancer of lung and stomach. Children are more prone to risk relating to lead toxicity. High concentration of Pb may cause health complications such as behavior disturbance, memory weakening and degeneration of mental capabilities including judgment and understanding, whereas long-term exposure of Pb can lead towards anemia (Said et al., 2011).
Arsenic is at 20th number in its abundance in earth’s crust. The worldwide consideration is chiefly focused on the existence of arsenic beyond the safe range in water i.e. (0.01 mg/L) (Nickson et al., 2005; Rahman et al., 2008 and World Health Organization, 2010). As is recognized as one of the most fatal inorganic contaminants in drinking water. It has serious repercussions on human health. As isn’t contained to a single region or continent but it causes global concerns due to its wide spread presence in different water bodies including ground and surface water reservoirs (Smedley et al. 2002).
Table 1.3: Admissible concentration of arsenic in drinking water (WHO, 2011)
(ng/ml) Country Concentration
Japan 50 Germany 10
Russia 50 USA 50
Pakistan 50 India 50
WHO 10 EU 50
In case of Pakistan, high Arsenic concentration in drinking water is producing alarming bells in many concerned circles including environmental and health experts. Joel E. Podgorski et al. (2017) published a search regarding current status of Arsenic concentration in Pakistan. According to said research, up to 60 million people in Pakistan are at risk from the deadly chemical arsenic, according to a detailed analysis of water supplies. The study looked at data from nearly 1,200 groundwater quality samples from across the country.
Figure 1.5 Concentration of arsenic in the water along the Indus plain (Joel E. Podgorski et al. (2017))
In 2009, A. Toor et al. conducted research on the As concentration in different districts of Pakistan while in case of Multan district, they reported arsenic concentration in 66% of samples lied in the range zero to 10 ng/ml, 33% of samples had range varied from 10 to 50 ng/ml and 1% of samples had As conc. above 50 ng/ml with an overall average value of arsenic concentrations in district Multan as 12 ng/ml. Unremitting use of arsenic-rich water becomes the cause of several kinds of dangerous diseases e.g. Cancer, pigmentation, nausea, Blackfoot disease, DNA impairment, neurotoxic effects and inhibition of enzymatic activities (Arpan et al., 2016). Hyperkeratosis, restrictive lung disease, gangrene, hypertension and peripheral vascular disease can also be caused by arsenic high consumption (Josef et al., 2007; Rahman et al., 2009). Skin lesions are also reported by it (Fatmi et al., 2009). It is studied that As. has more exacerbating effects on people with under or malnourishment (Kapaj et al., 2007). Acute poisoning occurs in 30 minutes of intake and may cause gastrointestinal discomfort or vomiting and coma leading to death sometimes whereas chronic poisoning results in anemia, skin cancer or other internal cancers. No treatment with verified beneficial results is presently available to overcome chronic toxicity (Ratnaike, 2003). Water contaminated with arsenic may results in toxic effects for plants or arsenic can store in plants and thereby enters into food chain. Higher arsenic levels can cause inhibitory effect to crops. The CEPA recorded arsenic in Group one of the Priority Substances List. This list includes the chemicals which may prove injurious to the environment and dangerous to human health (Wang et al., 2005). A wide-ranging difference in marine arsenic contents is observed;
Table 1.4: Marine arsenic contents distribution (US Geological Survey)
Place Arsenic %
Deep ocean 1.7 mg/L
Sea 1 mg/L
Antarctic Ocean 1.1mg/L
South-west Pacific oceans 1.2mg/L
In the same way, geographic speciation depicts a wide range in arsenic concentration of groundwater, rivers and lakes round the globe. Reviewers reported the wide range of contradicting data regarding Arsenic contents in fresh water. Arsenic concentration in fresh water is not specified as it could be somewhat misleading. Though, fresh water polluted with arsenic may hold from 100 microgram to 1000 of microgram of arsenic/L of water (Chappell et al., 2001; Mandal and Suzuki, 2002; Mukherjee et al., 2006; Barringer and Reilly, 2013) whereas the highest permissible range of arsenic in drinking water is 0.1 mg/L (World Health Organization, 2010). Arsenic pollution in water is causing alarms globally. About 110 million peoples are inhabitants of countries including, Pakistan, China, Nepal, India, Laos, Taiwan, Vietnam, Myanmar, Bangladesh and Cambodia which have arsenic contamination in their water resources. Treatment of Arsenic polluted water could lead towards lessening the health risk (Singh et al., 2014). Once assimilated, arsenate impairs the normal working of the cells. It can also get attached to hemoglobin and rapidly be redistributed towards the whole body systems (Shahid et al., 2015).
Coliforms are normally present in the environmental surroundings and have no dangerous implications for humans (PCRWR, 2005). They are natural inhabitants of intestine of warm blooded organisms including humans and they are necessary for the optimum working of intestinal enzymes (Shar et al., 2010). However their occurrence in drinking water tells us about contamination of water with pathogens which can cause disease. The occurrence of fecal coliforms and E. coli also indicates water contamination with animal or human wastes. Groundwater contaminated with pathogens is usually due to the runoff over fields, leakage of sewerage and septic tanks, loaded sewage management plants and dumping systems (PCRWR, 2005). Other reasons like cross-linking, broken pipelines, backflow of filthy water due to a dropping of the pressure in the line and broken water supply line resulting in contamination of the delivery system (PCRWR, 2005; Shar et al., 2008b). In countryside, exposed dug wells and low water table make it further vulnerable to bacterial contamination (Azizullah et al., 2010). Generally harmless but few bacteria cause severe food poisoning and lethal strains can cause gastroenteritis, typhoid, urinary tract infections, diarrhea and neonatal meningitis (Todar, 2008). The adverse biological contamination is reported in various zones of Punjab including Islamabad, Rawalpindi and Lahore (Shahid et al., 2015).
Environmental protection council has approved the following as environmental quality standards for drinking water (PUNJAB GAZETTE 2016):
TABLE 1.5: Drinking Water Quality Standards (PUNJAB GAZETTE 2016).
Parameter WHO Standards Pakistan Standards