A new study shows that 80 per cent of water resources in Pakistan’s southern Tharparkar district are unfit for people to drink. Decreasing rainfall caused by climate change and contamination of underground water sources are to blame.
The study – conducted by the Dow University of Health Sciences (DUHS) and the Pakistan Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (PCSIR) – also found that barely less than 5 per cent of the region’s population has access to clean and disease-free potable water, reports CORDIS, the EU’s community research and development information service.
Tharparkar depends heavily on rain-fed ground water, as it has no rivers. However, since 2011 average annual rainfall has been less than 50 per cent of its normal levels, which is putting a heavy strain on already depleting groundwater resources.
One result of this is that fluoride contamination of underground water sources has worsened because less water recharges the drying system: in many locations in Tharkparkar, fluoride levels are over 13 mg/litre, compared to the 1 mg/litre considered normal. As CORDIS explains, excessive fluoride intake – defined as from sources with more than 1.5 mg/litre of fluoride in the water – can cause serious health problems, including damage to the kidneys and thyroid.
One possible solution to counter the dangerous levels of fluoride in the water is to use indigenous water-purification technologies. For instance, the NGO Thardeep Rural Development Programme has reached around 1,000 villages with traditional water solutions such as ‘mussafa’, which purifies water by using a 1 kilogram-bag of graded sand, treated with silver, as a filter in the clay pots used to store water, reports CORDIS on an IRIN News report.
The Tharkparkar provincial government is also investing over EUR 46 million to install 750 solar-powered reverse osmosis water purification plans. According to CORDIS, via Reuters, the facilities – billed as Asia’s largest solar-powered water purification plant – should be up and running by June this year. It is expected to treat enough water to meet the needs of 300,000 people.