Water woes: One filtration plant at a time

originally published in The Express Tribune on March 24, 2016


LAHORE: “People are willing to commute over long distances if access to safe drinking water is ensured,” says Muhammad Ilyas Dogar, a resident of Bhatti Dhilwan.

He says that his community does have access to tap water and tube wells used for irrigation. “But the water is far from drinkable. Hepatitis and gastroenteritis are common ailments in the area. Many people are affected by water borne diseases,” he says. According to Saaf Pani Company statistics, 13 per cent of the population in rural areas has access to tap water.

Bhatti Dhilwan is a small village near Sheikhupura. It is surrounded by factories and industrial units. Here, a filtration plant set up by Nestle Pakistan provides safe drinking water to 5,000 people.  It was set up at the Government Primary Boys School.

It is functional for five hours a day.

People get water between 7am and 10am in the morning and 4pm and 6pm in the evening.

“People travel long distances to get water from the plant because they know it’s clean,” Dogar says. “They come on rickshaws and motorcycles.”

Samson Simon Sharaf, the CEO of Eco Tech, says his company operates the filtration plant. “Traces of arsenic were found in the water in the area,” he says. “This filtration plant is among the few in the country that can remove arsenic.”

He says fecal contamination was another problem.

“People dig up shallow wells to dispose waste. This seeps into ground water,” he says.

“We tried to resolve this issue by pumping water from a depth of 500 feet,” he says. “This ensures that fecal matter does not contaminate water and reduces the risk of water-borne diseases.

Nestle also organised an awareness campaign where locals were informed about the benefits of using clean containers.

External Projects Manager Ali Ashar says the filtration plant provides 25,000 litres to the people in the area.

He says the company has established similar plants in Muzaffargarh, Kot Addu, Khanewal, Kabirwala and Sheikhupura and provides safe drinking water to 50,000 people every day.

The initiative at Bhatti Dhilwan was inaugurated in 2015. Ashar says these plants could be kept functional for three years after which would will be replaced with new equipment.

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