On a visit to the different localities of the city, especially the low lying areas, you would easily come across a water filtration plant or two. But there is likelihood that these aren’t functional.
Look no further around, and you find another such plant that was installed recently, and it is fully operational.
It turns out that hundreds of water filtration plants that were installed in the previous regime have been rendered useless, whereas huge public money is being invested in installing new machines in the provincial capital. This makes you wonder what the government is trying to prove.
Provision of clean drinking water to the citizens had become a popular slogan back in 2004, and the then president Gen (retd) Pervaiz Musharraf announced installation of water purification plants across the country.
Between ’04 and ‘09, over 250 water filtration plants were installed in different parts of Lahore. These were in cubical shape and decorated with light blue tiles. Today, all these plants have become a story of the past. None of them has a tap, and the costly machineries installed inside have either been stolen or they have rusted and, hence, become useless.
In January 2015, Punjab’s LG & CD department conducted sampling from 364 water sources of Lahore, Kasur, Okara, and Bahawalpur from where the water is being consumed for drinking by the general public. Out of these, 329 samples were found to be contaminated with arsenic and had bacteria — both of which are hazardous for human health.
Similar water testing in Lahore was carried out by the other government departments such as Punjab Food Authority (PFA), Water and Sanitation Agency (WASA), and City District Government of Lahore (CDGL). The results were almost the same.
Punjab government has also launched a Punjab Saaf Pani Company (PSPC), which is headquartered in a lavish building in Gulberg, Lahore. Ironically, the company has done nothing to refurbish and/or maintain the old water filtration plants; instead, it is busy installing machineries at newer points.
The PSPC could have transferred the machinery/technology of old plants to rural areas and, thus, save millions of rupees, but who cares.
Tube wells and water filtration plants in different localities are said to have stopped working due to long power outages. Azeem Khan, a resident of Township, says a blue-tiled water filtration plant was set up in the area in 2006; it was functional for the next couple of years only. “In 2009, to be precise, construction of a new water filtration plant was started right next to the old one. The latter is now used by the locals to keep their cattle, as it provides them shade.”
Khalid Ahmed, a resident of Sant Nagar, says that the newly installed water filtration plant has also stopped working, because it was not maintained properly.
Likewise, in Green Town, the water filtration plant is said to be out of order. “I don’t know why it was installed after all, by discarding the old one which was working just fine,” says a resident of the area, not wanting to be named. “Maybe this is the government’s way of looting public money.”
Eventually, the abandoned unit has turned into a haven for addicts who take shelter here and do drugs.
Imtiaz Ghauri, a spokesman of WASA, tells TNS that the agency has nothing to do with installation of new water filtration plants as it is a project of the Punjab government, and the Mayor Lahore is supervising it.
When asked as to what was the need to abandon the old plants, he said these had outlived their capacity.
Mayor Lahore Col (retd) Mubashir Javed says the plants installed during the previous regimes had old technology, “The new [plants] are equipped with the latest technology which can even treat high levels of arsenic and other pollutants in the water.”
Couldn’t the machineries of old plants be upgraded? The Mayor said he would look into the matter. Strangely, however, he didn’t have any idea about the number of such units in Lahore.