LAHORE, June 4: For the first time, a six-year business plan has been prepared to develop sustainable water and sanitation services in the city.
The Lahore water supply, sewerage and drainage improvement plan would be implemented from 2011-12 to 2016-17 fiscal, a senior official of the Water and Sanitation Agency (Wasa) told Dawn on Saturday.
The salient features of the plan include rehabilitation or replacement of old water supply, sewerage and drainage networks, installation of bulk flow and consumer metres on water supply system, rationalisation of tariff, separation of sewage from drains to cope with flooding during Monsoon besides construction of wastewater treatment plants.
Public water supply to the Punjab capital has so far been totally dependent on groundwater abstraction by sinking tube-wells, mostly of 4.00cfs and some of 2.00cfs capacity.
Rapid increase in population, owing primarily to migration from semi-urban and rural portions of the province to Lahore coupled with industrialisation had increased the water supply demand manifold, especially during the last three decades.
A study conducted by Wasa with the help of the Pakistan Institute of Nuclear Science and Technology (PINSTECH) of the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission till 2010 revealed that the minimum aquifer level in Lahore reached 21.55 meter and maximum 43.90 meter. In 1980, the minimum aquifer level in Lahore was 5.70 meter and maximum 19.83 meter, it lowered down to 8.18 meter and 25.25 meter in 1990 and 10.67 meter and 32 meter in 2000, registering a total decline of 15.85 meter and 24.07 meter, respectively.
“At present, some 400 million gallons groundwater is being extracted daily through Wasa’s 460 tube-wells. The figures do not include the water being extracted by the tube-wells installed by Pakistan Railways, cantonment boards, Defence Housing Authority, hospitals, Parks and Horticulture Authority, government buildings, private housing societies, industries and for irrigation purposes,” said the officer.
Urbanisation and industrialisation have considerably reduced the groundwater recharge channels as major portion of the land has become impermeable.
The situation has rendered the sewerage system inadequate, forcing usage of open drains — which were originally meant for storm or rain water disposal — as sullage carriers for the wastewater.
“The gravity of the situation can be judged from the fact that no trunk sewerage infrastructure exists in southern Lahore which is being urbanised speedily. Sewerage and drainage system in central areas of Lahore has outlived its utility and required rehabilitation and revamp.
“Furthermore, wastewater is being disposed of into water bodies without any treatment as no plant is available at present for the purpose.
“Rapidly depleting groundwater resources, inadequate and aging network, wastage of water due to leakage, theft and misuse, arsenic contamination, insufficient water tariff to cover costs, flooding during heavy Monsoon and poor quality of discharge are the key challenges, Wasa has been facing,” said the officer.
“Since Wasa is not a financially sustainabe entity, the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) was approached to collaborate a comprehensive study to address the key challenges. The JICA expressed its willing to fund for investment in the Lahore water supply, sewerage and drainage improvement project as a soft loan. The Punjab government will soon negotiate terms and conditions with JICA that would initiate a comprehensive study followed by provision of the soft loan that is expected to be available during the implementation period of the business plan from 2011-12 to 2016-17,” the officer said.
Under the plan, the possibilities for induction of surface water would be explored – to use the canal water by installing a treatment plant upstream and returning the water after treating it at downstream.
In order to improve water pressure and quality in the distribution system, new wells would be developed in localities where discharge has reduced considerably.
Additional reservoirs would be constructed to improve water supply during peak hours while the old water supply would either be rehabilitated or replaced.
A regular monitoring mechanism with scientific leak detection instruments and methods would be introduced while water pressure would be augmented to prevent damage to its quality.
Some 460 bulk flow and 300,000 consumer meters would be installed to accurately establish water production and its use.
“Wasa has more than 500,000 consumers but only 50,000 of them have metered connections till recently when we installed another 7,500 or so meters,” the officer said.
Complete arsenic testing and removal plants would be installed on all sources, the Wasa Laboratory would be equipped with latest instruments and remedial measures would be taken in the field.
A preventive maintenance programme would be developed and implemented to address the inadequate and aging sewerage network through JICA-funded project, especially in central areas of Lahore.
The old and outlived sewerage and drainage networks would be replaced and wastewater pumping capacity would be augmented.
In order to prevent flooding during heavy monsoon, sewage and drains would be separated while initiating a disaster management programme to deal with rain and flooding.
A comprehensive door-to-door survey would be conducted to identify and register illegal water users, recovery of arrears would be made through Wasa staff as well as by outsourcing the process. In order to reduce rising operating costs, energy audit would be conducted in liaison with Lesco while tracking system would be installed at vehicles to prevent their misuse.
For human resource development and the capacity building of employees, Punjab Water and Sanitation Academy would be established as new and better technology required training of technical staff on regular basis.
Through community participation, Wasa services would be extended to so far un-served areas besides expanding revenue base by adding new consumers, especially private housing schemes, rationalisation and increase in water tariff in accordance with the indexation.