LAHORE: Stressing the need for conserving groundwater, speakers at a session highlighted that groundwater level has been declining in Lahore with a depletion rate of approximately about 2.5 to 3 feet per year.

World Wide Fund for Nature-Pakistan (WWF-Pakistan) on Thursday conducted the fifth session of the City-wide Partnership, under the project titled International Labour and Environmental Standards (ILES) implementation in Pakistan’s Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in collaboration with the Pakistan Council of Research in Water Resources (PCRWR) and Irrigation Research Institute (IRI), Irrigation Department, government of Punjab. The aim of the session was to bring together stakeholders from different backgrounds to discuss issues related to groundwater availability and quality in Lahore.

Speakers further highlighted that the water table depth in the central part of the city had fallen below 130 feet (40 metres) approximately and was projected to drop below 230 feet (70 metres) in most areas by 2025. “If the present trend continues the situation will become even worse by 2040. Therefore there is an urgent need to conserve groundwater and adopt strategies at the earliest,” they urged.

A case study on Ravi River was also shared in the session, which highlighted issues around the basin such as ground and surface water quality deterioration, over-abstraction of groundwater, inequitable development leading to increased water stress and increase in waterborne diseases. Stakeholders discussed and recommended solutions such as improvements in water allocations between surface and groundwater, increased levels of treatment for industrial and municipal effluent and improvement in environmental flows. Ravi River is one of the eastern rivers apart from Sutlej River and Beas River in the Indus Basin. It is a snow-fed river with a total length of 720 kilometres, of which approximately 400km area lies in Pakistan.

Speaking on the occasion, WWF-Pakistan Director General Hammad Naqi Khan said, “Pakistan is a water stressed country and is nearing the threshold of water scarcity. Access to safe drinking water in rural and urban areas is declining and provision of potable water is a key issue that people face.” He noted that the implementation of laws pertaining to industrial effluents generated from the textile and leather industries were very weak. “Further, industrial waste from these industries contains heavy metals such as copper, chromium, and nickel. A large population of major cities in Pakistan does not have access to safe drinking water as freshwater resources are being contaminated due to multiple reasons.”

He was also of the view that safe drinking water should be made available to the population, while industries needed to ensure proper disposal of solid and liquid waste. “Industries should ensure that the labour force working in their facilities is not exposed to harmful chemicals.”

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