According to a study conducted by UNICEF, 60 percent to 80 percent of all patients in Pakistan suffer from waterborne diseases. Officials at the Nishtar Hospital in Multan estimate the number of patients in the hospital suffering from infections caused by contaminated water to be 70 percent to 80 percent. The quality of water in the city and surrounding areas has further deteriorated since the floods of 2010.
A group of Active Citizens from Multan took it upon themselves to help make the quality of drinking water better in their city and advocate for the need for clean drinking water in their community. They named their group Passion Youth Group and their Social Action Project was titled ‘Drink Pure and Live More’.
The group started their Social Action Project with three objectives in mind: to provide awareness about the consequences of consuming impure water and to encourage people to drink clean water, analysis of water samples, and conservation of water. They visited a nearby slum where people usually drank tap water, or collected water from a near-by brook. The group members visited residents of the area, talked to them about the dangers of impure drinking water, and distributed around 200 flyers. A noteworthy fact is that even though a water filtration plant was located not too far from the area, people still did not bother to collect water from there.
The members of the group collected samples of drinking water from the area. The water samples were then tested at a local Water and Sanitation Association (WASA) laboratory. They also held meetings with doctors at the Nishtar Hospital to gather more information on water-borne diseases.
According to the group members, their efforts were appreciated and supported by WASA officials and the local doctors. Officials of WASA went so far as to assure the group that they would test 200 water samples free of cost.
Money was pooled together and water filtration equipment was bought and installed at one of the group member’s house, who did not live too far from the impoverished area of the city. Residents of the slum were then invited by the group to collect water from here, free of cost. According to Azeem Siddiqui, a founding member of the group, the make-shift filtration plant caters to around 200 – 300 people per week.
Awareness sessions about the dangers of consuming impure drinking water, and conservation of water were also organized by the group at local schools and universities. Says Azeem: “with the passage of time rapid population growth, urbanization, and unsustainable water consumption by the agricultural and industrial sectors have placed immense stress on our water reservoirs”.