THOUSANDS of children studying in schools owned by City District Government Lahore (CDGL) may suffer from serious health issues as they are drinking contaminated water in their schools, The News has learnt.
Some two months back, Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif ordered the CDGL to carry out a comprehensive water sampling of its schools through a private laboratory for water testing. Environment Protection wing of CDGL carried out the activity and took samples of around 1,150 schools. Recently, the final water testing report was submitted to the District Officer (Environment) who forwarded it to the DCO Lahore. CDGL sources claimed that as per the report, serious chemical and bacterial contamination was found in majority of the schools. They said arsenic, fluoride and other chemicals were found in water of many schools while water of many schools was contaminated with dangerous bacteria such as E-coli and etc.
The News contacted Younas Zahid, District Officer (Environment) but he refused to reveal the figures as well as names of the schools where chemical and bacterial contamination was found. “The report is with the DCO Lahore and he had directed all the officials concerned to remain tight-lipped,” he said and refused to talk further on this issue.
Polluted drinking water has already become a serious threat to Lahorites as majority of localities in the provincial capital are getting water with chemical and bacterial contamination resulting in spread of different diseases especially of stomach. Water contamination is also resulting in illnesses such as diarrhoea, typhoid, intestinal worms and hepatitis among the students and teachers of these schools. Sources said common bacterial contamination found in defective samples was the presence of Coliform Bacteria, which according to the WHO standards should be 0 in 100ml. They said that presence of Coliform Bacteria in water is a clear indicator that sewer water is mixed in the water distribution system.
Environmentalists said Coliform Bacteria are abundant in feces of warm-blooded animals. In most instances, Coliforms themselves are not the cause of sickness, but they are easy to culture and their presence is used to indicate that other pathogenic organisms of fecal origin may be present. Fecal pathogens include bacteria, viruses, protozoa or parasites.
Sources said CDGL has no regular monitoring system for checking contamination of water supply due to which the students are forced to take arsenic, fluoride and other toxic chemicals, resulting in serious health threats.
Sources in the Environment Protection Department (EPD) Punjab revealed that the department had conducted its last study on underground water some seven years back in which it collected 20 samples each from every district of the province to ascertain the quality of sub-soil water. These samples were collected from residential, commercial, industrial and rural localities.
A senior EPD official on anonymity claimed that 80 percent of Lahore’s underground water was contaminated. He said reasons for bacterial contamination was direct discharge of domestic waste containing household effluent and human waste to a sewer system, a natural drain or water body, a nearby field or an internal septic tank. He said presence of arsenic and fluoride in sub-soil water was the result of untreated industrial effluent in water supply sources such as rivers and canals.
When contacted DCO, Lahore Capt (r) Usman said that the CDGL had planned to install filtration plants at the schools where water was found contaminated. Despite repeated questions, the DCO didn’t give the exact number of schools where contaminated water was found. He, however, said that he could show the figures in the morning.
However, the DCO confirmed that arsenic, other chemicals and bacterial contaminations were found from ‘some’ schools. Later, he said that water samples of around 300 schools out of 1,069 were found contaminated. The DCO said water tanks and taps of some schools were cleaned after which the situation was clea
On the other hand, parents of children studying in government schools demanded the Punjab government and CDGL to install filtration plants at every school to save the children from hazardous chemicals. They demanded the CDGL to introduce a regular water testing system at schools.