—PHED fails to fix schemes aiming to provide clean water at affordable cost
–Stolen equipment, lack of maintenance caused failure, survey finds
LAHORE: Due to the incompetence of Punjab Public Health Engineering Department (PHED), the dream to supply clean water to the rural areas at an affordable cost could not be fulfilled as at least 30 schemes remain in miserable condition and seek immediate attention.
Reliable sources in the PHED told Pakistan Today that the Punjab Provincial Development Working Party (PDWP) has completed 5,056 rural water supply schemes since 1970, out of which 1,632 are dysfunctional.
“These schemes have either completed their design life period or failed due to some other reasons. Only 662 schemes are those which are approved for rehabilitation in this ADP (Annual Development Program) project,” sources said. “PDWP has approved Rs 8195.950 million for rehabilitation of 662 dysfunctional rural water supply schemes of Physical Planning & Housing (PPH) and Local Government Sectors to supply clean drinking water in districts of Punjab. The approval was given in the PDWP’s 12th meeting held on 8th January 2019 for Fiscal Year (FY) 2018-19 presided by chairman Planning and Development Board.”
It was further revealed that out of 662 schemes, 582 schemes had completed their design life of 10 years before 2008 and remaining 66 schemes from 2009 to 2019 were within their design life and the record about the design date of remaining 14 schemes is not available with PHE Department.
Recently, a survey on 30 out of 66 schemes has been conducted which were located in Sargodha, Faisalabad, Sahiwal and Kasur by a government department, sources said, adding that the purpose of the survey was to dig out the reasons about the failure of the schemes.
The survey report, available with the scribe, states, “The physical condition of all 30 schemes is very poor despite the fact that they have not completed their actual designed life yet which was 10 years and this is because of the negligence of department and community. All these schemes were operated only two to four months and after that, no one was concerned about their continued operation and maintenance. As a result of it, all the machinery including water pump, transformers, switches board, distribution board and even doors and windows have been stolen.”
“Due to unsatisfactory planning from government departments, in many cities, both water filtration and water supply schemes were provided which led water supply schemes to fail because people have to pay electricity dues while they can get free of cost pure water from water filtration plant.”
“Similarly, as in many regions people have their own small water pump systems which are sufficient for them and they do not need any other water supply source and the inhabitants of the areas are also not satisfied from water supply scheme because during layout of water supply pipelines, joints were not provided throughout the pipeline that defects in the layout of pipelines reduced quality of water by allowing dust and dirt particles to enter the water.”
The survey report further states, “There were no arrangements have been made for the scheduled training for tube well operators, electricians, technicians and other staff. Operation and Maintenance is a key component of water supply scheme but unfortunately Operation & Maintenance for water supply scheme is still dormant and no work has been done on it so far, although Operation and Maintenance framework has been developed and handed over to the local community.”
It was also informed to this scribe that PHE Department staff never came to check the sites during the last few years.
Sources exposed the negligence of PHED officials by saying, “The age of concrete structures ranges from 40 to 60 years but it in many pump rooms of the mentioned schemes, the central portion of RCC slab were fallen down which indicated the inadequate quality of construction work and construction material.”
“In many project sites the schemes were failed due to construction or rehabilitation of roads which indicated that the distribution pipes were not properly laid down at a suitable depth. In Chichawatni, the tariff was commercial instead of domestic which led to high electricity bills which were unacceptable to the community and ultimately schemes were failed. The concerned department never tried to change the tariff of those schemes.”
Sources also informed, “In the Well type water supply schemes, the wells were open and height of parapet wall is very low (around 1.5’) that can lead to any accident or even death. In Bhalwal, district Sargodha, the wastewater and hazardous gases produced by local industry discharged into open drain that polluted groundwater and makes it undrinkable and also polluted the atmosphere of whole area. This also produced lots of smell which caused diseases in the locality.”
While talking to Pakistan Today, community development officer (CDO) of PHED in Sargodha Humaira Ali responded that the machinery including transformers, water pumps and distribution boards were stolen which led to the failure of some schemes.
“There is a need to make different strategies to stop this sort of incidents. First information report (FIR) should be registered against those who mugged the pump room and included that into their houses and are using these for their personal use,” she added.
She also argued that people of the rural areas are reluctant to pay for clean water which is also the main cause of the failure of these schemes. She suggested, “Before allocation of water supply scheme, preliminary survey should be conducted in the local community to determine whether community population is willing to receive such a scheme or not. This will avoid uselessness of water supply schemes. This should be done especially in those areas where people have their own small water pumps.”
While commenting on the same issue, PHED Planning Engineer Abubakar Nazeer Khan said, “Safe and good quality of water is essential for human beings. The water supply scheme projects from government help the community to reduce water-borne diseases by providing high quality of safe and drinkable water at their doorstep but for the success of such community health projects it is the responsibility of our COD teams to educate the community and a public project can be successful only if community acts responsibly.”