Arsenic in Lahore’s water

LAHORE, Nov 13: Arsenic and fluoride contamination pose a growing threat to public health in the city, according to research undertaken by Dr Prof Kauser Jamal Cheema, head of the Environmental Science and Zoology Departments at Lahore College for Women University (LCWU).

Commenting on the findings of a survey of 650 tubewells in nine towns of Lahore, Dr Cheema said for too long arsenic and fluoride contamination of the city’s water supply had been dismissed as a natural phenomenon because of the area’s geology.

While geology might play a significant part, anthropogenic activity – such as the liberal usage of pesticides and fertilisers, also seeped through the sub-soil and contaminated the water supply, she said.

“We found a number of sites with arsenic levels above the 50ppb (parts per billion) and a higher number above 10ppb” she said. 50ppb is the Pakistan government accepted limit while 10ppb is prescribed by the World Health Organization (WHO).

She said while the results did not mean an imminent threat to people’s health, arsenic levels could reach highly dangerous levels within 10-20 years if Environment Protection Department did not crack down on untreated industrial effluent, and if water treatment plants – that had been in planning since 1979 – were not built.

Dr Cheema, whose work was sponsored by University College London and Development Partnerships in Higher Education, hopes to publish her detailed findings in an international journal soon.

CLIMATE CHANGE MODELLING: The Pakistani government should link up with regional partners to implement climate change modelling applications, to better understand the specific regional impacts global warming is likely to make.

Dr M Jobair Alam, a senior professor of Civil Engineering in BUET; Dhaka, Bangladesh, made these remarks at a seminar on Environmental Information Systems and Climate Change at LCWU here on Thursday.

Such information, he said, could also help developing countries in selling carbon credits to the developed ones as per capita emission of carbon was lower in developing countries.

He said quotas set by Inter Governmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) could only be exploited by having accurate data to hand.

He said that formulae such as the Hidley Research, ICTP, PRECIS, MM5, could be modified for use by Pakistani scientists, and were freely available on the internet.

In Bangladesh, climate change is affecting rainfall patterns, seasons, and average temperatures. “Dry seasons are getting dryer, rainy seasons are getting rainier, and the autumn and spring periods have been cut back,” he said.

Source: Daily Dawn, 14th November, 2008

 

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