Every year KKAWF carries out a clean-up operation on the banks of the Korang to raise awareness of the problems of drinking water supply in Pakistan
By Farwa Zafar, Social Development Consultant and Cristina Afridi, Chairperson, KKAWF – Karim Khan Afridi Welfare Foundation (KKAWF) is a civil society outfit working on drug prevention education, promoting Sports, Art & Culture, Civic Sense, raising public awareness on urgency to address environmental issues in the country. It has taken the lead to draw attention on the issue of water pollution, as it is one of the most dangerous hazards to human health and a major public health challenge facing Pakistan.
Contaminated drinking water sources
Drinking water sources, both surface and groundwater are contaminated with coliforms, toxic metals and pesticides throughout the country. Various drinking water quality parameters set by WHO are frequently violated. Human activities like improper disposal of municipal and industrial effluents are the main factors contributing to the deterioration of water quality. Despite many policy initiatives to promote a clean and green Pakistan, the issue of water pollution remains very serious.
Along with millions other people worldwide, Pakistan celebrated the ‘World Environment Day’ on June 5. This year’s theme “Only One Earth”, highlighted the need to live sustainably in harmony with nature by bringing transformative changes – through policies and our choices – towards cleaner, greener lifestyles. In 2021 Pakistan was privileged to join the international community in celebrating the “World Environment Day” as its global host.
For the last four decades, the world has been observing this Day as the largest global platform for raising public awareness about the most pressing environmental challenges. As one of the top ten countries most vulnerable to the effects of climate change, Pakistan highly values global efforts to address this issue, halt and reverse biodiversity loss, eliminate pollution, and restore ecosystems. The whole of Pakistan – with its rich landscapes and biodiversity – has become one of the countries most threatened by climate change. All its ecosystems are degrading as a result of human actions.
An estimated 40% of all deaths in Pakistan are caused by ingesting contaminated water — water filled with industrial waste, arsenic, diseases, and sewage. As recently as the late 1990s, Pakistan’s water supply was still drinkable, but today, to drink anything but filtered or bottled water is to risk disease. It is a growing concern among those who care for the future health of the coming generations and planet earth.
The “Keep Korang Clean” yearly awareness initiative
In continuation of its efforts to combat water pollution, the Foundation organises the annual “Keep Korang Clean” activity, an initiative implemented for and with young people to highlight the pollution levels of the river. The 20-kilometre-long Korang River originates from Murree Hills and flows towards the country’s capital, Islamabad. Along with other streams, the Korang river form the Rawal Lake, an artificial reservoir that provides the water needs for the residents of the twin cities of Rawalpindi and Islamabad.
As Cristina Afridi, Chairperson of the Foundation, points out: “It is essential to inspire youth and communities to learn more about environmental protection issues, so that they can in turn raise awareness of these problems and take action to contribute to a cleaner, greener environment. Ultimately, addressing water pollution is about protecting human health and saving lives.”
In Pakistan, only 20 percent of the population has access to clean drinking water. The other 80 percent generally have to drink water obtained by groundwater which is easily contaminated by waste and therefore susceptible to transmit many human diseases. About 50 percent of all diseases are caused by poor water quality, including endemic diarrheal diseases that cause up to 100,000 deaths each year and account for 33 percent of all deaths. In Rawalpindi, such water borne diseases as diarrhea, gastroenteritis, dysentery and viral hepatitis A and E are on the rise due to the unsafe drinking water coming from the Korang River.
Polluted water poses a serious threat not only to human life but the environment and the economy as well. Nevertheless, efforts to highlight this pollution are beginning to show positive results: in the 2022 edition of our initiative, the government has committed to setting up water filtration plants.
KKAWF has successfully mobilized the local community and youth, so that they too, together with the government, can be a part of this challenge, and a part of the solution. What we need to meet such challenge is a united partnership. No time to wait. Also, cleaning up the Korang River initiative is also intended to promote environmentally friendly water sports and activities, like rowing and bird watching.
The first Keep Korang Clean event took place in April 2015 and has continued annually, with over 400 participants including students and teachers of many schools from Islamabad and Banigala, the local community, the Environment Directorate, and many ecofriends. These groups join hands with KKAWF to create environment consciousness by motivating themselves and others to ‘Stay Clean’ and to develop civic sense with the goal of improving water quality. The event consists of various awareness and cleanup competition activities among the students with distribution of certificates and prizes to the winning team by special guests and dignitaries, who are known to have an interest in environmental issues.
Thus KKAWF is playing a crucial role to highlight the goal of a clean and green Pakistan, with its spotlight on environmental issues through initiatives like ‘Keep Korang Clean’.