LAHORE - Pakistan is water stressed country and is nearing the threshold of water scarcity , media was told Tuesday.

Briefing on a project titled ‘International Labour and Environmental Standards (ILES) Application in Pakistan’s Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) was held at a local hotel on Tuesday.

WWF-Pakistan Director General Hammad Naqi Khan said that access to safe drinking water in rural and urban areas was declining.

He went on to say: “WWF-P is implementing six-year project funded by the European Union in collaboration with the International Labour Organization (ILO) in Lahore, Karachi, Sialkot and Faisalabad to improve capacity of the public sector to implement Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs) and national environmental laws and standards in Pakistan.

“The project involves building capacity of the textile and leather sector to adopt Smart Environmental Management Practices (SEMPs) to efficiently use water and energy resources and reduce the use of hazardous chemicals by 15 to 20 per cent. Further the project is aimed at contributing to improvement in industry based laws so that Pakistan’s export market can compete with international labour and environmental standards.”

Naqi said that the implementation of laws pertaining to industrial effluents generated from the textile and leather industries were very weak. Further, waste from these industries contains heavy metals such as copper, chromium, and nickel.

He said that a large population of major cities in Pakistan lacked access to safe drinking water as freshwater resources were being contaminated due to multiple reasons. He was of the view that industries need to ensure proper disposal of solid and liquid waste. Industries should also ensure that the labour force working in their facilities were not exposed to harmful chemicals.

 ‘WWF-Pakistan is committed to protecting the freshwater resources of the country and improving water access, efficiency, and allocation for people and the environment,’ he added.

Coordinator ILES WWF-Pakistan Arjmand Qayyum said that the textile and leather sectors represent the largest domain of the industrial base and play a key role in the country’s economy. He shared that these industries were resource intensive where large amounts of water, energy and chemicals of different classes were used, contributing to an overall increase in pollution levels in the country. This has consequential impacts on natural resources, the health of the people and eventually on overall economic conditions. He also said that due to poor management and unwise use of water, most of the population was deprived of this basic amenity of life. He informed that WWF-Pakistan would initiate a study on the situation analysis of water resources in Karachi and would establish a case for a citywide partnership for responsible use of the resource.

Senior Officer ILES, WWF-Pakistan Sohaib Anwar stressed the need of analysing the current situation and revising statistics on water quantity and quality in major cities of Pakistan. He further said that industrial sectors in the city must reduce carbon footprint and make climate resilient initiatives that would help addressing issues related to water and energy efficiency in these cities.