Water is the most important and basic necessity for human life. Without water life can’t exist. Water is a fundamental human right of any country’s citizens, while the state is responsible for providing clean and safe drinking water to them. At present, the supply of safe and healthy water has become a great concern.

Drinking water in many areas of Sindh has a lot of pollutants due to arsenic contamination, which has emerged as a serious threat to public health. This is the important debate for policy makers, of both the local government, and international organizations that deal with water shortage and the provision of safe drinking water. According to UNICEF investigations conducted in collaboration with governmental and private organizations, the occurrence of arsenic in ground water demands immediate attention and effective action.

In Sindh, the main source of drinking water is ground water. A majority of people use the water sans treatment or filtration, which gives rise to a number of water based diseases. Arsenic is a naturally occurring element, which is widely distributed in earth’s crust in the form of inorganic arsenic compounds. Exactly 240 samples out of 2218 collected in surveys conducted in Thatta, Badin, Dadu, Mirpurkhas, Khairpur, Nawabshah, Shikarpur, Ghotki and Noushehroferoz districts of Sindh, had shown high levels of arsenic. The normal range of prevalence of arsenic in drinking water is 10 parts per billion (ppb) per litre of water but according to a research study conducted in these areas of Sindh, over 36 percent of population was exposed to the arsenic contamination of over 10 ppb in the drinking water, while almost 16 percent of the population was exposed to over 50 ppb. 

According to the opinions of experts, arsenic occurs in the ground as part of soil and rock, and arsenic contamination of ground water is found in many countries throughout the world including the USA, Canada, Thailand, Cambodia, China, Taiwan, Japan, Australia, Nepal, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and some countries in the African continent. Today, approximately 750 million people live without access to an improved and safe drinking water supply. Over 137 million people in more than 70 countries are probably affected by arsenic poisoning caused by drinking water. In Pakistan, a study conducted by the UNICEF reveals that as many as three million people acquire infections by drinking contaminated water. Of those infected, 40 percent die every year.

The presence of arsenic in water poses many health hazards. Higher concentration (0.05 ppm/ 50 ppb) causes cancer in the gastrointestinal tract, lung cancer and bladder cancer, while 70-8- mg of arsenic can turn water into an acute poison, which severely affects the central nervous system and skin. It causes muscular weakness, loss of appetite and nausea which leads to inflammation of the mucous membranes in the eye, nose and larynx; skin lesions will also occur.

To provide citizens with basic necessities of life such as food, safe drinking water and healthcare and to look after their well-being is the constitutional responsibility of the state. It is an undeniable fact that arsenic contamination is increasing in the whole of Sindh. The outflow of sewerage and disposal of garbage in canal water are the main reasons behind increasing arsenic contamination in ground drinking water and after a period of time it will cause a colossal damage of lives if we fail to control it swiftly and effectively.

The provincial and federal governments have to take collective responsibility for the preparation of a holistic plan and policies to provide citizens with access to safe drinking water. There is a dire need for the development of an arsenic mitigation mechanism. Keeping in view the socio-economic background of rural and urban populations in the arsenic affected areas, the government has to introduce low cost arsenic removal technologies and filters for treating arsenic-contaminated water at the household level.