On Wednesday, the Journal of Science Advances published the first ever comprehensive study of the amount of arsenic present in groundwater of Pakistan and the results were shocking.

According to the limit set by the World Health Organisation (WHO), the maximum amount of arsenic that can be present in ground water is 10 micrograms per litre. The study shows that areas such as Lahore and Hyderabad, and especially plains and tributaries around the Indus River have as much as 200 micrograms per litre. This means that millions of people who drink this water are at a risk of being affected. Almost 50 million people in Pakistan use ground water as authorities wanted to avoid using the pathogen based surface water. However, in their attempt to protect the citizens, they have used so much ground water that it has reached the level where toxins exist.

In order to conduct the study, samples from over 1200 sites were collected and then tested. While Abida Farooqui, assistant professor of environmental sciences at Quaid-e-Azam University, believes that the sample is too small to be relied upon; Lubna Bukhari, Head of the government’s Council for Research in Water, claims that the authorities are aware of the problem and it is a real concern.

As always, initiatives are not well researched which is why they always backfire. Joel Podgorski, geophysicist at the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology (SFIAST), was of the opinion that drinking wells in the Indus plains need to be tested to get an exact figure. Experts believe that contamination it is due to heavy irrigation. Further tests need to be conducted to prove that, so that society can shift towards other methods of irrigation.

Despite a report submitted in 2016, claiming that 80 percent of water sources in 2,807 villages across 24 districts were contaminated with bacteria or other pollutants, nothing was done to test and purify the sources. Our institutions always need a push from someone outside the system to remind them of the problems of the masses. Water is already a scarce resource; if it is not taken care of, Pakistani has no future.