LAHORE – The Punjab government has decided to clean up overhead water reservoirs and make them functional for constant supply of drinking water to the people and notice has been taken of the closure of 1,343 redundant water supply schemes worth millions of rupees throughout the province and the same would be made operational on priority basis.

This was decided in a meeting of the Chief Minister Committee for the Restoration of Water Supply and Sewerage Schemes, chaired by Punjab Minister for Planning and Development Chaudhry Abdul Ghafoor.

Addressing the meeting, Ghafoor said all the concerned DCOs and MPAs from Punjab have been asked to submit budgetary proposals for the restoration of such water schemes, so that the amount might be allocated in the forthcoming annual budget. “We cannot provide drinking water through direct pumping system uninterruptedly because of unscheduled and worst spell of loadshedding imposed by the federal government and people have to face a lot of problems because of the non-availability of water along with power outages, so we have decided to go for overhead reservoirs, already constructed for the same purpose,” the provincial planning and development minister said. Necessary directions to the concerned Town Municipal Authorities and officials of Public Health Engineering Department had been passed on for prompt action, he added.

Taking notice of the closure of 1,343 water supply schemes worth million of rupees throughout the province, Ghafoor decided to restore the same on priority basis. He asked the concerned DCOs and MPAs to submit their proposals to make them functional along with the estimates of expenditure, so that the amount may be allocated in the forthcoming annual budget. On the other hand, the experts of Water and Sanitation Agency (WASA) are of the opinion that the proposed project for the restoration of drinking water reservoirs was not feasible because of technical reasons. Seeking anonymity, an expert engineer of the department said that the main objective of constructing such water reservoirs in planned housing colonies was to provide drinking water in case of shortage. “This is possible to some extent in well-planned housing schemes, but very difficult in thickly populated residential localities,” he added.

Giving reasons for impracticality of such project, he said that most of the water reservoirs and tanks were constructed about three decades ago and they were in a dilapidated condition. “They may collapse any time because life of the majority of the existing overhead water reservoirs had already expired and the government would have to spend millions of rupees on the maintenance and repair of buildings of water reservoirs besides cleaning them with expensive chemicals.

He said that the new water reservoirs could possibly not be constructed in such a large number as required for the cleaning and repairing of these reservoirs. “The estimated expenses are likely to increase because the government would have to bear the cost of laying down new water supply pipelines for the restoration of water supply,” he added.

However, sources in the Wasa informed this scribe that such drinking water reservoirs or cemented water tanks had been shut down as precautionary measure in the president Gen Ziaul Haq era in order to avoid any terrorism because some anti Islamic elements mixed poison in some drinking water reservoirs of Saudi Arabia which claimed lives of dozens of innocent persons. Later, the democratic governments allowed the departments to construct such water reservoirs in newly launched government housing schemes but such governments neither focussed on these closed and expired overhead water reservoirs nor allowed the departments to restore supply of drinking water from such old water tanks while number of existing old water reservoirs is more than 80 only in the provincial capital, they concluded.

MPAs Sher Ali Khan and Mian Tariq Mahmood; Additional Chief Secretary and Housing Secretary Sohail Amir; Environment Secretary Saeed Iqbal Wahla; Local Government Additional Secretary Raja Jahangir; Bhakkar DCO; and officers of Finance and P&D Departments also attended the meeting.