The heart breaking video of a child in Sanghar, who was holding his dead rooster in his arms while calling out Prime Minister Imran Khan and Pakistan People Party Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto Zardari over their failure to get rain and flood water drained out from his neighbourhood, exposed the sheer incompetence of the ruling provincial and federal governments. The child lamented that his rooster died from drinking contaminated water, and that humans will also die if they drink the same water.
Is there any life without water?
Up until now billions have been spent by several countries in search of water on planets across the solar system while many in Pakistan are still languishing without their utmost basic right. In a study conducted by the WaterAid entitled “The Water Gap — The State of the World’s Water 2018”, it was revealed that Pakistan ranked at number 9 in the list of top 10 countries with the lowest access to clean water close to home (by population).
Furthermore, it was unveiled that there is a clear disparity between the access to water of the rich and poor. While almost all Pakistan’s wealthy population has access to clean water close to home, one in five people living in poverty do not.
This sad state of affairs justifies the young boy’s anger. The lack of clean drinking water coupled with an excess of accumulated contaminated rain and flood water pose threats beyond the death of a beloved pet.
Poliovirus Lurks In Contaminated Water
According to the World Health Organisation, ‘’Poliomyelitis (polio) is a highly infectious viral disease that largely affects children under 5 years of age. The virus is transmitted by person-to-person spread mainly through the faecal-oral route or, less frequently, by a common vehicle (e.g. contaminated water or food) and multiplies in the intestine, from where it can invade the nervous system and cause paralysis.’’
Furthermore, accumulated rain and flood water makes it extremely difficult for health workers to reach children in flood affected areas to provide vaccination against the crippling virus.
Unfortunately, Pakistan remains one of the two countries in the world where polio is still endemic, the other being Afghanistan. According to local news sources, as of 21 September 2020, there have been 73 confirmed cases of Poliovirus in Pakistan.
The Effects of Novel Coronavirus
As of now, COVID-19 has claimed 6,444 lives in Pakistan, as per local news sources. According to UNICEF, ‘’During a global pandemic, one of the cheapest, easiest, and most important ways to prevent the spread of a virus is to wash your hands frequently with soap and water.’’ However, from the above statistics, it is evident that many do not have the basic necessity of water to begin with.
Article 9 of the Constitution: The Right to Life
Although the Constitution of Pakistan does not grant an explicit right to water, it is implicit in Article 9, which enforces the right to life.
This was confirmed by the Supreme Court of Pakistan in Barrister Zafarullah Khan Vs Federation Of Pakistan (2018 SCMR 2001). The case concerned the construction of the Diamer Bhasha Dam and Mohmand Dam. The apex court ruled that the right to clean water stemmed from the right to life as enshrined under the Constitution as a Fundamental Right.
Moreover, it was held that, ‘’Water was a resource to which everyone was entitled, and it was indispensable to those who wished to lead a dignified life.’’ Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar, as he then was, stated, “All living organisms on this planet are dependent on water for their survival. More than 60% of the human body itself comprises of water. It is well-known that human beings can survive longer without food than without water, subject to varying weather conditions. Animals, plants and even the smallest of organisms require water.”
Therefore, it can be concluded that the people of Pakistan do have a right to clean drinking water.
Looking ahead contaminated water
The weather experts had forewarned about the monsoon spell that caused havoc across the country, however, the authorities did not take any applicable precautionary measures to tackle the plight that the citizens face almost every year.
One simple solution to the accumulated rain water that got contaminated and the water scarcity woes could have been ‘rainwater harvesting’. Unfortunately, the government failed to take any relevant measures.
In the wake of the calamity, Prime Minister Imran Khan said his government would “…be announcing a plan for a permanent solution to the problems caused by floods by cleaning of drainage channels, fixing of the sewage system and resolving the huge challenge of water supply to the people …’’
Why did the government fail to take any initiatives ahead of the monsoon season to intercept the damage? Each year several promises are made, only time will tell whether they will be fulfilled.
The writer is a Barrister of the Honourable Society of Lincoln’s Inn, lecturer of constitutional and civil law and a human rights activist. She tweets @RidaT95. The views expressed in this article are the authors own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.