Minister laments EPA’s failure to maintain drinking water record

Punjab Environment Minister Muhammad Rizwan orders officers to provide record of water being supplied to communities in their respective districts

Punjab Environment Minister Muhammad Rizwan on Wednesday showed displeasure on Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) district officers (DOs) for their failure in maintaining the record of drinking water.

Insiders informed Minute Mirror that the environment minister had called an urgent meeting of all the district officers of the EPA in Lahore with all the record of their activities.

However, during the meeting, no officer could provide the relevant record. The minister ordered all the DOs of the province to provide record of water being supplied to the communities in their respective districts immediately.

Sources said, “During the meeting, the minister stressed on the record of drinking water in all districts, which was not available with any of the district officer.”

The provision of safe drinking water is the responsibility of Water and Sanitation Agency (WASA), Public Health and Engineering Department, municipal and local authorities but since 2010, the EPA has been made the major regulatory body in this regard.

It has been reported in different media outlets time and again that the majority of citizens in the largest province rely on the contaminated or unsafe water. Among two major water sources – surface and ground water – the latter has been considered as the safest to drink.

Moreover, according to National Environmental Quality Standards (NEQS) there are over 100 different parameters that have to be monitored by EPA, out of which 32 parameters were related to drinking water alone. These parameters include aluminium, antimony, arsenic, barium, boron, cadmium, lead, fluoride, pesticides, mercury, zinc, copper and other toxic elements in the water.

Medics are in agreement over the fact that unhealthy and unsafe water was the major cause of most of the water-borne diseases.

The United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), in its report issued in 2014, highlighted that water of over 73 percent of Punjab’s villages was unsafe to drink, as it had excessive contamination of Totally Dissolved Salts (TDS), arsenic, nitrates and fluoride in it.

Talking to Minute Mirror, Punjab Environment Minister Muhammad Rizwan said that where EPA was responsible for protection, conservation and improvement of environment by controlling air and water pollution, monitoring drinking water in the province was also its mandate.

“EPA as a regulatory body has the mandate to take and test the drinking water samples from any spot. It even has the authority to test the drinking water being sold in bottles,” he said.

Rizwan added that the department would not tolerate any negligence toward this very issue of unhealthy water being provided to masses of the province.

Rizwan further said that he had directed all the DOs to provide the record regarding the environmental approvals, industries working without environmental approval, housing societies and the record of all the entities involved in handling hazardous substances.

Samiullah Randhawa is a correspondent covering environment, climate change, food, water and ecology. He is an International Center For Journalists alumnus and a fellow at Kettering Foundation Ohio, USA. He has won two Agahi Awards for reporting on climate change and water crisis. He tweets @sami_randhawa and can be reached at