Water and Corruption: a destructive partnership

The Global Corruption Report 2008 is the first report to assess how corruption affects all aspects of water – and reflects on what more can be done to ensure that corruption does not continue to destroy this basic and essential resource, one that is so fundamental to the lives of people all over the planet. This report shows that the corruption challenge needs to be recognised in the many global policy initiatives for environmental sustainability, development and security that relate to water.

Putting lives, livelihoods and sustainable development at risk

Nearly 1.2 billion people in the world do not have guaranteed access to water and more than 2.6 billion are without adequate sanitation, with devastating consequences for development and poverty reduction. In the coming decades the competition for water is expected to become more intense. Due to overuse and pollution, water-based ecosystems are considered the world’s most degraded natural resource. Water scarcity already affects local regions on every continent, and by 2025 more than 3 billion people could be living in water-stressed countries.

In developing countries, about 80 percent of health problems can be linked back to inadequate water and sanitation, claiming the lives of nearly 1.8 million children every year and leading to the loss of an estimated 443 million school days for the children who suffer from water-related ailments.

This Report argues that the crisis of water is a crisis of water governance, with corruption as one root cause. Corruption in the water sector is widespread and makes water undrinkable, inaccessible and unaffordable.

Water: a high-risk sector for corruption

This Report draws some preliminary conclusions about why water is especially vulnerable to corruption.

  • Water governance spills across agencies.
  • Water management is viewed as a largely technical issue in most countries.
  • Water involves large flows of public money.
  • Private investment in water is growing in countries already known to have high risks of corruption.
  • Informal providers, often vulnerable to corruption, continue to play a key role in delivering water to the poor.
  • Corruption in water most affects those with the weakest voice.
  • Water is scarce, and becoming more so.

Urgent action is needed to mobilise all stakeholders to develop practical ways of tackling corrupt practices in the many and varied parts of the water sector. This is the central message of the Global Corruption Report 2008.

The global water crisis: a crisis of governance

The story of corruption in the water sector is a story of corruption in resources and services vital for life and development. It is also the story of a sector in crisis. Each year millions of people die of waterborne diseases because access to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation has not been prioritized. In 2004 more than 1 billion people lacked access to safe drinking water and 2 billion did not have access to adequate sanitation – and, despite successes in many regions, the population without access to water services is increasing. Corrupt practices exacerbate these gaps, removing investment that might be used to extend services to the poor, diverting finance from the maintenance of deteriorating infrastructure and taking cash from the pockets of the poor to pay escalated costs and bribes for drinking water.

At the heart of these failures is the crisis of governance in water – a crisis in the use of power and authority over water and how countries manage their water affairs. And yet, despite the imperatives of water for citizens’ livelihoods and a country’s growth, water governance has not been prioritized. Institutional dysfunction, poor financial management and low accountability mean that many governments are not able to respond to the crisis, and weak capacity and limited awareness leave citizens and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in many countries unable to demand change.

The nature and scope of corruption

Corruption – the abuse of entrusted power for personal gain – can be found in a vast range of interactions at all levels and in all aspects of the water sector. When bureaucratic or petty corruption occurs, a hierarchy of public servants abuse their power to extract small bribes and favours. A water meter reader offers to reduce a customer’s bill in return for payment or a utility official only responds to water service complaints when favours are traded. When grand corruption happens, a relatively small cadre of public and private sector actors are involved and the rewards are high. For example, public funds for a rural water network are diverted into the pockets of ministry officials or a large dam construction contract is captured by a group of colluding companies.

When state capture occurs, the decision-making process and enforcement of water policies are manipulated to favour the interests of a few influential water users or service providers at the expense of the broader public.

Typically there are three sets of corrupt interactions:

  • Between public officials and other public officials. This includes corrupt practices in resource allocation. It can also involve using bribes to determine the outcome of personnel management decisions – such as payments to individuals for transfers and
    appointments to lucrative positions.
  • Between public officials and private actors. This includes forms of bribery and fraud that occur in relation to licensing, procurement and construction. Collusion or bid-rigging is typical of tendering processes in developed and developing countries and involves both international and national actors.
  • Between public officials and users/citizens/consumers. These practices, known as administrative or petty corruption, enable poor and non-poor households, farmers and other users to get water, get it more quickly or get it more cheaply. The series of corrupt practices in the sector extends from policy capture, to large and small publicprivate transactions in construction and operations, to interactions at the point of service delivery, which together can be plotted on a water ‘value chain’.

The framework shown in table 1 highlights these three sets of interactions in terms of the functions of the water sector: a cycle of policy-making and regulation, budgeting and planning, financing, programme design and management, tendering and procurement, construction, operation and maintenance, and monitoring and enforcement functions. The corruption risk map provides a framework for identifying these stakeholder incentives, potential conflicts of interests and the points along the water value chain that are most vulnerable to capture.

The impact of corruption: putting billions of lives at stake

The impact of corruption can be described in financial, economic, environmental and sociopolitical terms, and can also involve issues of security.


Weak governance and endemic corruption exact a social impact that financial calculations can never estimate. The barriers to access fall disproportionately on the poor in all regions. Chronically low levels of access are found among poorer households and, accordingly, many households find ways – creative ways – of obtaining water informally. They vary the sources from which they obtain water and pay higher prices when they can afford it. The poorest households in countries such as El Salvador, Jamaica and Nicaragua spend more than 10 per cent of their income on water while their cohorts in rich nations such as the United States pay only a third as much.


Poverty is multidimensional and household costs are not all financial. Whether poor households engage in corrupt transactions or not, they suffer due to the inefficiencies that corruption produces. Where corruption removes or increases the costs of access to water effects can be measured in terms of lost days, human development and lives. Close linkages have been found between access to safe water and infant mortality, girls’ education and the prevalence of waterborne disease.

Water is also a key driver of growth, being an indispensable input to production (in agriculture, industry, energy and transport). Currently, the extremely low levels of hydraulic infrastructure and limited water resources management capacity in the poorest countries undermine attempts to manage variability in water availability. Water reservoir storage capacity (per capita) in countries such as Morocco or India is less than one-tenth of the volume that Australia has in place. Corruption reduces the levels of investment in infrastructure, reduces resilience to shocks and undermines growth.


The impact of corruption in water can also be environmental. The lack of infrastructure for water management whether man-made (e.g. dams, inter-basin transfers, irrigation, water supply) or natural (e.g. watersheds, lakes, aquifers, wetlands) in developing countries presents a management challenge almost without precedent. The ever-increasing impact of climate change and the lack of human and financial capacity to manage the water legacy result in far greater shock in developing countries, making the poorest countries ever more vulnerable. Corrupt practices that increase pollution, deplete groundwater and increase salinity are evident in many countries and are closely linked to deforestation and desertification across the globe. Stemming the leakage of funds from the sector is vital to address these issues.


The importance of water – on health, poverty, development and the environment – underscores how it is fundamentally linked to questions of power and security. Corruption can turn the control of water into a force that aggravates social tensions, political frictions and regional disputes.

The drivers of corruption

Government institutions are not well structured to deal with these informal water providers or the forms of bribery that develop. Another driver of corruption in the water sector is related to the fact that the demand for accountability is very limited in developing countries.

The existence of state and non-state actors, systems, service levels and institutions creates a highly complex sector. The lack of clarity in the roles and responsibilities of all these stakeholders results in a lack of transparency and accountability and, inevitably, in a severe asymmetry of information between user, provider and policy-maker.

In addition, water has many linkages to other sectors that are particularly vulnerable to corruption. As part of the high-risk construction sector, water displays the resource allocation and procurementrelated abuses which arise when the public and private sectors meet. As water services and resource management is one of the functions of a country’s administrative or civil service, the sector also confronts a different set of obstacles: low capacity, low wages, lack of clear rules and regulations, and dysfunctional institutions. These conditions make it susceptible to the common practices of fraud, bribery, embezzlement and favouritism.

Understanding the channels where corruption can occur helps in its prevention. Mapping makes it possible to identify ‘hot spots’, in a particular context, where corruption tends to concentrate along the water value chain framework shown in table 1.

Ultimately, however, corruption scenarios play out very differently in different contexts. Political regimes, legal frameworks, the degree of decentralisation, regional disparities, power relations, cultural norms and levels of accountability (for example, between state and civil society) will influence the patterns and risks.

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16 Responses to “Water and Corruption: a destructive partnership”

  1. Wow this is a great resource.. I?m enjoying it.. good article

    September 14, 2010 at 11:59 pm Reply
  2. Rabia #

    Medical disorder or black magic?
    By Amar Guriro
    KARACHI: The doctors and professors of a medical institute in Karachi are struggling to understand the reasons behind a mysterious case in which seven members of a family, hailing from Tharparkar district, claim that metallic needles have penetrated their body parts for the last 14 years.

    ?Being a doctor it is my moral duty not to disclose the details until I find the actual reasons behind this case,? he said.

    September 12, 2010 at 11:09 am Reply
  3. Atta Mohammad #

    Since last one year, we are hearing/reading news about flouride contamination issue in Thar but there is no proper attention by Govt is being paid. UNICEF and other UN organizations also have mandate to work on water issues and they have also worked in different areas of Thar, so why not they dare to go to Thar….. AWARE is an NGO working in Thar on water and especially on fluorosis affects but we have not heard any response/news from Govt side. In annual budget of Sindh, there is no package for Thar.

    June 23, 2010 at 8:08 pm Reply
  4. Aslam Khan #

    Search for water leads to baby’s death
    By A.B. Arisar
    Wednesday, 26 May, 2010

    Villagers travel in a vehicle in Nagarparkar in Thar desert. Mercury in Tharparkar has been hovering around 48 degrees Celsius for the past few days. The water level in wells has fallen as low as 200-250 feet. – Photo by AP.
    License to chill
    License to chill
    UMERKOT: A woman who left house in search of water lost her baby to the Thar desert on Tuesday.

    Gulab Bheel, a resident of Kaplore village, told Dawn that his three-year-old daughter Kamli followed her mother who had gone to fetch water from a well some three kilometres away from their house. Kamli did not find her mother but death.

    Mercury in Tharparkar has been hovering around 48 degrees Celsius for the past few days.

    The water level in wells has fallen as low as 200-250 feet. Ponds for harvesting rain water are recharged through seepage, but they dry up after two to three months.

    Ali Akbar Rahimoo, a social activist working on water supply in Thar, said the scarcity of water had assumed alarming proportions because of below average rainfall. He called upon the government to treat the problem like a calamity because consumption of contaminated water was causing diseases.

    Mr Rahimoo said since fetching of water from wells was strenuous job, the intake was very low in the region. This causes renal failure and other life-threatening diseases.

    He cited a saying that Tharis make children sleep and calm them down by saying “Pani Nahe Gorha Pee, Monhnji Mithri Piyari Dhee. Meenh Ta Panhenji Mund Te Einda, Khooh Waya Sabh Khara Thinda”.

    (Oh my lovely sweet daughter, as there is no water, drink tears. It will rain on its time proper. Meanwhile, wells have gone sour.)

    He warned that unless the government tackled the problem on priority basis, more Kamlis would lose their lives.


    May 28, 2010 at 1:45 pm Reply
  5. Muhammad Ali #

    AWARE has set examples of windmills for easy access to water and cost effective RO plants, so line Departments should study the examples and replicate in backward area.

    April 15, 2010 at 8:25 am Reply
  6. Nabeel samoo #

    Thar water related information

    April 1, 2010 at 4:30 pm Reply
  7. Tamkeen #

    Thar water injurious to human health’
    By Mukhtar Alam
    Wednesday, 31 Mar, 2010
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    Thar receives rains in the monsoon (July-Sept) while the main source of drinking water for the rest of the year is subsoil water which has also become deteriorated. Every household has to spend 3-5 hours daily to fetch drinking water. – File photo
    Cigarettes and sports
    Cigarettes and sports
    KARACHI: Speakers at a seminar on Tuesday stressed the need for improving the quality of drinking water in the Thar desert on a priority basis, observing that contaminated water from the local resources was continuing to cast an adverse impact on people’s psychological and physical health, besides affecting social and economic conditions of about 1.4 million inhabitants of the arid zone area.

    Due to their ignorance or compulsions, the Thar people have been consuming subsoil water containing fluoride concentration as high as 7-30 mg/l which may cause chronic health problems, including dental and skeletal fluorosis, pronounced limbs, arthritis, early aging and crippling owing to the absence of any remedial measures, it was observed.

    The seminar titled “Health impact of Thar water” was organised by the Dow University of Health Sciences (DUHS) in connection with World Water Day, observed on March 22. Sindh Assembly Speaker Nisar Ahmed Khuhro was the chief guest.

    According to a joint research conducted recently by the DUHS, Pakistan Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (PCSIR) and an NGO, Aware (Applied Education and Renewable Energy), 79 per cent of the ground water samples tested some time back contained a high concentration of fluoride, i.e. beyond 1.5mg/l, hence not fit for human consumption.

    The relevant WHO guidelines suggest that fluoride concentration in drinking water should not go beyond 1.0mg/l.

    Dr Iftikhar Ahmed, the Vice-Dean of the Dow International Medical College and Director of the Ojha Institute of Chest Diseases, shared the details relating to the health issues being faced by the Thar population, and told the audience that fluorosis caused by excess accumulation of fluoride was responsible for adverse effects on the local people’s health. “The Thar desert has been identified as one of the most fluoride-affected areas of Pakistan,” he said, adding that the structural disorder of dental enamel caused by chronic and excessive use of fluoride compounds was common in young people of the area. The disorder, he observed, was also a source of their social rejection and embarrassment, particularly in the case of females. “Fluoride exposure during the first year of life increases the risk of dental fluorosis far more than at any other age,” he said.

    Safe water supply vital

    Referring to his survey of the area and extension of medical cover to the people of Umerkot, Chahchhro and Mithi, Dr Ahmed said he had come across people suffering from bone illnesses, weaker extremities, partial fusing of vertebra, neurological manifestations, cord compression and endemic fluorosis. “At a time when this population has no access to safe water, the only way to protect them from the effects of flourosis is to ensure provision of well or tubewell water to them. The helpless Thar people deserve caring by health professionals but patient handling is a problem in that area,” he observed, and urged the government, NGOs and philanthropists to join hands to provide to the Thar people with water filtration plants and set up medical camps there on a regular basis.

    Dr Tahir Rafique of the PCSIR said that in addition to saline water, the Thar population relied on deep well water containing high fluoride concentration. The ground water quality in the desert has become deteriorated due to physical and chemical changes that took place in the water flowing above and blow the ground surface. These changes, he said, could be attributed to the granite rocks present across the desert.

    He informed the audience about his work that included water sampling and preparation of a water filtration model for the Thar area. According to him, in all 424 samples of subsoil water were collected from Mithi, Chachhro, Umerkot, Nagarparkar and Diplo areas of Thar and 21.28 per cent of them were found safe for human consumption. Among the rest, he added, 21.04 per cent were categorised as lower risk, 21.28 per cent medium risk, 17.02 per cent high risk and 19.39 per cent very high risk samples.

    Funds needed

    Dr Rafique said that the PCSIR model for de-fluoridation was workable in the area but the government should provide necessary funds for remedial measures and installation of filtration plants.

    The Aware Executive Director, Ali Akbar Rahimoo, described Thar as ‘a hostile wasteland of sand desert and barren rocks’ which, he observed, received erratic rainfall. “Thar receives rains in the monsoon (July-September) while the main source of drinking water for the rest of the year is subsoil water,” he pointed out.

    Every household has to spend 3-5 hours daily to fetch water for drinking and cooking purposes and feeding the animals. The animals are essential to pull the water buckets used to fetch water from over 50ft deep wells.

    He said that Umerkot, Chachhro and Mithi sub-districts were the most adversely affected areas in terms of fluoride contamination. “Diesel engine-operated tubewells and reverse osmosis system are very costly and this is very difficult for the poor Thar people to bear the recurring cost of quality maintenance,” he said, and urged the government to address the issue through a safe drinking water policy for the Thar population.

    DUHS Vice-Chancellor Prof Masood Hameed Khan said that his institution had already installed a reverse osmosis filter plant in the Thar area and would continue to extend such assistance to the population under its social responsibility obligations. “We have agreed to donate funds for some filter plants and expect that the government and legislators will also contribute generously to this noble cause,” he said.

    Nisar Ahmed Khuhro told the seminar that it was really a matter of concern that the Pakistanis in this 21st century were still not able to get the benefits of development and they still were discussing the issues of basic rights like availability of safe drinking water. “I am also shocked to learn that about 20 water treatment plants installed in the area at a cost of millions of rupees could not be made functional for want of funds for recurring expenses and fuel,” he remarked, and promised that he would motivate members of the Sindh Assembly in the next session to donate at least one-month salary to the Thar people.

    Suhail Sangi of Aware and Zuzzer Ali Shamsuddin of the PCSIR also spoke.


    April 1, 2010 at 4:16 pm Reply
  8. Rakshanda Khowaja #

    Water borne diseases in Thar

    UMERKOT, Dec 20, 2009: Thousands of villagers of district Sanghar, Tharparkar and Umerkot are suffering from various mysterious waterborne diseases including skeletal and dental-fluorosis.

    In villages Thoraho district Sanghar, Chiroli district Umerkot and Samoo Rind in district Tharparkar certain deaths have occurred and a large number of people have been paralysed and waiting for death call.

    Thooraho is situated 64 kms northeast of Khipro in the lap of moving sand dunes of Achhro Thar, people of this area were suffering from water borne disease for last thirty years but first it was identified water borne disease in 2004 when some social activists visited village and found the ailing patients with symptoms of pain in the joints, kidneys and muscles resulting in the deformation of bones, hands, feet and knee, and the loss of eyesight and got the water samples examined, which had fluoride and other salts in it.

    Jadam a villager of village Thoraho told Dawn that eleven people died of this disease during three in small village of 150 population, while seven people were suffering from this disease. It is pertinent to mention here that Thar lacks medical and water facilities as few dispensaries setup in Thar were non-functional.

    People of Hajam and Rajar communities, where this deadly disease reigns, have been fetching water from same well as they have no other source of water, because they do not own the land they were residing and owner of land do not allow them to fix a single hand pump. “We have gone Sanghar, Khipro and Umerkot for the treatment of this disease’’ told Hanif suffering from said disease but the doctors were incapable to diagnose it he added, now they were with empty hands and waiting for death call to end this miserable life he complained.
    They have sold their livestock only source of income, for treatment but no one could heal their wounds he added.
    Another village Chiroli situated near Dhoro Naro, some 25 km north of Umarkot, in Achhro Thar. This village falls in taluka Khipro jurisdiction, District Sanghar, but due to its geographical setting,the business and livelihood of the village area is connected with Umerkot Town.

    Mysterious disease has been prevailing since last 25 years in the descendents of a family of Khaskheli clan. Mostly it suffered the excuses of jurisdiction by authorities but they on their own struggled and incurred expenses, they visited different private hospitals but doctors could not diagnose the disease. The disease is stated to had occurred in a family of the grandfathers of the elder male victim Gul Muhammad Khaskheli of present village whose six family members have become prey of this disease.
    Some experts said that it was because of water they were acquiring from Tass, (where after digging three feet sweet water can be found, situated near salt mine is called Tass).

    Gul Muhammad told this scribe about the syndromes of the disease that first of all it appears on the foot fingers in some cases eyes when the victim is at the age of 6 months. Later it eats up the
    fingers and the feet slowly but in between age of 15-30 years, it almost kills the victim. Three males and five females had died in the disease of the same family, two boys and a male were suffering from this disease in this village.

    Satul was suffering from this disease since early childhood, she expired one week before she was 18. She lost the upper of her nose and her feet were seriously infected with the disease.
    According to Gul Muhammad people advised them to stop getting water from Tass, some two
    years before they installed hand-pump in their house and stopped using water from Tass, but still minors were being affected.

    Gul Muhammad alias Guloo Khaskheli, 35 came out of house travelling on donkey, as mysterious disease has eaten up his both feet and had made him handicapped, he is an elder brother of all six family members, who have been died.

    He told that when he was child aged six months the symptoms of the disease appeared on his feet, he showed big clots of blood on the infected feet-bones and added that an antibiotic injection of
    Penicillin was regularly been administered to him to stop the bleeding from his feet-bones.
    Two minors Roshan and Salam have recently developed symptoms of the disease. Their parents said that they would also be left on the mercy of disease, till their death, they will not be married like others who suffered disease, as they know they will die said Hassan whose three family members had already swallowed by disease.
    Village Sadhar situated adjacent to the village Chiroli at the edge of mines of salts, with population of 900 households. Its water became saline in the year 2000, people have no other source of water; they consume ground water through hand-pumps and fell prey to various diseases. Laboratory tests revealed that underground water possess high level total dissolved salts (TDS).
    These are only villages where people got the water tested and came to know the cause of diseases, otherwise total Thar belt was suffering from various water borne disease due to consumption of underground water which brackish he revealed.
    Earlier, village Samoo Rind, taluka Chhachhro some 110 kilometres from Umerkot was identified as one of the most fluoride affected area in Pakistan in a research conducted by Dr Tahir Rafique , of PCSIR Laboratories. In this village almost every family has one or two members suffering from arthritis and a large number of elders and children of this village were in need of corrective
    orthopedic surgery.

    About 270 victims out of 1000 souls were unable to step out of their homes each one appeared old and weak than his real age displaying signs of premature ageing with yellow, cracked teeth and crippled limbs. But despite their treatment or allocating an integrated water policy district government Tharparkar was interested to hold Thar Challenge 2009 spending crores of rupees just for marathon where people are living with torn breaths.
    Not only Samoo Rind village of Taluka Chhachhro but other villages Kalario, Narovari, Sukhani of Tharparkar District and Bhojrajio, Morasio, Ramsar and Sadhar of Umerkot district and Thoraho of Sanghar district have paid the price of ground water in shape of these diseases.
    Thar lacks fresh water source except rainwater it meets the some how requirements of the locals for only about three to four months of the year. After that the people are left with no option but to use the groundwater, which is brackish, highly saline.

    Inhabitants harvest in underground water tanks “Tanka” and they use for 4-6 months after monsoon. Dr. Rasool Bux Mahar who had a PhD on water recycling, said that the current practice of rainwater harvesting and storage in Thar is not safe, which leads to epidemic disease including gastroenteritis and other waterborne diseases. He added that University can only have research but other line departments should approach universities to have the findings implemented.

    Ali Akbar Rahimoo social activist working on water issues in Thar told that the principle angels of water in Thar are; quality, quantity and access to water and all aspects should be addressed with an integrated approach instead of installing hi-fi technology based systems having high recurring cost or allocating major portion of budget for dug wells in Thar. The experiences have proved that without technology transfer, appropriate technology and user-friendly approach, any project can’t sustain with fruitful results. He quoted examples that local NGO, AWARE has set examples of windmills for easy access to water and cost effective RO plants, so line Departments should study the examples and replicate in backward area.
    EDO Health Sanghar Dr. Mushtaq Memon and DCO Sanghar Rasool Bux Samejo told Dawn that they were unaware about the disease in Thoraho village, a month back they came to know, they further added that they have constituted team of experts who will examine water quality and patients to address the issue. EDO Health Umerkot Dr Umer Rind was also unaware about mysterious disease in Chiroli district Umerkot, but he was willing to send a team of experts to affected village soon.


    January 15, 2010 at 10:00 am Reply
  9. Ambar Jan #

    Tharis want budgetary allocation for drinking water

    Monday, 15 Jun, 2009
    UMERKOT, June 14: Speakers at a seminar have urged the government and elected representatives to make specific allocation in the budget for providing safe drinking water to Tharis, bring down rate of migration and help eradicate waterborne diseases.

    They said at a seminar on “underground water contamination in Thar and its affects” held at the press club under the aegis of Association for Water, Applied Education and Renewable Energy (AWARE) here on Sunday that the government should develop an integrated water policy and prioritise it in next annual budget, treating safe drinking water as basic human right.

    Ali Akbar Rahimoo said that according to the latest research, constant droughts had led to depletion of underground water, increasing concentration of salts and other minerals, including fluoride, arsenic, sulphur and nitrate in water.

    High levels of these minerals in water were causing endemic diseases among Tharis but government departments were acting like silent spectators, he said.

    Consumption of contaminated water had also caused kidney failure, disturbance of digestive system, skin and skeletal diseases among Tharis, he said.

    Karim Bux Shaikh said that depth of wells ranged from 10 to 350 feet deep in Thar and it took at least three to five hours daily to search, drag out and then fetch water to home.


    December 11, 2009 at 11:43 am Reply
  10. Mumtaz Ali #

    Association for Water Applied Education & Renewable Energy (AWARE) Umerkot


    December 2, 2009 at 2:16 pm Reply
  11. Fareeda #

    The consumption of contaminated water in Thar desert has made 45 people sick with seven landing in the hospital on Wednesday, as the line departments stay put.

    According to reports severe drought conditions, decreasing water level in wells and increase in salt concentration were endangering the lives of Thari people.

    The worst affected were the residents of village Samoon Rind of taluka Chhachhro where the intensity of water contamination afflicted 45 people with vomiting, diarrhoea and weakness, said reports reaching here.

    Ms Nasreen Akhtar, Khuda Bux, Sanam, Sawan, Reshma, Allahdad and Ms Bhanbho Rind were hospitalised at the taluka hospital Chhachhro while the rest, due to abject poverty, await the fate.

    Majority of cases were hit by the high level of fluoride contamination in underground water, a researcher and a social activist Ali Akbar Rahimoon told Dawn.

    According to him around 89 per cent underground water in Thar was not fit for human consumption because of fluoride contamination, whereas people had no other choice but to consume water with fluoride up to 20,000ppm.

    The WHO’s maximum limit was 1500ppm. The line departments had failed in taking the notice and were not even bothered to pluck them out of their misery.

    “We are in the process of approaching the court on humanitarian ground” for the failure of the government to provide safe drinking water, Mr Rahimoon added.

    Villagers, Jan Mohammad Rind and others told Dawn that the taluka municipal administration Chhachhro was not providing fuel for the running of tube-well as well as for the Reverse Osmosis plant provided by a philanthropist.

    They requested authorities concerned to take notice of their sufferings and take concrete measures to solve their problems.

    December 1, 2009 at 3:36 pm Reply
  12. Rakshanada Khowaja #

    Dear Mr Atif
    For further contact with Mr Ali Akbar Rahimoo Researcher
    email aliakbar.rahimoo@yahoo.com

    Rakshanda Khowaja

    November 29, 2009 at 2:24 pm Reply
  13. Rakhshanda khowaja nice job to get my story republished, click this link to get my story

    September 15, 2009 at 12:55 pm Reply
  14. Ms Khowaja,

    Great report. Am off to Thar last week of ramadan to do some charity work, if possible i would like to know more about the area and how i can be of any help from UK.

    Hope to hear from you.


    September 9, 2009 at 3:37 am Reply
  15. Rakshanda Khowaja #

    Water contamination in Thar Desert

    Fluorosis, a disease caused by high intakes of fluoride, is becoming endemic in Tharparkar with more than 250 of 950 people in Samoon Rind village having developed bone deformities, skeletal and dental fluorosis due to consumption of groundwater with high levels of fluoride.
    According to reports severe drought conditions, decreasing water level in wells and increase in salt concentration were endangering the lives of Thari people.
    Dr Tahir said that the Thar Desert had been identified as one of the most fluoride-affected areas in the country.

    In the absence of public water supply, people were compelled to use groundwater, which was brackish with high concentration of fluoride when surface water dried up, he said. Fluoride causes dental and skeletal fluorosis, osteoscalerosis, thyroid, and kidney problems when its concentration exceeds 1.5 mg/L in drinking water and the intake of excessive fluoride leads to chronic bone and joint deformations in skeletal fluorosis, for which early symptoms include sporadic pain and stiffness of joints and finally the spine, major joints and muscles, damaging the nervous system, he said. Healthcare is a major issue in Thar.

    He said that he found after research on “Occurrence, distribution and origin of fluoride-rich groundwater in the Thar desert” that the samples had fluoride values exceeding the limit of 1.5 mg/L as prescribed by the WHO

    The marginalized sections of society suffer the most. Poverty and malnutrition compound the problems. In many families, women and girls fetch water for the family every day from a long distance, from a communal source. This takes hours, depriving them of profitable working time or education. Constant lifting and carrying of heavy water pots cause health problems, particularly among pregnant women.

    The main crops grown in the area are millet, mung beans, bulgur wheat, chili and oilseed. These plants can tolerate dry conditions. However in severe drought conditions yield of even these crops falls drastically. Fresh fruits and vegetables are scarce. Successive years of low rainfall lead to scarcity of food and poverty.

    He said that fluorosis is irreversible and no remedy and treatment has so far been found except prevention by keeping fluoride intake within safe limits. Both dental and skeletal fluorosis not only affects the body of a person but also renders him socially and culturally crippled, he said.

    The research disclosed that groundwater in the areas along the north and north-eastern side of Thar, particularly in Samoon Rind, Kalario, Narovari and Sukhani villages of Tharparkar and Bhojrajio, Morasio, Ramsar villages of Umerkot district carried high level of fluoride. Samoon Rind village had a population of 950 souls, out of whom more than 250 had the disease. One or two members of each family were suffering from arthritis and a large number of elders and children were in serious need of corrective orthopedic surgery.

    A Local NGO Association for Water Applied Education & Renewable Energy (AWARE) Umerkot General Secretary Karim Bux Sheikh said that the situation in Thar region was alarming and required the government to immediately take remedial measures including, better rainwater harvesting, development of sweet groundwater and installation of defluoridation and desalination plants. The situation in Thar region is alarming and need immediate remedial measures including better rainwater harvesting

    Rakshanda Khowaja

    June 15, 2009 at 8:12 pm Reply

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