Islamabad: 18th July 2013: Under facilitation of Higher Education Commission (HEC), Pakistani higher education institutions are playing their pivotal role in resolving safe water related issues in the country. In this regard, collaboration with leading American and British universities has been established to undertake joint research projects throughout the country.
A majority of the population does not have access to clean drinking water and as a result, more than 40% of the reported diseases in Pakistan are water-borne. A large proportion of population depends on open water sources for everyday domestic use such as: canals, rivers and wells, all of which are at a high risk of being contaminated. A study conducted by UNICEF found that 20-40% of the hospital beds in Pakistan are occupied by patients suffering from water-related diseases, such as typhoid, cholera, dysentery and hepatitis, which is responsible for one-third of all deaths. An estimated 250,000 child deaths occur each year in Pakistan due to water-borne disease.
Under Pakistan –US S&T Cooperation Program, there are number of research projects have been initiated which include: “Assessment and Development of Renewable Groundwater Resources in the Quetta Valley, Pakistan” under the joint collaboration of the University of Balochistan, the Western Michigan University and the University of Houston, USA. The objective of this project is the development of water resources for the citizens of Balochistan through finding and developing extra ground water resources, forming a database of ground water in Balochistan as well as finding areas with harmful chemicals this project helped secure safe drinking water for the people of Balochistan. Similar projects in this connection include: “Removal of Arsenic from Drinking Water Using Iron Ores as Low Cost Reactive Adsorbent Media” between the University of Engineering and Technology (UET)Pakistan and the University of Arizona USA, “Capacity Building for Research, Education and Training in Water Resources Management in Pakistan” between the UET Pakistan and the University of South California USA, “Small Scale Sewage Treatment and Wastewater Reuse System for Pakistan” between the Quaid-i-Azam University Pakistan and the George Washington University USA and “Water, Sanitation, Health and Hygiene Interventions in a Northern Pakistani Village” between the Karakoram International University Pakistan and the National Institute of Health USA.
Similarly, a number of projects have been undertaken with the British universities under the International Strategic Partnerships in Research and Education (INSPIRE). Lead researchers from both countries have shared expertise through bilateral research exchanges and capacity building in various projects including: “Development of Water Scarcity Management Strategies in the Upper Indus Basin” between the University of Engineering and Technology Lahore and the Newcastle University, and” Use of Geosynthetic Materials to Provide Clean Well Water” between the Textile Institute of Pakistan and the University of Bolton.
Under this partnership, the innovative filtration plant has been developed that could potentially be the answer to the global water related issues. The research has a full capacity to be marketed at an international forum, the masses would greatly benefit trough use of IXT (ion exchange textiles); and since the materials are regenerative in nature, the solution would be cost-effective.
In addition, a number of projects aiming at encouraging indigenous research at Pakistani universities on clean drinking water have been financed by HEC under its National Research Program for Universities (NRPU).
Commenting on these programs, Chairperson HEC Dr. Javaid R. Laghari said that the goal of the HEC is to develop local expertise and indigenous technology through strong collaborations with research groups in leading foreign universities. These projects helped to encourage foreign and Pakistan relationships based on the exchange of knowledge and technology. Through workshops, conferences, seminars and lectures the Pakistani researchers were given vital information that will help to build an indigenous capacity to resolve issues pertaining to unsafe and unclean drinking water in Pakistan. The benefits of higher education and research are becoming quite evident and higher education sector has started to play vital role towards the socio-economic development of Pakistan, building societies and communities, building future leadership and towards a prosperous Pakistan.
Dr. Laghari also assured that HEC would continue to work closely with the government to share the expertise of higher education sector in order to resolve various problems being faced by common citizens of Pakistan.