WASH in the Sindh Province of Pakistan

Sindh Irrigation ReformsThe following was sent to us by an anonymous WASHwatch contributor illustrating some challenges faced when measuring and monitoring WASH progress. Do you agree? Have you experienced similar discrepancies between reported and actual coverage? Join the conversation!

“In rural households, it is the responsibility of women and girls to fetch water. Water is available at distant sources (typically, 4 to 6 km away from homes). The quality of water, meant for drinking, is poor and unsafe.

Rural water supply systems have not been properly developed in Sindh, technically. The water treatment works do not conform to the sound principles of water engineering. Waterborne diseases are rampant in the rural Sindh. About 40 per cent of beds in hospitals are occupied by patients suffering from waterborne diseases, mostly in rural areas (WWF, 2007).

Hygiene principles go hand in hand with the water supply, if the full benefits of water supply are to be accrued. Adoption of hygiene principles (principally, the hand-washing) are absent. Women consider the feces of the infants as harmless.

Erroneous Coverage Reporting

Significant errors occur in reporting the rural water supply coverage. Based on the extensive experience of the writer in rural water supply, the rural water supply coverage in Sindh would be around 10 per cent, currently. As against this, the figures reported in international circles are as high as 90 per cent. Detailed insight revealed how and why this happens.

Rural water supply projects, when submitted to the government for approval, require filling a proforma that asks about the number of people that will be benefited from the project. Water consumption per capita per day is shown on a lower side, and this increase the size of the population benefited, way beyond the reasonable figure. For example, water demand is taken as 5 liters/day per capita; thus a water treatment plant of 4,000 cubic meters per day will serve 0.8 million people, which is an incorrect estimation.

The incorrect and out-of-proportion population figures are transmitted to federal government, which in turn, are forwarded to the international agencies, giving incorrect population figures of rural population that have access to water supply facilities. In practice, not even one-quarter of population, reported by the federal government, have access to safe water. As can be seen from Table 1, the water coverage in rural areas varies from 10 to 90 per cent.

Table 1 Rural water coverage in Pakistan from Various Sources


% Rural water coverage in Pakistan and Source


10                     Sindh’s Development: Issues & Agenda, World Bank (year?)

13                     Pakistan Social and Living Standards Measurement Survey (PSLM),

90                     WASH Strategy, NDMA, PK Gov (overall percentage)

87                     ADB Asia Water Watch 2015 (figures for 2002)

65                      Sadia Jabeen, et al., 2011; (total coverage)

88                     JMP (updated March 2012)

10                     Writer’s estimate, 2013


Pakistan government’s household survey report (2004) shows that access to “improved” water in Pakistan increased from 83 per cent in 1990 to 91 per cent in 2004, while “improved” sanitation coverage increased from 37 per cent to 59 per cent during the same period.  The water coverage figures are incorrect and are on a very higher side. Table 2 shows these figures, while Table 3 gives the similar coverage for a number of years. Both the Tables show high percentage of population coverage.

Table 2 Access to water and Sanitation in Pakistan (2004)

Urban %* Rural %* Total
Water Overall 96 89 91
House Connections 49 15 27
Sanitation Overall 92 41 59
Sewage System 40 6 18

*34% of the total population

**66% of the total population

Source: Pakistan Household Survey, 2004

Table 3 Population with Access to Improved Water and Sanitation – Pakistan, %

Rural Urban  Total
1990 1995 2000 2006 1990 1995 2006 2006 1990 1995 2006 2006
Water 81 83 85 87 96 96 95 95 86 87 88 90
Sanitation 14 22 30 40 76 80 85 90 33 40 48 58

Source: Statistical Yearbook for Asia and the Pacific, 2008, UNESCAP, Bangkok

The sanitation coverage percentage in rural Sindh is very low (10 per cent). Water treatment and sewage treatment is poor. According to this writer, poor treatment = no treatment. This contention will again impact the WASH coverage.


Early Recovery Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) Strategy, Dec 2010, National Disaster Management Authority, Government of Pakistan, Prime Minister’s Secretariat, Islamabad.

Pakistan Social and Living Standards Measurement Survey (PSLM), 2010-11, Stat. Div, Govt. of Pakistan, Islamabad

Pakistan’s Waters at Risk, Water and Health Related Issues in Pakistan and Key Recommendations, WWF, 2007, Lahore, Pakistan

Sadia Jabeen, et al. (2011), Health Impact Caused by Poor Water and Sanitation in Dist. Abbottabad, J Ayub Medical College, Abbottabad 2011, 23(1).

Sindh’s Development: Issues & Agenda, The World Bank, year(?) siteresources.worldbank.org/PAKISTANEXTN/Resources/…/Sindh.p…”

-Anonymous Contributor


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