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La pollution de l’eau, véritable enjeu de santé publique au Pakistan

Au Pakistan, République islamique située au nord-ouest de l’Inde, la pollution de l’eau serait responsable de la mort de dizaines de milliers de citoyens. L’ONU et les autorités pakistanaises estiment que la mauvaise qualité de l’eau serait même responsable de 30 à 40% des maladies et des décès. Faisant de la pollution dramatique des ruisseaux et autres cours d’eau l’enjeu numéro 1 en termes de santé publique.

Dans un pays où la dysenterie, les hépatites et le choléra sont monnaie courante, 53.000 enfants succomberaient chaque année à la diarrhée après avoir consommé de l’eau non-potable. Cette statistique, issue d’une étude de l’Unicef, donne une petite idée de l’ampleur du phénomène.

La rivière Ravi est par exemple utilisée comme déversoir par les centaines d’usines qui ont été construites en amont de Lahore, mégalopole où vivent près de 11 millions de Pakistanais. La Ravi est également utilisée pour irriguer les cultures avoisinantes, dont la teneur en pesticides est effrayante. Problème : cette rivière est malheureusement utilisée pour approvisionner en eau Lahore.

“Plusieurs études ont montré la présence de métaux lourds dans les arêtes des poissons”, déplore également Sohail Ali Naqvi, le responsable du programme eau de la WWF. Car il faut en effet savoir que les populations locales s’approvisionnent en poisson dans la Ravi.

Le véritable problème du Pakistan est son manque d’infrastructures. La Banque mondiale, qui estimait en 2012 à 5,7 milliards de dollars par an le coût de la pollution de l’eau (4% du PIB) ne cesse de souligner les besoins d’investissements considérables du pays dans les usines d’assainissement.

“Dans un pays où l’environnement ne fait pas partie de l’agenda politique, il n’y a presque pas d’usines de traitement des eaux usées. Ceux qui peuvent se le permettre achètent des bouteilles d’eau. Mais quid de ceux qui ne peuvent pas?”, s’énerve Imran Khalid, chercheur à l’Institut politique sur le développement durable (SDPI).

L’eau potable est une denrée tellement rare, qu’à Karachi, ville de 15 millions d’habitants, des mafias profitent de la situation : lorsque le réseau local d’eau potable est coupé, des mafieux font venir par camion-citerne de l’eau propre à la consommation pour la vendre à prix d’or.

“Le Pakistan, qui voit fondre ses imposants glaciers himalayens et connaît moussons abondantes et inondations, ne compte que trois bassins majeurs de stockage, contre plus d’un millier en Afrique du sud ou au Canada”, explique Bashir Ahmad, du Centre national de recherche sur l’agriculture. Le manque de vision du gouvernement est surprenant : aucun surplus d’eau ne peut donc être conservé puis réutilisé au moment où les précipitations se raréfient, à la saison sèche.

Enfin, certains spécialistes dénoncent le manque d’éducation des citoyens pakistanais. Malgré les pénuries d’eau, et en l’absence d’information, le gaspillage du précieux liquide reste la norme : on arrose le bitume pour chasser la poussière, on lave sa voiture tous les jours et on arrose généreusement les espaces verts.

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