The study looked at data from nearly 1,200 groundwater quality samples from across the country. “It’s a real concern,” said Lubna Bukhari, who heads the government’s Council for Research in Water Resources. The authors of the study developed a map highlighting areas of likely contamination based on water quality data from nearly 1,200 groundwater pumps tested from 2013 to 2015, and accounting for geological factors including surface slope and soil contents.
They determined some 88 million people were living in high-risk areas. 60-70 percent of the population relies on groundwater. The WHO considers arsenic concentrations above 10 micrograms per liter to be dangerous. Pakistan’s guideline is five times that, and many of its wells test much higher. Arsenic kills human cells causing skin lesions, organ damage, heart disease and cancer. There is no cure for arsenic poisoning. Despite the study, no map can tell villagers whether a specific well is contaminated. Arsenic concentration varies widely from pump to pump, and the only way to know for certain is to test each one. For Pakistan the problem is now urgent.