A FRESH, clean water supply will be a reality in Pakistan, particularly in South Punjab, following the announcement of an international partnership spearheaded by the Pakistan government, alongside other key stakeholders, and driven by the University of Huddersfield.
The initiative, led by University of Huddersfield Senior Research Fellow Dr Muhammad Usman Ghori, will transform the water supplies in the region into affordable drinking water for the benefit of the whole population and also will provide a sustainable option of raw material to fabricate healthcare products.
It is an initiative that is much needed by a considerable population of Pakistan. In a recent study, the Pakistan Council of Research in Water Resources (PCRWR) found that a sizeable portion of the supplied water was not suitable for human consumption. The contaminated water was contributing to significant number of deaths every year and a large part of Pakistan's GDP was spent on health care of people who suffer from water borne diseases.
However, a solution to providing a clean water supply is present in abundance in the region's Koh-e-Suleiman mountain range in the form of a raw nanoclay with properties that can be targeted for a number of health-giving applications.
A recent University of Huddersfield-led research article, published in NATURE: Scientific Reports, explored a new source of montmorillonite in the Koh-e-Suleiman mountain range located in South Punjab, Pakistan.
The project lead Dr Ghori explained that this raw clay required a sophisticated purification protocol to remove any undesirable substances from the clay, such as lead, arsenic and crystalline silica, which could impede industrial potential and have adverse health effects.
The area of South Punjab has a large dependence on agriculture and relatively low levels of industrialisation and consequently currently faces higher levels of poverty and unemployment compared with the rest of the province. An abundant supply of this largely untouched raw clay could help with economic conditions in the region so, in addition to physicochemical characterisation, this study investigated the practicality and economic feasibility of its extraction and purification for large-scale industrial applications by comparing the properties of the small-scale extracted clay to the large-scale extracted clay, and by conducting a techno-economic analysis. It is anticipated that the findings in this study will improve the economic condition of the region by providing employment opportunities to locals and a valuable resource for exportation.
Further work in collaboration with Pakistani universities and research institutes is now under way to use this natural resource for the benefit of the local people, not just in purifying the water supply, but for further industrial applications that would expand the economy of the region and provide work and industry for its people.
To establish this strategic partnership, Dr Ghori first shared his vision and initiative with the High Commissioner of Pakistan to the United Kingdom His Excellency Mohammad Nafees Zakaria, who played an instrumental role in establishing research links in Pakistan.
Now, a Memorandum of Understanding has been signed that will initiate a strategic partnership to develop a network led by the University of Huddersfield with the support of the Pakistan government which will also include universities in Pakistan.
The High Commissioner Mohammad Nafees Zakaria expressed his pride at the work and congratulated Dr Ghori and the team on their achievement and expressed gratitude to University of Huddersfield's leadership.
Dr Ghori had met with the Foreign Minister of Pakistan, through the good offices of High Commissioner Zakaria, during the Foreign Minister's official visit to the United Kingdom. Dr Ghori briefed the Foreign Minister on the on-going research activities, who welcomed the potential of the research project.
Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi congratulated Dr Ghori, the team and University's senior management. He said that the Government was cognisant of Pakistanis' talent abroad and therefore many of Government's policy initiatives are aimed at galvanising and providing direction to young scientists and tech professionals for their constructive engagement in the country's mainstream economic activities.
"The UK is among Pakistan's very close friends," said Mr Qureshi. "The relationship has its roots in pre-independence period and the 1.5 million Pakistani Diaspora in the UK is a strong bridge between the two countries. Cultivating deeper and diverse partnership with the UK is a priority in our foreign policy. I am delighted to learn that the University of Huddersfield's researchers and scientists have taken such an initiative. "The Government welcomes them and will extend every support in their endeavours in Pakistan, the University of Huddersfield's engagement with Pakistan has come at the most propitious time" he added.
Pakistan's Minister for Science and Technology, Mr Fawad Hussain Chaudhry applauded the Huddersfield team over attaining a milestone in the field of industrial science.
He expressed his "contentment and happiness at the signing of the memorandum by University with Pakistan Council for Research on Water Resources (PCRWR) and five Pakistani universities. He sees it as a significant step towards collaboration between educational institutions of Pakistan and the United Kingdom involving research. While commending Dr Ghori's work, Minister Fawad urged Pakistani scientists, technology professionals and scholars to look towards Pakistan, which holds enormous opportunities in diverse areas. "Under Prime Minister Imran Khan, high importance has been attached to the emerging technologies and many policy initiatives have been taken," he said.