Clean drinking water is the most violated human right in Pakistan. Talking exclusively to IBEX, Omar Jilani, the Managing Director of Pak Oasis Group of Companies – a Pakistani company providing water filtration plants, headquartered in Dubai describes the company’s role in water conservation and the promotion of this basic human right in Pakistan.
Q. Tell us about your company’s ventures in Pakistan. How have you managed to establish an international presence in the water conservation sector in such a short period of time?
Pak Oasis Ltd. was established in 2004 in Pakistan by offering an economical reverse osmosis (RO) technology water desalination solution for municipal, agriculture, community and industrial sectors. We, at Pak Oasis have always managed to achieve our project timelines through hard work and determination of our entire team. We invest in our employees’ training and education enabling us to achieve our company goals. Due to their hard work, clean drinking water has been made available at 54 different locations in the Thar region.
Over time, our operations gradually expanded and the number of projects steadily increased. The experience we gained on the way led to greater improvement in our work. We also believe in taking care of our valued clients and our projects are under lifetime warranties with zero liability in terms of major equipment, membranes and allied material.
Our projects have greatly contributed to the desolate and rural communities in Pakistan by not only generating clean water but also bringing employment and skill development opportunities to the local youth. Our company has not raised the prices of our products and services for the past five years. Our expanding operations have enabled us to reap the benefits associated with economies of scale which we have passed on to our valued clients.
We have been recognized and awarded by several esteemed bodies for our work both in Pakistan and overseas. Our company is the only corporate member of the International Water Association from Pakistan along with being ISO certified and accredited by the Pakistan Engineering Council. We have engaged in several successful collaborations with the Dow Chemical Company, which recognized our operational excellence at its Nawabshah Ultra-filtration (UF) water treatment facility. We have also signed a MOU with Pakistan Council for Renewable Energy Technology (PCRET) on a joint venture for the production of Solar Pumps in Pakistan. This venture involves low operational costs and will benefit the entire country by helping with the current energy crisis. It will also create jobs and improve the country’s foreign exchange reserves.
Q. What methods of water purification do you employ?
Pak Oasis makes use of cutting edge ultra-filtration (UF) technology in its plants which eliminates dangerous and life threatening viruses and bacteria and has the added benefit of not using chemicals such as chlorine to purify water. UF technology is energy savvy and can run on solar power thus taking into account our country’s electricity shortages. Other plants built under the same project uses the reverse osmosis (RO) method, which removes salt from water, therefore making it drinkable. This method is largely useful in the desert areas of the interior Sindh, where non-salty water is scarce.
Q. How has your company contributed to the health and general welfare of people?
I believe that lack of pure drinking water can give birth to several financial problems for the lower income population in Pakistan. If a member of such a family becomes ill due to the consumption of contaminated water; the amount of money spent on the treatment and medical fees for diseases such as cholera or hepatitis could push that family into steep financial debts.
In July 2012, Pak Oasis was recognized by Dow Water & Process Solutions- a division of the Dow Chemical Company, as the best company in the water engineering sector after the completion of its first year of operations in the Nawabshah facility. By making use of Dow’s UF technology, this facility provided 14 million imperial gallons of drinking water daily, delivering a total of 20 billion liters of water in 2011 at $0.04 per 1,000 gallons. In addition to this project, Pak Oasis has completed hundreds of water treatment projects using UF and RO technology in partnership with Dow supplying fresh water across deserts, arid and coastal areas, canals and municipal water supplies. This partnership has benefited nearly 5 million people by providing access to safe potable water at the rate of $1.68 per 1,000 gallons of desalinated water.
Q. In what ways have your operations contributed to the employment opportunities in Pakistan?
Our company believes in the skill development of the local youth. We are trying to provide jobs to technically qualified (B.E./B, Tech/Diploma)local people which meet our employment criteria and have been successful in completing the training program from our training centers to operate our company’s plants in line with the SOPs. It is because of the well trained Pak Oasis technical team efficiently managing water schemes and RO desalination plants in urban and rural areas that everyday millions of gallons of desalinated water is being supplied to the Coal and Energy projects along with several communities in District Tharparkar, Umerkot, Badin, Thatta and Shahdadkot.
We have offered more than 300 jobs to the local youth in Pakistan and the number reached up to 500 in December, 2011. We are also actively involved in helping our employees’ succeed in their careers. Moreover, this year our staff strength will reach to 3000.
As our company is working on various projects with leading international manufacturing groups such as Veolia Water France and Grundfos Pumps Denmark; the Pakistani market will witness an upward movement in the employment graphs as our business grows.
Q. As the country faces high rates of inflation, how has your company managed to supply water at relatively low costs?
Pak Oasis is able to keep its operational costs down by adopting certain methods as a result of which we are able to supply water at lower costs. We have managed to achieve this by extracting water from the ground, rather than relying on pump stations which are usually not available at a close proximity to our plants. Consequently, we are able to provide a single gallon of water for about 16 paisa in Tharparkar as compared to 28 paisa (if the water was supplied from a canal source). By digging 300 – 1,000 feet below ground level, we are able to pump up the ground water from the earth which is then filtered, desalinated and made fit for consumption. Through this, we are also able to make considerable power savings as pumping water from reservoirs located far away is much more expensive than pumping water from the ground. Apart from these cost savings, it is important to mention that the cost of desalination is quite economical. By adopting this method, we are also making great energy savings. Our reliable technology has also played a vital part in keeping the costs down of delivering potable water.
Q: Tell us about your solar power project?
With the introduction of the first solar panel in the year 1982 in Pakistan, Pak Oasis recognized the numerous benefits attached with this technology. We believe that millions can be saved by adopting alternate sources of energy in large scale operations while excessively reducing the amount of carbon emissions. We have developed water filtration plants in Pakistan based on solar technology and are progressively working to provide the most economical and viable solution to people living in deserts, coastal/arid regions and villages.
We have signed an MOU with Grundfos to manufacture solar generators/panels in Pakistan. This venture is about working on an indigenous solution to promote Pakistani products and will require the technical skills of our young engineers, thus creating massive job openings in all areas.
In today’s time, energy self-sufficiency is exceedingly important for industrial development in any nation. Pakistan is a sun-friendly country and the 6th luckiest country in the world where on an average sun-availability is up to 16 hours. Punjab, in particular is most suitable for establishing solar energy projects. At Pak Oasis, we plan on manufacturing about 500 to 1000 solar panels per day and aim to generate 25 to 50 KW of solar power on a daily basis. We have engaged in a joint public and private partnership with the government of Pakistan and are responsible for maintaining high standards of quality for this scheme. We have employed the best scientists to carry out this project and offer a strong 25 year backup warranty for this technology.
Q. How has Pak Oasis managed its corporate social responsibility initiatives?
Water-borne illnesses account for nearly 60 percent child deaths in Pakistan with an approximate figure of 630 children dying daily from diarrhea. Every year about 1.2 million people die in Pakistan due to contaminated water. Given the large number of diseases which thrive in contaminated water – from hepatitis, to gastroenteritis to the recent and much feared ‘brain eating amoeba’; contaminated water poses a serious threat for the nation’s health. We are working passionately to ensure that this basic human right is available to everyone. Pak Oasis has signed the United Nation Global Compact (UNGC) to publicly declare its support for their important core values in the areas of human rights, labor, environment and anti-corruption. This initiative promotes not only sustainable development but also good corporate citizenship.
Sindh faces a severe problem with the supply of clean drinking water due to its limited resources. Water mafias have also flourished in Karachi due to the chronic shortage of clean water. With the support of the government, Pak Oasis is working diligently to provide safe and clean drinking water to the masses in various parts of the country especially residents of far-flung rural areas in Sindh. The construction of 500 water plants in villages of Sindh has contributed greatly to the welfare of its residents where a positive change in their health was observed since the water plants were built. A 70 % drop in hospital admissions has been reported in areas where water filtration plants have been built. Our company is the largest in Asia dealing with water related issues.
With the help of technologies such as Membrane Bio Reactor (MBR), Moving Bed Bio Reactor (MBBR), Organica, UASB and other technologies, Pak Oasis aims to reuse sewage/ effluent or provide combined effluent treatment. Through this, Pak Oasis also adopts an environmental approach by recycling treated water for agriculture and irrigation purposes and attempts to reduce water wastage.