Friday September 22, 2023

Indus River bringing entire Pakistan’s effluents to Sindh, laments SEPA

By Our Correspondent
June 06, 2023

Entire Pakistan is dumping its industrial and domestic waste into the Indus River, the lifeline of the country’s agriculture and economy, and when the river enters Sindh, people are forced to use highly contaminated water for drinking and agricultural purposes, officials said on Monday.

“The Indus River has become one of the most polluted river bodies, as it carries the entire Pakistan’s industrial and domestic waste from Gilgit-Baltistan to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab, and when it enters Sindh, people are forced to consume its contaminated water for drinking as well as agricultural purposes,” Sindh Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) Director General Naeem Mughal told a seminar held at the Aga Khan University (AKU) in connection with World Environment Day.Environmental experts and officials from Karachi and Islamabad attended the seminar, which was organised by the AKU in collaboration with the Pakistan Academy of Sciences Islamabad. It was addressed by Prof Muhammad Wasey from the AKU, Prof Riffat Malik from the Quaid-e-Azam University Islamabad, Prof Manmohan Mehindratta from India, Prof Zafar Iqbal Shams and Dr Waqar Ahmed from the University of Karachi, Dr Imran Sabir from SEPA and M. Waqar Bhatti from The News International.

The SEPA DG maintained that they have wiped out the lead-acid battery recycling mafia in Sindh, while many local and international industries have been forced to install wastewater treatment plants, but still millions of gallons of polluted water containing untreated industrial waste and sewage is being dumped into the sea, causing environmental pollution.

“And we are advising various local government organisations, including the KWSB, the KMC, district municipal corporations, town municipal authorities, cantonment boards, civic agencies, etc. for the safe disposal of wastewater, effluents and solid waste to prevent contamination of natural resources and pollution of environment.”

Mughal said SEPA has collected Rs80 million from mineral water companies and deposited the money in the national treasury, adding that they are also collecting data of illegal industrial and commercial activities in or around residential areas throughout the province to prevent such incidents in future. “The ban on non-degradable plastic bags was enacted last year. SEPA has launched a full-fledged legal campaign to make it effective, and action has been taken against the violators.”

He also said they were constantly monitoring industries, vehicles, construction, etc. to check the compliance status of the SEP Act 2014, and the rules and regulations made thereunder. “In the meantime, 152 cases are being filed with the environmental protection tribunal against the polluting industries for prosecution under Section 26 of the SEP Act 2014, while 384 cases are being filed with the relevant judicial magistrates of Karachi for prosecution under Section 29 of the SEP Act 2014.” In his keynote address, renowned neurologist and environmental health expert Prof Wasey said air pollution is now the leading cause of deaths and disability due to stroke in the world, especially in developing countries, where poor air quality is responsible for 42 per cent of all the stroke cases. He called for improving air quality in major Pakistani cities, including Karachi and Lahore, to prevent premature deaths and disability.

“Air pollution is responsible for the deaths of nine million people around the globe, and one of the leading causes of deaths due to poor air quality is stroke, followed by cardiovascular disease and lung ailments,” he pointed out. “Data is being collected on the effects of air pollution on health in Pakistan, but it must be causing scores of deaths and disabilities among people in highly polluted cities of Karachi and Lahore.”

According to him, around 1,000 people daily have large and minor strokes in Pakistan, of which 400 die on the same day, while around 200 to 250 become disabled for life. Poor air quality is now the leading cause of stroke in the world, including Pakistan, especially in Karachi and Lahore, which are among the top 10 most polluted cities in the world, he added.

“Air pollution is not only causing stroke but also resulting in other neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s disease as well as developmental disorders among children.” Prof Riffat spoke about the extent and hazards of plastic pollution in the world as well as in Pakistan, and called for creating awareness regarding it. Prof Shams spoke about the effects of climate change, and industrial and agricultural emissions contributing to it, while Dr Ahmed spoke about air quality. Senior journalist Bhatti called for capacity building of journalists for accurate reporting on environmental issues.