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‘91 per cent of city’s water supply unfit for human consumption’

By our correspondents
November 18, 2017

Ninety-one percent of the water supplied to Karachi is unfit for human consumption. This was disclosed by Advocate Shahab Usto while discussing the Supreme Court judicial commission’s report, an account of the water supply situation in Sindh, at a seminar titled ‘Water Report’, held by the Shehri-Citizens for a Better Environment on Friday.

Revealing the alarming statistics, he said this was on account of mixing of drinking water with raw sewage and also with industrial waste.

Usto, who had filed a petition in the Sindh High Court in this regard, said the three effluent treatment plants constructed to provide the city clean water have been redundant and dysfunctional for years, and there is no endeavour on the part of any civic organisation or the provincial government to put them back in working order.

As for the filtration plant in Mehmoodabad, he said that the land allotted for the purpose has been utilised for housing the displaced population of Jacob Lines during the building of Corridor-II.

He lamented that the SHC’s orders in this regard have not been implemented even after eight months of their issuance, in March 2017. The advocate further informed the gathering that this polluted water causes physiological disorders like bacterial diseases, cholera, diarrhoea, dysentery, hepatitis, typhoid, mental disorders, hypertension and a host of others.

Some remedial measures

As immediate remedial measures, he suggested ensuring rehabilitation of filtration plants, developing a foolproof mechanism to gather data and making the Sepa’s (Sindh Environmental Protection Agency) laboratory functional.

He also suggested devising alternative methods for discharging medical, municipal and industrial waste, instead of dumping them into rivers, canals or waterways.

Rest of Sindh no better

With the help of a video, he showed the alarming water situation in other parts of the province. According to the information provided, 88 per cent of the water supplied in Larkana was unfit for human consumption, whereas for Thatta, the figure was 87 per cent and for Shikarpur, the figure was 84 per cent.

He screened video slides showing the callous discharge of effluent-riddled water into the rice canal in Sindh which was the main source of potable water for the people of the area, and into the Phuleli canal near Hyderabad.

The video also showed scenes of a canal which was the main source of drinking water for the people of Badin but the waste from all the houses along its banks was being discharged into it, rendering the water unfit for human consumption.

Sindh, he said, had 29 districts and in 18 per cent of these districts there was no water at all in the schools. Children of these schools, Usto said, had to make do without water for a major part of the day.

The pollution comprised all sorts of pollutants, in the form of solid, industrial, human and animal waste. The footage of the polluted water in the canals and waterways was simply alarming.

It was on the initiative of Usto that a commission of inquiry was set up by the chief justice of the SHC. Justice Muhammad Iqbal Kalhoro of the provincial high court was appointed to record its findings as regards the supply of clean drinking water to the people of Sindh and on the deteriorating level of sanitation in the province. The commission presented its report on February 25, 2017.

What could be done

Engineer Farhan Anwar, in his paper titled, ‘The way forward’ suggested overcoming certain flaws. Among them was lack of autonomy, political interference and local government.

“The infrastructural make-up of the concerned departments and agencies was such that they lack autonomy. They have to be made self-governing as far as decision-making and use of finances is concerned,” he said.

Anwar added that too often working of concerned organisations is hampered by interference of high-ups on account of political expediency.

Of the local government, he said that it was imperative to ensure solution of such problems but lamented that the concept of a local government has been given a step-motherly treatment.

Earlier, Engineer Parvez Sadiq, a scuba diving enthusiast, talked about the pollution of the seas. He showed slides of the Native Jetty of 1970s, when its water used to be so clear that children would throw coins in it and then dive to retrieve them.

Sadiq also showed pictures of underwater creatures like lion fish and sea urchins and also showed videos of the present, whereby the underwater corals have developed disfiguration and the sea urchins have lost their spines, all on account of the massive discharge of effluents and sewage from the city of Karachi.

He said that now to scuba dive they have to go all the way to Charna Island, adding, that if the matter of pollution was not treated on a war footing, even the Charna Island vicinity might just become a wasteland with the marine life becoming extinct.