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January 13, 2019

Tainted waters


January 13, 2019

Water pollution has become a major problem in our country and the millions of gallons of industrial effluent and sewage poured into the sea of Karachi is one of its manifestations. These waters are now essentially poisonous. According to the Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum, fish and shrimp have died in huge numbers, making it extremely difficult for the fishing communities over Ibrahim Haideri and other fishing villages to earn their livelihood. A Senate standing committee on climate change which held a meeting with the Sindh chief secretary has been told that there are too few plants to treat poisonous effluents or sewage and that 472 mgd of sewage is generated daily in Karachi, of which only 50 mgd is treated. This is in fact a countrywide problem. Sewage and factory effluents carrying hazardous material are often poured into water channels or land, and as a result seeps into groundwater or taints vegetables or fruit or other crops grown on the lands. This has become a major problem in cities like Lahore as well.

A wide-ranging plan is required to sort out a problem that essentially threatens us all. Entrepreneurs in Punjab have been offering vegetables from land watered by clean means to customers, but of course this is impossible on a larger scale. And the fishing community that makes its living through their catch in rivers and lakes across the country is no longer able to do so. Equally alarming is the fact that the catch from our seas is ridden with poisonous materials including mercury and lead. It is safe to say that our rivers have turned into channels down which poison flows and reaches the vast sea in such volume that the waves that sweep in are unable to clean it away.

The Sindh government says that it will set up more industrial treatment plants and plant mangrove forests. But we have heard such promises too often in the past. What we need is a strategy that can save people everywhere from what is a very grave problem. It is not only our water but also our land which is being poisoned. Essentially, we have turned our home into a toxic wasteland. We must now cope with the consequences. These have already come forward with the growing rate of waterborne disease and sicknesses caused by tainted food. There is simply no time to waste and action needs to be swift and effective, beginning with the implementation of laws under the Environmental Protection Act to treat all effluents dumped in the sea or other waterways.

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