Life of millions of people in Jamshoro and Kotri cities is at risk as there is no filter plant for supply of purified water- case study of two cities and surrounding villages receiving water from Karachi canal
By Majid Jagirani
Polluting the Indus River water and supply of such a highly contaminated water to the citizens continues posing threat to the life of millions of people of Sindh, as unfortunately no corrective measure have so far been taken despite Judicial Commission’s recommendations and apex court’s orders.
To the surprise of people, despite non-compliance of recommendations, the apex court itself had dissolved the Judicial Commission on Water and Sanitation in February 2020. The Commission had submitted its report in the court in December 2018, which should have been followed strictly but entire practice proved useless with no implementation. More interestingly, the government of Sindh, who was responsible to ensure implementation of Commission’s recommendations, had desired through its attorney in the apex court in January 2019 that the Commission, headed by Justice ® Amir Hani Muslim, should continue working, but the court had dissolved, as stated above. The formation of Judicial Commission and submission of report proved a futile practice, as had been in the past in several cases. The Indus irrigation system continues to be polluted by toxic industrial, municipal and hospital wastewater, which not only poses threat to the lives of people but also the ecological system of Sindh, according to the World Economic Forum’s Report 2018 Indus is second among a group of ten rivers responsible for about 90% of all the plastic that reaches the oceans.
The situation is almost same in entire province as the Judicial Commission on Water and Sanitation had identified 414 places of Indus River system where municipal wastewater of cities, villages and industrial poisoned water is being discharged in Indus and 84% population of Sindh has no access to safe drinking water. However, I will discuss the lower part of Sindh and especially the Kotri Barrage area where Fulleli, Pinyari, Kalri Baghar (KB feeder) are the perennial canals of this barrage. Millions of people of Jamshoro, Kotri, Hyderabad and Karachi as well as water species are at high risk because of water pollution in this part of river and its canals. Industrial waste material and sewerage water of cities are the two main causes of water pollution of Kotri barrage and its canals. The people of these cities and surrounding village have to consume such highly contaminated water.
Recently I visited a pre-partition village of Khuda Bakhsh Khaskheli on the left bank of Karachi canal, where most of the dwellers have been affected by the water pollution. A villager Wasayo Khaskheli told that five thousand people of this village have been using water of Karachi canal for drinking and other purposes. “Water of this canal has been polluted by waste material of industries and sewerage water of 10 colonies of Kotri city, having population of half a million,” he told.
“During last 5 years more than 470 people of this village have died due to the diseases caused by contaminated water. In the year 2020 alone some 65 people of our community died due to different diseases like hepatitis, lungs failure, and other different unknown diseases and skin allergies,” he told.
Wasayo Khaskheli told that there are more than hundred different types of factories in SITE area of Kotri, and the wastewater of these factories and sewerage of more than 10 colonies is directly discharged into Karachi canal while the municipal waste is also being dumped in the surroundings. This has turned Karachi canal highly harmful for human beings as well as water species.
During the fieldwork, when I entered the village of Khuda Bakhsh Khaskheli, I was shocked to see wounds on the different parts of bodies of children due to skin diseases. When I asked the reasons, Wasayo Khaskheli told that this is because of water pollution of Karachi canal.
“There is no any facility of purification of water. There is no any water filtration plant for our village as well other surrounding villages and even the Jamshoro and Kotri cities. Many times villagers went to different authorities to get stopped the discharge of industrial and municipal wastewater of cities in Karachi canal, but they failed to get the issue resolved. Now this village is helpless and suffering from different diseases.”
I also visited the water pumping station of Karachi canal, the only source of water for the whole population of Jamshoro, Kotri and its villages. There were eleven pumping motors at the pumping station but I was shocked to note that there was no any facility of purification of water and polluted water was being supplied directly to the millions people of Kotri and Jamshoro without any filtration of water.
There was only one room of water filtration plant which was inaugurated by Malik Asad Sikandar in 2004 but that plant has been dysfunctional since many years. Even that single purification plant, if it worked, was inadequate for the whole population of Kotri alone.
When I contacted skin expert Dr. Ramesh Kumar, he said that factories of Kotri use many types of chemicals in their manufacturing processes, and contaminated wastewater is the cause of countless deadly diseases like hepatitis, liver cancer, failures of kidneys, Anemia, stunted growth among children, restrictive lungs disease, diarrhea, cholera, typhoid, skin lesions and allergies, dysentery, Malaria, neurological impairments, endocrine glands, cardiovascular, bladder and immunity problems. These diseases have rapidly increased in Kotri, Jamshoro and different other cities of Sindh due to the water pollution.
He further said the government of Sindh should have taken action against factories as it is the responsibility of the government to provide safe drinking water to citizens.
On the right bank of Karachi canal, I saw there an open area for the burning of garbage. Here municipal solid waste, hospital waste and different types of plastic waste, is being burnt regularly, which is the harmful act and affects the environment and health of humans as well as ozone layer and water species. It was the utter failure and irresponsible attitude of Municipal Corporation and district government of Jamshro district. When I tried to contact them, they didn’t respond.
I contacted to water and environment expert Mr. Nasir Panhwar, who said that there is a law – Sindh Environmental Protection Act 2014, against water pollution, which provides for protection, conservation, rehabilitation and improvement of the environment for the prevention and control of pollution, and legal action against polluters.
“But the problem is of implementation of law in Sindh. It is the responsibility of Sindh Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) to implement the law,” he said.
“Government of Sindh had approved R.s 63.781 million for the completion of the Combined Effluent Treatment Plant (CET) for industries of Kotri in 2017, but that plant is not accomplished yet,” he told.
The entire scenario suggests how indifferent are provincial government, local government authorities, SEPA and the so-called elected representatives towards their responsibilities, which has posed a serious threat to the life of millions of people.