By Amar Guriro
KARACHI: Health experts fear that the already serious state of waterborne diseases could worsen once the contaminated water is released from Manchhar Lake into the Indus River, which supplies the city with drinking water.
They expressed their concern after the recent decision by the irrigation department authorities, Hyderabad District Government, Hyderabad Development Authority and Hyderabad Water and Sanitation Authority to release highly contaminated water from the Manchhar Lake downstream of the River Indus, from where people of eight districts of lower Sindh – including Karachi -acquire potable water.
Diarrhoea, abdominal pain and vomiting are common in the summer, especially among the minors living in slum settlements; however, these maladies have increased after the recent rains and the release of contaminated water could worsen the situation.
Sindh Culture Minister and Member of Provincial Assembly from Thatta district Sassui Palijo warned that if the decision is not revoked, half of Thatta’s population could suffer terribly.
“The decision would bring a big disaster in the cities of southern Sindh. If the authorities release highly contaminated water from the Manchhar Lake in the downstream of the River Indus, the situation would be so complicated that we would have to call the National Disaster Management Authority to rescue the people,” Palijo said.
It is pertinent to mention here that the Manchhar Lake was once supposed to be one of the biggest freshwater lakes of South Asia, but in the last few decades, the Water and Power Development Authority and different federal department started pouring highly contaminated agricultural waste from northern districts of Sindh and Balochistan and industrial effluents from Punjab into the lake through the Right Bank Outfall Drain, destroying the lake completely.
After the substantial contamination in the lake, the authorities started releasing the contaminated water into the Indus River. In a recent meeting, the officials of the irrigation department, Hyderabad District Government, Hyderabad Development Authority and Hyderabad Water and Sanitation Authority announced to release contaminated lake water into the Indus River with the ratio of 1:50 cusec, which means if there are 50,000 cusecs of water in the river, 1,000 cusecs of contaminated water could be released into it.
Currently, there are 26,000 cusecs of water flowing in downstream Sukkur Barrage; so, during the meeting, the officials decided to release 500 cusecs in instalments.
However, as usual, after releasing the first instalment, nobody is checking and the water is being released in high quantities, making the river water highly contaminated.
In 2004, more than 50 people died in Hyderabad due to the increased ratio of the total dissolved salts in the river water after the release of the contaminated water from the lake.
Through different canals at the Kotri Barrage, the water was supplied to different districts for agriculture and drinking purposes. Through the Kalri Baghar Feeder, water is released into the Keenjhar Lake, which is later supplied to the districts of Karachi and Thatta.
The agricultural waste, industrial effluent from the industries of Kotri and Nooriabad and other contaminations caused by picnickers visiting the Keenjhar Lake – the only source of drinking water for millions of people of the districts of Thatta and Karachi – is already a matter of concern for environmentalists and health experts; and the recent torrential rains in southern Sindh have increased the contamination and the recent decision would bring more misfortunes.
When contacted, Hyderabad Administrator and District Coordination Officer Aftab Khatri said, “We take four samples twice a day and get it tested from the laboratory to check whether the ratio is correct, so there is no need to worry.”