Text and photos by Amar Guriro
Environmentalists hope that the city would get fresh and less polluted water after the Sindh Irrigation Department (SID) has increased the daily discharge for Kalri Baghar (KB) feeder that feeds the Keenjhar Lake from where the whole city gets its water. The recent torrential monsoon rains have increased the flow of River Indus and SID has doubled the daily discharge of the KB feeder.
The KB feeder provides water to Keenjhar Lake, which is not only a Ramsar site and a protected game sanctuary, but it also provides water to Pakistan’s largest city, Karachi. However, hundreds of industries of the Kotri Industrial Site Area are pouring highly intoxicated industrial waste in the KB Feeder.
“The industrial units, including chemical industries and some pharmaceutical factories, are directly pouring polluted water in the KB feeder, but after an increase in the daily discharge, Keenjhar Lake and the residents of Karachi would get less polluted water for the next few days,” said President Hamdam Development and Welfare Organization (HDWO) Shaukat Soomro.
HDWO is working on issues of environment, health, hygiene and fresh water in collaboration with WaterAid Pakistan, Orangi Pilot Project and other national donors. “To ensure constant fresh water, the authorities must ensure ending the illegal sewerage connections and also the increase of discharge,” said Soomro.
The industrial waste is not only harming two of Pakistan’s total 19 Ramsar sites, including Keenjhar Lake and Haleji Lake, but also posing threats to 18 million citizens of Karachi and 1.2 million citizens of Thatta that get water from those sites.
Keenjhar or Kalri Lake is a Ramsar site and is protected under the International Ramsar Convention that took place in 1971 in the Iranian city, Ramsar. The Pakistani government is also a signatory to the convention. However, it has taken no measures to protect this lake.
There are a total of 19 Ramsar sites in Pakistan, out of which nine are located in Sindh alone. Keenjhar is one of the most important protected sites because of its wetlands. Thousands of people from Karachi regularly visit the lake for picnics, especially in the summer. Another Ramsar site, the Haleji Lake, has also been polluted since it also gets water from the KB feeder. Despite the importance of these water bodies, the provincial government has not taken any notice of the pouring of industrial waste in the feeder.
On contacting the on-duty officer of SID at control room Kotri barrage, Gul Muhammad Shoro said that normally the KB feeder supplied 2,500 to 3,500 cusecs in 24 hours, out of which about 1,200 cusecs were for Karachi, but after increasing the daily discharge on Saturday, it has reached 4,200 cusecs and it will be increased to 6,500 cusecs by Sunday morning.
“That’s very hopeful, but authorities must guarantee a permanent solution to this situation, so that the country’s largest city may get fresh water and the two Ramsar sites can be protected,” said Imtiaz Leghari of Ideal Rural Development Programme.
Sunday, September 06, 2009