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Hopes still alive for city’s largest alternate water reservoir

Text and photos by Amar Guriro
KARACHI: The de-silting work of the Reservoir Branch, a canal that connects Haleji Lake with Indus River, has finally been completed. The work was initiated in April this year. Mounds of silt that had almost chocked the canal, weeds and heaps of woods that had piled up during the last eleven years, have been removed.
But still the authorities concerned need to replace the rusted wheels, which are used to move the gates of the regulator just beside the lake. The irrigation authorities have also released water for Haleji after long pause, following which environmentalists hope that the lake, which was suffering from acute water shortage, would be restored.
The Haleji Lake is one of the biggest freshwater lakes of the country and is a wildlife sanctuary.
This Ramsar site, which was once known as a birdwatcher’s paradise, is suffering from pollution, especially the industrial waste that fall into its water.
Haleji Lake was once the biggest and the only reservoir to fulfill the drinking water requirements of Pakistan’s biggest city, Karachi, but after a scuffle between Sindh Wildlife Department and the Karachi Water and Sewerage Board, the water board had started siphoning water from Gujjo minor as an alternate source. But despite that Haleji is the biggest alternate water reservoir for Karachi.
The KWSB’s official record reveals that in the past, the Haleji Lake canal was taking about 2,200 cusecs from the Keenjhar Lake, but due to the tussle between the irrigation and wildlife departments, the water was not released for many years.
The history of Haleji Lake reveals that during the British rule, the British government had established this lake artificially to facilitate its troops stationed in the city during World War II.
Since then it became a permanent drinking water source for Karachi. A large number of migratory birds from Siberia, Russia and other cold countries used to flock to this beautiful lake. Since the irrigation department stopped providing water to Haleji Lake, silt had amassed in most parts of the canal that connect the lake with the Indus River, but in April 2009, the authorities concerned initiated the de-silting work.
The lake also faces a threat in the form of the Water and Power Development Authority’s ongoing mega project, the Right Bank Outfall Drain Phase-III, that passes just beside the lake and experts say the freshwater reservoir would be destroyed if the waste flowing in the drain seeps into the lake.
Saturday, October 03, 2009

About WashMedia-South Asia

WashMedia-South Asia is a group of South Asian journalists working on water, sanitation and hygiene issues. Theses journalists are from Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal.


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