Text and photos by Amar Guriro
Despite tall claims made by the government at various levels to make Keenjhar Lake pollution free, it has yet to materialise as the lake continues suffering from acute water shortage and increasing pollution. Keenjhar Lake, which is Pakistan’s second largest natural freshwater lake, a Ramsar site, a protected game sanctuary and the only source that fulfills the drinking water requirement of the city, needs protective measures on emergency basis.
Though several public sector departments, international donors and organisations, local community-based organisations (CBO) and nongovernmental organisations are running different projects on the site, no one has bothered to come forward to work for the lake’s preservation and making it pollution free.
Sindh Irrigation Department claims that it owns the lake as the department provides water to the lake. Sindh Wildlife Department (SWD) maintains that the lake is its most important site as it serves for different migratory birds and other wildlife. District government declares the lake as its part. The lake is also very important for the Karachi Water and Sewerage Board as it is the only source that provides drinking water to 1.8 million people of the city.
For Sindh Culture and Tourism Department, the lake generates huge revenue as the department runs residential huts, picnic spots and other activities. The World Wildlife Fund, United Nations Development Programme, and several local CBOs and NGOs are running several projects near the lake, but none of these government departments or international and local organisations are doing anything for its protection.
Indus for All Programme’s Site Manager for Keenjhar Lake Zahid Jalbani, while stating major reasons responsible for the lake’s pollution, said,
“The highly contaminated industrial effluent, which comprises highly toxic waste from hundreds of industrial units of Kotri and Nooriabad, is being poured in the lake without proper treatment.”
Besides being the main water supply source, the lake is also considered to be an important site for breeding and a passage for water birds that migrate to Pakistan in winter from Russian Siberia and other cold countries. The official record of SWD reveals that the lake used to be a birdwatcher’s heaven and almost 0.3 million migratory birds of about 200 species were reported to be seen near it, but rise in pollution, especially the industrial waste, has drastically changed the ecology of the lake.
Besides industrial waste, the practice of washing vehicles in the lake and picnickers littering it also contribute to rise in pollution of the lake. During a visit, this scribe found tons of empty soft drink cans, food item wrappers, polyethylene bags, plastic bottles and papers near the edges of the lake.
Sunday, October 04, 2009