The contamination of the Kotri barrage’s four main canals continues unabated as a result of the inflow of domestic, municipal and industrial wastewater.
These canals, including old and new Phulelli, Akram Wah and Kalri Baghar feeder, supply water to the population that lives downstream the Kotri barrage.
The people of Tando Mohammad Khan, Badin, Thatta and Sujawal district are dependent on these freshwater bodies both for domestic and agricultural purposes. Not only this, but the Kalri Baghar (KB) feeder is a vital source of freshwater supply for Keenjhar lake, that feeds Karachi directly.
Industrialists and civic agencies — responsible for such discharge — are now realising the gravity of the situation, but measures to stop untreated wastewater remain elusive.
Wastewater — mixed with trash, garbage and often the carcass of dogs — goes into the canal. Effluent from industrial units based in the Sindh Industrial Trading Estate (Site) area of Hyderabad also flows directly into the channel. According to Site chairman Mian Amir, 140 units are working in the food, textile, pulses and paper sector. Wastewater of these units is considered hazardous. Sindh’s environment minister has set Feb 8, 2017 as the deadline for these units to prepare their environmental management plan (EMP) and establish internal treatment plants in their factories.
The industrial units are also said to be working on EMPs in consultation with water technologist Dr Ahsan Siddiqui.
Entire municipal, domestic and industrial waste is thrown into old Phulelli canal, at a central point, which is managed by the Water and Sanitation Agency (Wasa).
Wasa runs the sewerage pumping station at Darya Khan village to release wastewater into the channel canal which then takes it to areas located downstream the Kotri barrage.
It is busy setting up the eastern treatment plant at a huge cost but the plant’s completion has been exceptionally delayed for want of release of funds from the federal government, leading to cost overruns. The project was started between 2007-08; but the pace of fund releases slowed in the subsequent years.
A Wasa source says that the project’s cost would certainly escalate to Rs1,500m from Rs990m. “Once this plant starts working, Wasa will be releasing water into the canal which will be treated potable”, says an officer.
The Darya Khan pumping station gets 80pc of the sewage water of Hyderabad and Latifabad, while that of Qasimabad is diverted to the western treatment plant where, after treatment through oxidation ponds, it eventually goes into the river Indus.
Hyderabad needs a master plan as the old civic utilities system outlived its life several years ago.
In the absence of a solid waste management plan, heaps of uncollected garbage either finds its way into manholes or is dumped on the banks of the said water channels.
Dr Ahsan Siddiqui says that the pulses processing units in Hyderabad’s site area use different chemicals — cadmium red and cadmium yellow having a toxic concentration — which are hazardous. Same is the case with the textile, paper and dyeing industries in the area.
A safe assumption is that these freshwater canals are getting around 5m gallons per day (mgd) of wastewater if the 60mgd supply of water to Hyderabad’s urban settlements and site area are taken into account.
Sepa’s recent findings of industrial wastewater samples in Hyderabad reveal that their values of biological oxygen and chemical oxygen demand, hardness and salinity don’t meet the provincial quality standards defined in the Sindh Environmental Protection Act, 2014.
Things are no different in case of the KB feeder’s contamination. It gets untreated effluent in Kotri at different locations. A combined effluent treatment plant (CETP) — built after much hype — is still said to be dysfunctional ever since it developed leakages. The plant was established by provincial industries department almost three years back.
The KB feeder gets the municipal waste of Jamshoro, Kotri and wastewater from government hospitals at different spots.
According to Sindh Environmental Protection Agency (Sepa) officer, Munir Abbasi a recent visit by Sepa’s team to CETP revealed it is not efficiently working. “We will again analyse samples of effluent from the Kotri industrial area that is treated at CETP for release into the KB feeder. But even for the naked eye the that quality of wastewater is bad”, says Abbasi.