Pakistan: Dozens Stage Sit-in Protest for Clean Water

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from The Express Tribune

Former Sindh government adviser Haleem Adil Shaikh, along with dozens of Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid supporters and environmental activists, held a sit-in at the Kalri Baghar (KB) Feeder in Kotri on Sunday.

The participants protested against the contamination of a canal which is a source of water for nearly 20 million people in Karachi, Thatta and Jamshoro. The protest comes after Shaikh filed a petition in the Sindh High Court against pollution in the water canal.

“We will take this campaign to its logical conclusion,” said Shaikh who began the protest movement against the issue nearly six months ago. “In the next stage of the protest, we will conduct a long march from Kotri to the Sindh Assembly where we will ask the MPAs to try and drink this toxic water.”

The KB Feeder canal, which has a total designed capacity of 8,000 cusecs but usually flows at just over half of its capacity, travels nearly 100 kilometres through Keenjhar Lake to reach the Dhabeji Pumping Station which then supplies water to Karachi.

As it passes through the urban and industrial areas of Jamshoro district, toxic industrial waste from the Kotri SITE area is dumped into it, while government hospitals also dump their municipal waste into the water.

Cleaning the water

The Sindh government started construction of a treatment plant in Kotri SITE area, the biggest source of the canal’s contamination, following a Sindh High Court (SHC) order in April 2010. According to sub-engineer Zafar Iqbal, the Combine Effluent Treatment Plant has 14 biological and chemical treatment tanks of different sizes in addition to six ponds to collect industrial waste. It can treat 2.5 million gallons of water daily.

As per the SHC’s order, the plant was to be made operational by October 2011. However, more than two years after the set deadline, the plant is still not ready, despite a sum of Rs960 million having been spent on its construction. A test run in September exposed the sub-standard construction of the plant when many of its tanks developed leakages.

“At least Rs730 million has been squandered on the project,” claimed Shaikh, who wants a judicial commission to investigate the matter.

He added that the provincial government had promised that the faults in the plant’s tanks and other structures will be removed and that it will start functioning from December 30. “Today I visited the plant but it doesn’t seem to be any closer to becoming operational.”

Shaikh has made the provincial government along with irrigation, environment and SITE departments respondents in the petition filed at the SHC. The last hearing of the petition took place on December 3.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 30th, 2013.

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