99 industries to decide if 20 million people keep drinking polluted water or not

polluted water
You might be surprised after reading the headline of this post. But this is the story of Pakistan’s biggest city of Karachi where 20 million people reside and 90 per cent poor of them have to drink polluted water that comes from Kinjhar Lake and supplied to whole city.

Background of issue

Total demand of water in this city is 750 million gallon per day (MGD), while 650 MGD is supplied to residents of Karachi and out of it 550 MGD comes from Kinjhar Lake which receives fresh water from Indus river through KB Feeder Canal. This canal was being polluted by a cluster of 99 industries situated in Kotri industrial area some 250 miles away from Karachi. None of these industries had any treatment facility to treat its wastewater before its release to KB Feeder Canal. All the 99 industries collectively release nearly 1.2 MGD wastewater daily that goes directly into the KB Feeder Canal, then into the Kinjhar Lake and eventually into the bellies of the citizens of Karachi who cannot afford to buy mineral water for drinking purpose. 

How worse is polluted water in Kinjhar lake?

The water samples of this canal were tested in independent laboratories and showed that two main pollutants biological oxygen demand (BoD) and chemical oxygen demand (CoD) are three times higher and consumption of such water may cause various water-borne diseaseincluding gastro, diarrhea, kidney stone and joint pains.

Who noted their act of polluting?

The 99 industries of Kotri area have been polluting the water being supplied to Karachi city since long but their act of polluting first noted by the environmental authorities when six years ago a poor dweller of a nearby city Hyderabad complained in a higher court about this violation. The courts are quite active nowadays in Pakistan and the relevant court took serious note of this act of polluting that was and is still making 20 million people to drink polluted water or buy bottled water. The government of the area was ordered to bind industries not to release their wastewater before treatment.

Power of industries

The owners of the industries of less developed countries have high contacts in government and they easily save their skin from any type of legal action. They have only one excuse of saving themselves that if problems are created for them they will switch their business to any neighboring country. A poor country like Pakistan cannot afford further shifting of business from its land as a huge chunk of industries have already shifted in other regional countries because of worsening law and order and persistent energy crises. Therefore, industries fully exploit this problem of their own country and force the government not to take any action against them for their environmental violation. As a result 20 million people of Karachi are drinking polluted water just to avoid further shift of industries from their land.

Blessings of judicial activism

The court was not ready to accept this lame excuse of industries that if they were forced to install treatment plant, they could not bear its cost and would either shutdown their industries or shift to some other countries. In this situation government of the province Sindh – where all this was going on – proposed a solution to come out from this standstill. It offered to install the combined effluent treatment plant at Kotri industrial area with its money and industries have to just bear its operation and maintenance cost to run the treatment plant smoothly. After the efforts of three years now this treatment plant is fully installed with the capacity to treat 2.5 MGD wastewater but there are no signs that polluting industries would avail this facility. Most of these industries have now demanded that government should also bear the operation and maintenance (O&M) cost of the plant. This never happens in any part of the whole world that government has to provide a treatment facility to a polluter and also bear its recurring cost.

You pollute, I will pay

This is a strange example for the whole world that in Pakistan government has to compensate the act of polluting of the industries. But government is not rich enough here and always face shortage of funds. It is seen almost impossible that government can afford to bear its O&M expenses. It is widely feared that plant that has been fully installed will remain installed and could not work or even work for some time and then be closed because of no funds to run it. It means now it ups to 99 industries of Kotri either they bear its functioning cost or leave no option for the 20 million people of Karachi to keep consuming polluted water.

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