Crystal clear shores lost in the mud

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PUBLISHED September 19, 2021

KARACHI:

In June 2020, a 20-year-old man accidentally fell into the sea near Rehri Goth, located on the outskirts of Karachi and considered one of the city’s oldest fishing settlements.

Muhammad Jumman, a fisherman by profession, says it took three days to find the body due to high levels of pollution in the area. Rehri Goth, which was once a sleepy and picturesque fishing village, has now turned into a cesspool of garbage causing residents health problems and financial disaster.

“It used to be a beautiful shore with crystal clear waters filled with different species of fish. It has now turned into a gutter from cattle droppings and industrial waste, ”adds Jumman.

Rehri Goth is considered to be one of the oldest fishing settlements in Pakistan. It is located on the coastal belt of Karachi and is part of the Korangi stream in the Indus Delta. Climate change and pollution are quickly wreaking havoc in this low-income community. Most of the 70,000 residents of Rehri Goth, which falls into the Malir, face a number of problems caused by health problems and declining fish catches.

Untreated industrial waste from Landhi and Korangi industrial zones is one of the main factors that make seawater toxic to humans and marine life. “Rehri Goth is our ancestral village. Our family and the other fishermen were prosperous and happy as there was a lot of catch in the form of fish and shrimp. But today, our younger generations are out of work and roam the streets because they don’t know where to go, ”laments Hawwa Bibi, who is part of the fishing community.

The most affected are marine life, which also faces the consequences of extreme pollution and chemical waste. “Mangroves are nurseries for fish, shrimp and other marine life. If pollution destroys them, how can marine life and related human life survive, ”asks Rafiul Haq, a consultant environmentalist based in Karachi.

According to a study published in January 2021 in EQA, an international journal on environmental quality that publishes research articles and analyzes on soil, water, air quality and the sustainable use of resources. environmental, the level of chemical pollutants in the coastal areas of Karachi is “exceptionally higher. ‘compared to national environmental quality standards.

The study also found that the Karachi coast is heavily polluted and inundated with chemical and metal pollution due to the regular discharge of domestic and industrial effluents. This must be dealt with with strict regulations to save the aquatic ecosystem.

It’s no surprise, then, that the fishing community is uncertain of what the future holds for their next generation. Kamal Shah, who runs the Coastal Media Center at the Fisherfolk Forum, an organization working for the welfare of the fishing community, says the root of the problem lies in the more than 1,600 cattle pens located in the cattle colony of Landhi.

These enclosures dump their waste directly into the sea. As a result, the catches have declined considerably. Many lost their income, forcing family members in factories to earn bread and butter for their children.

Pakistan Bureau of Statistics 2018-19 Social Report confirms that the lack of proper facilities for waste disposal is directly related to the pollution of the ecosystem.

The figures for the collection of solid waste by the city government of Karachi registered a 20 percent increase in 2018-19 compared to 17 percent in 2013-14, indicating the poor solid waste management system for the collection of solid wastes until their proper disposal.

In 2018-19, the overall garbage collection percentage was 36% in Sindh province. In this case, 28 percent of the garbage is collected by the municipality and 8 percent privately. On the other hand, 65 percent of households did not have a garbage collection system, indicating the poor solid waste management system for collecting solid waste until proper disposal.

Muhammad Moazzam Khan, who is a technical advisor for marine fisheries to WWF-Pakistan, said the waste produced by the Bhains colony includes animal body parts, hay and cattle droppings that solidify on the marine mass and deplete oxygen, causing marine life. suffer and die because of it. In addition, due to the layer above the body of water, the water is poisoned and this affects the health of anyone who ventures into it.

“Skin diseases in coastal areas are common. Patients of Rehri Goth, Ibrahim Hyderi often come for treatment. Rashes, thickening of the skin are few among the many skin diseases they suffer from due to the high level of pollution of the water they used for bathing, washing clothes and other activities. Polluted water can also cause skin cancer, ”confirms Dr Shakira Anees from Skin Hospital, commonly known as Chamra Hospital located in the Saddar district of Karachi.

Dr Moazzam says the only solution is the emergency installation of industrial waste treatment or recycling plants. WWF-Pakistan launched an initiative in 2018 in which eight biogas plant units were installed, which were operated by biogas generated from recycling livestock dung. The project ended in 2020. Two units are still operating and supplying gas to four houses. The rest of the units closed for various reasons.

Muhammad Aslam Ghauri, Secretary of Environment, Climate Change and Coastal Development in the Government of Sindh cites the 2014 Sindh Environmental Protection Law, under which it is mandatory for industries to dispose of waste industrial plants in the sea only after treatment. Likewise, municipal bodies are required to treat household waste before disposing of it.

“In 2021, Rs 800 million were allocated for the installation of wastewater treatment plants. Three treatment plants in Karachi and one in Tando Adam will be installed. These wastewater treatment plants will treat household waste and garbage before it is discharged into the sea, ”explains Ghauri.

Responding to a question about helping fishing communities, Ghauri said that for the development of fishing settlements in Sindh, development projects worth 997 million rupees are underway.

The biggest culprits of industrial pollution in the sea are the factories located in the industrial zones of Landhi and Korangi. When asked to comment on what they were doing to resolve the issue, the secretary general of the Landhi Trade and Industry Association, Shah Zaman, remained silent.

A government department official said warlike efforts are needed to resolve the issue. “No one is ready to take responsibility and play a role in controlling the increasing levels of contamination of the sea,” he said.

Alarming water pollution and the daily thickening of the industrial waste layer require solid waste treatment plants in the region. Despite several attempts to get feedback from the Sindh Solid Waste Management Board, no official was available to speak.

It is estimated that nearly 400 million gallons of untreated sewage is dumped into the sea in Karachi daily.

The increasing level of pollution of the Arabian Sea in the Karachi coastal belt is also a matter of concern for international bodies. The World Bank announced US $ 100 million for the Solid Waste Emergency and Efficiency Project (SWEEP) in December 2020 to improve the solid waste management system in the Pakistani mega-city of Karachi. It includes the construction and modernization of infrastructure such as the collection, transfer and disposal of garbage.

The residents of Rehri Goth are waiting for immediate government action to control the damage already done. However, many say it may already be too late.


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