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Phuleli canal: Judge orders short-term remedy for effluent treatment

As the authorities fail to control the contamination of Phuleli canal, a drinking and irrigation source for three districts including Hyderabad, the judicial commission on water has ordered short-term counteracting measures.

The one-judge commission, headed by Justice Mohammad Iqbal Kalhoro of the Sindh High Court, heard on Saturday the concerned government officials at the Hyderabad Circuit Bench and visited the sites.

One of the biggest canals of Indus River, Phuleli springs from Kotri Barrage and passes through Hyderabad and Tando Muhammad Khan before ending in Badin. It is being polluted by discharge of untreated domestic and industrial waste water as well as daily dumping of solid waste in hundreds of tonnes.

Justice Kalhoro visited Darya Khan pumping station, the location from where over 96,000 cubic metres of waste water, mainly from Hyderabad SITE, is released per day into the canal.

He expressed dismay that the local authorities, despite knowing the health and environmental hazards of the continuous discharge of effluent water, have not taken any measure to stop the untreated flows.

The pollution continues as the Sindh Environmental Protection Agency and the SITE Association, a group lobbying for the industrialists, have locked horns over installation of the treatment plants. While the former demands compliance of the environmental laws by installing in-house treatment plants in each industry, the latter demands a government-built combined effluent treatment plant.

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During the visit, an irrigation official, Ejaz Qureshi, suggested to the judge the installation of a reverse osmosis (RO) plant at the pumping station to treat the effluent before it is released into the canal. However, the Pakistan Council of Research in Water Resources’s Dr Ghulam Murtaza and water expert Dr Ahsan Siddiqui shot down the proposition, pointing out that the RO plant cannot treat the industrial chemicals.

“I want [a] short-term plan,” Justice Kalhoro remarked. He formed a committee, led by Hyderabad Commissioner Sohail Rajput and water expert Siddiqui, to submit a proposal in three days for a short-term remedy.

The judge also asked for swift steps to stop a similar release of untreated domestic waste in Phuleli from another location near the National Highway in downtown Hyderabad.

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Masood Jumani, Director-General of the Hyderabad Development Authority (HAD), informed the judge that a Rs915 million project for the treatment of 22 million gallons per domestic effluent is under progress. Jumani said Rs500 million have been spent so far on the project and suggested that HDA could commission the plant with its existing 50 per cent capacity, if the commission ordered.

At the Jamshoro filtration plant, which cleans 30 million gallons per day, the judge expressed displeasure that water is being supplied to the city without completing the chlorination process.
The Water and Sanitation Agency’s Saleemuddin Qureshi explained to the judge that a month’s time is required for completing repair of the chlorination pipes, after which all three stages of chlorination will be conducted.

During the hearing, Sindh Solid Waste Management Board’s Deputy Director Syed Imdad Ali Shah, apprised the judge that the department is in the process of acquiring the landfill sites. He said a summary for allocation of 200 acres of land in Jamshoro and 100 acres in Latifabad as well as three other smaller pieces of land was submitted to the provincial government five months ago.

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However, the government is yet to allocate the land after which the development of the landfill sites will begin. Shah failed to suggest any immediate plan to stop the piling up of garbage heaps and the hazardous burning of such garbage in populated areas.

Ali, Z. Phuleli canal: Judge orders short-term remedy for effluent treatment. The Express Tribune, April 16, 2017.

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