A farmer works on his field in Chakwal. -File photo by Dawn
CHAKWAL: Riding on his donkey, Sahab Daad, 78, a resident of Kal village, located some 25km east of Chakwal city, inspects his land, once fertile now stands deserted.
Distress and anger could be witnessed written large on his bearded face riddled with pimples.
“This land would not be revived to its original condition”, he says in a mere audible voice.
Sahab Daad is not the only farmer who is undergoing the trauma. There are hundreds of others also whose fertile land is fast turning into barren by the hazardous waste released by “Kal Oilfield”.
Besides the land, area’s biodiversity has also become the victim of the poisonous waste which have polluted the water reservoirs in the area to such an extent that birds, animals and cattle die if they drink a single drop of water available in the area.
Kal Oilfield, located in Kal village, was discovered in June 1995 by Oil and Gas Development Company (OGDCL) and it started its regular production in August 1995.
The field has two pits in which it releases its hazardous waste generated by two wells. There is a stream which passes beside these two pits.
This stream which starts from the area of Kal village, runs through the lands of Bhubar, Panj Dhaira, Dhoke Karam Kaba, Kajli Bhatian, Pindi Gujran, Dharugi Rajgan, Sosian, Jand Khanzada, Dhoke Toor and Dohman villages which constitute hundreds of acres of agricultural land.
“Before partition, the British government had declared the land of Bhubar and Kal villages of Chakwal district the most fertile but now this land is losing its fertility at an alarming pace owing to the hazardous waste released by the oilfield”, moans Yasir Waqas, a resident of Kal village.
He says that the partridges, foxes, jackals and other wildlife are fading out by drinking the water from natural reservoirs which have been defiled by the toxic waste of oilfield.
This year due to heavy rain the two pits overflowed and their poisonous waste fell into the stream.
Once a stream of fresh water, it has turned into a stream of toxic water. There are eleven water management schemes installed on this stream which used to irrigate more than two hundred acres of land.
But now the owners of these water pumps have abandoned irrigating their crops as the underground water has become toxic which costs heavy on the crops.
Even the water of wells is no more usable. “Our lands, crops and wildlife are being destroyed by this hazardous waste”, says Sada Hussain, a farmer from Pindi Gujran village.
In the past, whenever a fault occurred in a water supply scheme the people of the area used to fetch water from the wells. But now they have abandoned this practice and spend days without the basic commodity.
“If immediate action is not taken the toxic from the oilfield will pollute water supply schemes,” observes Sada Hussain.
He asked the district health department to send water samples for laboratory test.
“The yield of our crops is fast declining due to this waste”, says Chaudhry Ghulam Asghar, who has been included in the list of “progressive farmers” by the district agriculture department.
He said the stream water also badly damaged the skin of animals.
“We have asked the local MPs and the officials concerned to rescue us but nobody has moved as yet”, tells Sufi Mushtaq Kajli.
When contacted, the Operational Manager of Kal Oilfield Mohammad Iqbal Afridi told Dawn that his department would fix the problem soon.
“We have sent a report to our environment management board at head office to look into the issue”, he claimed and added, “We are going to set up a skimmer plant and build new pits would which would cost Rs5 million”, he said. He admitted, “The present pits were not constructed properly hence the problem”.
Talking to Dawn, District Officer of Environment Protection Department, Manssor Rabani Butt said that his department had already taken the notice of the poisonous waste being released by the Kal Oilfield.
He said he had sent a report to the higher authorities in Lahore seeking immediate action against the oilfield.
“The oilfield should immediately stop discharging untreated water into drinking water reservoirs”, he said and added, “The quantity of chloride, sulphate, sulphide and other items is exceeding in the untreated water being released by the oilfield.
“Moreover this untreated water also contains oil, grease and charcoal. Thus this waste exposes biodiversity to severe hazards”, he told Dawn.
When approached, Public Relations Officer of OGDCL Khalid Mehmood told Dawn on phone from Islamabad that his department would look into the issue soon.