HYDERABAD, Feb 5: The result of a recently-conducted chemical analysis of industrial effluent from Kotri’s Site area revealed that it had abnormally high values of pollutant-indicating components, endangering aquatic life in the Kalri-Bagar (KB) feeder, and eventually the Keenjhar lake.
The analysis was conducted by water technologist of Hyderabad, Dr Mohammad Ahsan Siddiqui, after five samples had been given to him by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in January to determine the quality of water in five parameters.
The samples had been collected from five different locations on the KB feeder. They included Al-Manzar — the point where KB feeder emerges from the Kotri barrage, point where industrial effluent entered the KB feeder, and, two spots downstream where domestic waste from Khuda ki Basti and waste from the Liaquat University of Medical and Health Sciences mixed into the canal water. A sample was also taken of the industrial effluent itself.
Besides this, samples were also collected from two factories — a maize products unit and a paper mill — in Kotri’s Site area. Effluent from both factories was being discharged without treatment.
According to Dr Siddiqui, the effluent had abnormally high values of biochemical oxygen demand (BOD) and chemical oxygen demand (COD). The BOD, he explained is the amount of absorbed oxygen needed by oxygen-consuming organisms in water to be able to break down organic matter. Whereas, the COD is a measure of how much organic compounds are present in the water, usually indicating the presence of organic pollutants. “If the COD value remains on the higher side it suppresses the BOD, endangering aquatic life in the water,” he said. “The BOD value of the industrial effluent was at 210 ppm (parts per million) against a maximum value of 80ppm whereas the COD value was at 410ppm against a maximum value of 150ppm.”
Besides, BOD and COD, three other chemical components were also analysed in the water samples. They were the water’s pH value — a measure of water’s acidity or alkalinity, and values of total suspended solids (TSS) and total dissolved solids (TDS). According to the analysis, said Dr Siddiqui, the TSS value of effluent was at 330ppm against a maximum value of 150ppm while the TDS was at 3,710ppm against a maximum value of 500ppm.
However, the values of chemical components from samples collected from Al-Manzar — the point from where KB feeder flows down towards Thatta and Karachi — were surprisingly normal, said Dr Siddiqui. The COD was recorded to be at 70ppm, BOD at 34 ppm, TSS 32ppm and TDS was recorded to be at 500ppm, he said. But, he added, the values are still not in accordance with the National Environmental Quality Standards (NEQS).
“Recently different species of fish were killed in the KB feeder. At that time the feeder was discharging about 2,000 cusecs of water per day, diluting the industrial effluent considerably,” said Dr Siddiqui. “However, this means that the effluent will not be dilated if water discharge is insufficient. Such abnormally high BOD and COD values, coupled with low discharge of water can wreck havoc for aquatic life.”
Meanwhile, the EPA issued notices to the managements of two private factories in Kotri’s Site area, for making court appearances on Feb 6 for a personal hearing regarding discharge of untreated industrial effluent in the KB feeder.
According to the director-general of EPA Sindh, Rafiuddin Ahmed, both factories were not making any effort to ensure that the quality of waste water was according to the NEQS. He said that the managements of both factories would have to file an undertaking to the EPA pledging to abide by environmental laws. If the managements failed to comply with the directives, he added, the cases would be referred to the Environmental Tribunal.
Meanwhile, though the Karachi Water and Sewerage Board (KWSB) chief Misbahuddin Farid had been concerned about reports of water contamination in the KB feeder and Keenjhar lake, he said that it was not the KWSB’s job to deal with contamination of water in the KB feeder and Keenjhar lake. The water board’s jurisdiction began from post-Keenjhar, he said.
The KWSB is the biggest beneficiary of water from the KB feeder since it uses around 555MGD (million gallons water per day) from a total of 655 MGD, to supply across Karachi.
In January, the KWSB chief had visited Hyderabad and KB site and had also talked about the issue with EPA officials, industrialists, Hyderabad division commissioner and industries and irrigation secretaries.
Talking to Dawn, he said that the KWSB was responsible for monitoring the quality of water post-Keejhar but not the KB feeder which supplied water to the Keenjhar lake.
However, he said that the KWSB would establish its own laboratory to check the quality of water coming being supplied to hydrants from Keenjhar lake. He added that he had been asking the EPA and Sindh irrigation department to check the contamination water in KB feeder and Keenjhar lake.
But Dr Siddiqui appeared to be a little sceptical of the role being played by the KWSB. The reason was that an implementation committee headed by Hyderabad division commissioner Ahmed Bux Narejo had decided that Rs4 million would be provided by the Sindh government for regular testing of water in the KB feeder and the money had to be channelised via the KWSB. But, he said, the water body was not taking any sort of interest in this regard.
The KB feeder is a vital source of water for the Keenjhar lake, a Ramsar site, supplying drinking water to Karachi and its adjoining areas. The canal emerges from the right bank of Kotri barrage and industrial and domestic mis with canal water at different locations. A combined waste-treatment plant in Kotri’s Site area is still not completed thought the industrialists association claims most of the work has been done.
Meanwhile the Kotri-based industrialists insist that effluent released from factories there is not hazardous since most of it is supplied to some rural areas where people use the industrial effluent for cultivation. They argue that barring only a couple of units from discharging chemicals wont stop the rest of the factories from doing the same.
However, Dr Siddiqui said that he had only analysed five parameters as required by EPA. But, he feared, the water also has high levels of poisonous metals such as chromium, magnesium, arsenic and lead.