KARACHI: The Supreme Court on Thursday issued notices to the federal finance and planning secretaries after the Karachi Water and Sewerage Board (KWSB) chief submitted in court that unavailability of funds from the Centre was hampering the implementation of a plan to treat sewage and industrial waste before their discharge into the sea.

A three-member bench of the apex court headed by Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali was seized with a set of petitions regarding increasing marine pollution. The petitions had been filed in 1992. The bench noted that the apex court had been hearing the matter for the past 23 years, but different authorities had been trying to shift responsibility on each other.

During a previous hearing, the court had asked the provincial environment secretary, Defence Housing Authority, KWSB and other respondent authorities to submit their reports stating what efforts had been made to protect the coastline from pollution and for the safe disposal of effluent and industrial waste.

On Thursday, KWSB managing director Hashim Raza Zaidi submitted in court that around Rs8 billion was required to complete the Greater Karachi Sewerage Development Programme (S-III) but the federal government was not adding its share.

When the bench asked him about the measures being taken to treat toxic water, Mr Zaidi stated that since none of the three treatment plants was functioning, the sewage and industrial waste were making their way into the sea untreated.

He said that the plants were currently under maintenance and being rehabilitated as part of the S-III project. Two more plants had been proposed to be installed, he added.

After examining the project’s map, the bench asked the KWSB chief if the available resources were sufficient to manage the toxic waste produced daily in the city. He replied that at least 500 million gallons of waste water was flowing into the sea. If the treatment plants were made functional, they could manage it and KWSB could also earn around Rs9 million yearly by selling the by-product. Mr Zaidi informed the bench that completion of the project would take four years if the required funds were made available to the KWSB without any disruption.

A DHA official also appeared before the bench and stated that his institution had nothing to do with marine pollution and the encroachments raised on Nehr-i-Khayyam because it was the responsibility of the cantonment boards concerned and the provincial government to take remedial measures.

The bench asked him to identify those responsible for the shrinking width of the Malir River that had reduced to a small canal within the jurisdiction of the DHA. It asked him to submit a report within the next seven days.

The local government and environment secretaries as well as the SITE managing director also appeared before the bench.

Published in Dawn, June 12th, 2015

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