KARACHI: A comprehensive strategy including incentives to industries opting for environment-friendly processes is required to tackle growing marine pollution that has jeopardised the survival of many species and contaminated food chain, said experts while sharing their views on government efforts to improve waste management system and harbour conditions in the city.

Dr Nuzhat Khan, a senior scientist associated with the National Institute of Oceanography (NIO), said that most untreated waste ended up in the seas, seriously affecting marine life and contaminating food chain. This complex issue required a multi-pronged strategy.

“It’s mainly our land-based mismanagement which is polluting our seas and oceans. Hence, the strategy should include setting up an effective waste management mechanism in the city as well as looking at ways to bring a positive change in industrial operations,” she said.

Explaining this point, Dr Khan said that there was an immediate need for legislation aimed at encouraging industries to move towards environment-friendly systems, processes and increase their exports.

Industrialists unwilling to cooperate with research institutions

“This is critical. You have to create a mechanism that sends a strong message that it’s pretty much gainful to invest in environment-friendly systems, for instance, offering major tax relief or providing utility services at highly subsidised rates for setting up treatment plants and replacing obsolete technology with environment-friendly methods.

“Creating grounds for increasing exports could be another way as internationally it’s now an obligation upon exporting countries to show that they are meeting basic environmental, labour health and safety criteria during production,” she noted.

Dr Shazia Nisar, an associate professor at KU’s chemistry department, believed that cost-efficient solutions were available to reduce waste generation and tackle existing pollution, which could be successfully implemented if industrialists started collaboration with academic institutions.

Unfortunately, however, industrialists were not ready to cooperate with research institutions for pilot projects which needed investment, she said.

“Second, we need to create awareness on the hazards of pollution and industrial discharge so that people realise how pollution damages environment and endangers public health,” she said.

According to her, one neglected area in this regard was improper use and disposal of textile dyes, a major hazard for both environment and public health.

“This area needs attention. These chemicals are highly toxic and people are using them without knowing their source or inquiring about their authenticity,” she said, adding that the university in collaboration with the Higher Education Commission recently held a seminar, which received a good response and there was a need to hold more such events for creating awareness.

Endorsing the idea of encouraging industries to become environment-friendly, she said the government should offer some kind of assistance to industries willing to use environment-friendly chemicals and waste treatment methods. “There is also a dire need to strengthen capacity of officials dealing with environment and implement relevant rules and regulations.”

Mohammad Moazzam Khan of World Wide Fund for Nature-Pakistan said that the government had to step in and each individual had to fulfill his/her responsibility towards environment.

“Right now, a major quantity of the solid and liquid waste daily generated in the city ended up in the sea. While the government needs to strengthen and activate all its relevant departments including the Sindh Environmental Protection Agency, individuals need to ensure that they dump garbage at the designated site,” he said.

It is important to recall here that the government was forced to look into environmental, water and health issues plaguing the whole province after the Supreme Court intervened in these matters last year.

While the pace of improvement is too slow and an obvious change is yet to be seen, many experts believe that the government needs to adopt a holistic approach, demonstrate more seriousness and explore avenues that could help bring a lasting change.

In this regard, they also referred to the task force set up over a month ago to improve hygienic conditions at the Karachi harbour where operational activities had been marred by a continued conflict between the Fisheries Cooperative Society and Karachi Fisheries Harbour Authority for years.

They also questioned Sepa’s capacity to handle major environmental challenges.

Published in Dawn, September 10th, 2018