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Polluted waters

October 29, 2018


A MYSTERIOUS black ‘oil spill’ stretching from the coast of Mubarak Village in Sindh to Churna Island in Balochistan has spread panic among the local fishing community and residents, who quickly alerted the authorities. The black slick on the surface of the water that is clinging to rocks and fishing nets is thought to be some days old. Although workers of various NGOs, the navy, Karachi Port Trust, the Pakistan Disaster Management Authority and Pakistan Maritime Security Agency have begun cleaning up some of the mess, the extent of the damage to marine life can only be ascertained in the coming days. The source of the spill has still not been found, but Balochistan’s Environmental Protection Agency has ordered the nearby Byco Petroleum plant to halt its operations for now. They fear the spill will spread towards other beaches. Fishermen, who will be the worst affected, have demanded that the government take strict action against the owners of whichever company is found to be responsible for the discharge.

The incident brought back memories of the 2003 oil spill off the coast of Sea View beach in Karachi. Back then, a Greece-registered oil tanker carrying 67,535 tons of light crude oil spilled around 31,000 tons into the surrounding waters. Traces of oil could be seen even one year after the incident. It was catastrophic on all accounts — environmental, social and economic. Mangroves, fish, mammals, turtles, bird and crustacean life were affected by the spill on a large scale. A report stated that out of the 31,000 tons of oil spilled, less than 1pc was recovered in consequent cleanup drives. The implications for the health of those living on the coastal belt were even worse. In 2017, similar fears of another oil spill surfaced after residents noticed that the waters of Sea View and Hawkesbay beaches were growing increasingly dark. Later, it was found that the dark colour was caused by sewage that was being directly flushed into the sea from a drain, which had unclogged due to the rains. There are two sewage and industrial waste dumps at Sea View that discharge untreated water directly into the sea. It is said that around 500m gallons of waste are discharged daily, which adversely impacts vegetation and marine life, and disturbs the ecological balance. Due to the pollution of these waters, KPT officials bemoan spending millions extra on the maintenance of ships. Pakistan’s polluted waters are costing us in every way.

Published in Dawn, October 29th, 2018

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