HYDERABAD: The Sup­reme Court-appointed judicial commission on water quality and sanitation in Sindh has submitted its fifth interim report in the apex court. It concluded that efforts of the commission were now beginning to bear fruit.

The report said that effluent treatment at 181 points — out of over 700 identified in a study by the irrigation department earlier where untreated municipal sewage falls into the irrigation system — would be taken in hand in the first phase after approval from the planning and development department in 14 districts at a cost of Rs4.33 billion.

The 46-page report said that “the task ahead has been momentous and the options, at times, limited yet the commission has tried its best to come up to expectations of SC”, adding that “while the commission is drawing close to the end of its tenure efforts have been multiplied to make the different projects take shape”.

The commission — headed by retired Justice Amir Hani Muslim — has observed in the report that a “final report shall comprise activities of commission, achievements, technical handicaps, engineering difficulties and so forth. It shall also, out of experience of last one year, propose a further way forward and a road-map in final/concluding report”.

The final report is to be submitted before Jan 13, 2019 when the commission’s tenure expires.

The report discussed different sectors, which fall within the domain of the commission, like Sindh Solid Waste Management Board (SSWMB), sewerage, filtration and ultra-filtration plants, water hydrants’ regulations etc. It said that the SSWMB was to be activated in all divisional headquarters of Sindh during the current financial year.

Regulation of water hyd­rants has improved after approval of rules by the Sindh Assembly and system has been streamlined now. Removal of illegal water connection campaign has gained momentum.

Final report on achievements and shortcomings due by Jan 13, 2019

Recently, 85 disconnections were reported form rising main between Gharo city and Gharo pumping station for irrigation and commercial purposes. Water testing laboratories were made functional with modern equipment at six filter plants.

Subsoil water regulations & rehabilitation of filter plants

The regulations for supply of subsoil water to Karachi’s industries were formulated and appro­ved by Sindh government in June 2018 under the commission’s dire­c­tives as previously there were no rules or policy on subsoil water.

Under these regulations, subsoil water supplies would be issued licences to operate to supply water to the industrial areas only through pipe network without using tankers. For maintaining transparency in process of issuing licences, a management consultant has been hired. Sixty-two applications of potential suppliers have been received.

A 100mgd (million gallons per day) pumping house at Dhabeji scheme — expedited by the commission — is at an advance stage and will be completed by Feb 2019.

Rehabilitation of filter plants is at an advance stage of procurement and work orders were expected to be issued soon.

As of today, 50pc physical progress has been achieved as far as the sewerage treatment plant-I (STP-I) is concerned. It will treat 51mgd sewerage. The plant was abandoned with 3pc progress only when the commission took over work on it.

The STP-III in Mauripur had 51mgd capacity. When the commission looked into the matter, it transpired that the work order had been issued in Sept 2014 and till Jan 2018, only 3pc progress was seen. With intense follow-up, the plant with increased capacity of 77mgd is functional.

The work on STP-IV with 180mgd capacity is to commence by Dec 2018 and to be completed by Dec 2020. STP-II cannot be rehabilitated for unavailability of land and accessibility issues at hand. An alternative plant, the STP-IV was conceived in Korangi as replacement. Work on Manzoor Colony drain will reduce load of untreated sewage from Lyari River.

The expected completion time of STP-V plant is two years. It is designed to cater to the treatment needs of the remaining parts of Karachi.

Sewage points

About the points where untreated sewage enters the irrigation system, the report says that in the first phase, 181 points in 14 districts will be taken up. This is a fully-funded scheme and targeted to be completed by June 2019.

According to the report, three out of five existing water filter plants in Hyderabad have been rehabilitated. When the commission undertook its job, all five were non-functional. For the rehabilitation of 400mgd pre-settlement lagoons at Jamshoro filter plants, a scheme costing Rs684.3m has been approved. Another scheme with initial cumulative cost of Rs5.2bn for two treatment plants — eastern and southern — has been prepared and work on them is to commence soon.

The public health engineering department has prepared the PC-1 putting the cost at Rs4.33bn to ensure treatment of all hitherto untreated points of outfall by constructing drainage schemes. Rest will be treated in the second phase.

RO plants & filter plants

There are 2,207 reverse osmosis (RO) plants in Sindh installed under different schemes and the commission inspected 1,800 of them.

A total of 1,166 were made functional and the remaining ones will be made functional by Dec 20, 2018. Of them, 589 are installed in Tharparkar and Umerkot. Out of these, 482 are functional.

Commercial construction

The commission visited industrial zones of the Sindh Industrial Trading Estates (SITE) which are a major source of environmental degra­dation due to poor man­agement and misuse of industrial land.

After scrutiny of facts, orders were issued for the cancellation of six unauthorised conversions and NoCs for commercial activities that were creating environmental hazard.

A complete ban was imposed on new commercialisation and further tran­s­actions on plots commercialised previously. Const­ru­c­tion work on commercial plots across the estates of SITE Limited was ordered

The commission got the combined effluent treatment plant (CETP) at Kotri scrutinised thro­ugh experts of the NED University. A Rs92.986m scheme was prepared in the light of recommendations and it is under technical scrutiny.

The CETP had never been made efficiently functional and resultantly outfall of effluent in the KB Feeder continued, threatening hundreds of thousands of human lives.

There is a CETP in Karachi as well where five active industrial hubs are located. Resultantly, industrial waste after getting mixed with sewage, falls into the Arabian Sea untreated.

The 1.5mgd RO plant at Islamkot has been made functional. Setting up of water tanks for drinking of livestock close to the RO plants in Thar has been ensured as livestock is a major socio-economic lifeline for Tharis. Besides, 45 big RO plants of the Sindh Coal Authority in Thar have been made functional.

The RO plants in Mithi and Islamkot have a capacity of 2mgd and 1.5mgd, respectively, but both presently work at 30-40pc capacity. They are under-performing due to dysfunctional membranes and filters. Their upgrading will be executed by Dec 15.

Published in Dawn, December 12th, 2018