THE inability of Karachi — read: successive provincial governments or municipal bodies — to clean up its own effluent has reached legendary proportions. The problem lies not only with the thousands of small-scale industrial units that, because of lack of civic oversight or mitigating arrangements such as treatment plants, continue to discharge raw effluent into the sea. A very large part of the problem also comes from the upscale and increasingly high-rise residential localities in the posh areas along the coast. These too have for years been discharging raw sewage directly into the ocean. The impunity with which the builders of these astronomically priced estates have failed to make proper waste arrangements — again fuelled by the lack of civic oversight or any accountability —without even a hint ofmea culpa by the ‘educated’, elite owners of these plots is astounding. By the Sindh administration’s own estimate several years ago, at least 8,000 tons of solid waste are either dumped or end up in the Karachi harbour every single day, in addition to a daily minimum inflow of 350 gallons of raw sewage or untreated industrial waste. As far as the civic administration is concerned, Karachi has a vast, open drain right there to be abused, thus removing the burden from the authorities’ shoulders.
But last week, the Cantonment Board Clifton and Defence Housing Authority earned the ire of the Sindh High Court for their failure to file compliance reports over the release of sewage and industrial waste into the ocean. The case extends back to 2017, when the WWF-P and other NGOs presented a petition before the court. On Tuesday, the DHA-CBC deadline was extended to Feb 10 after which, the bench warned, an “appropriate” order would be passed against delinquent officers. That officers from these authorities were not even present in court says a lot about the immunity that they are believed to enjoy. It is to be vastly hoped that the judicial intervention will, eventually, prompt a change of direction.
Published in Dawn, December 27th, 2021