REPORTS suggest Indus River water is no longer fit for consumption by humans or any living organism, as the release of municipal and hospital waste as well as industrial runoff have made the river water highly contaminated. There are 828 points along the river at which wastewater is discharged into the river. The fact that no one quite knows which department actually controls the Indus River tells its own story.

People here have a strange notion that raw river water can be used directly for drinking which is not the case even when there is no pollution. Municipal wastewater has organic substances, including carbohydrates, lignin, fats, soaps, synthetic detergents, proteins and their decomposed products as well as various natural and synthetic organic chemicals.

Municipal wastewater contains a variety of inorganic substances from domestic and industrial sources, including a number of potentially toxic elements, such as arsenic, cadmium, chromium, copper, lead, mercury and zinc, etc.

The industrial wastewater typically includes organic and inorganic solids, heavy metals and other compounds. Solid waste from hospitals include infectious and genotoxic waste, and may include cytotoxic drugs that are used in cancer treatment.

Conventional wastewater treatment plants do not remove the constituents commonly found in industrial wastewaters. Treatment method related to wastewater is actually a three-stage process comprising primary, secondary and tertiary stages.

Boiling water is not an option safe enough as it only kills anything that is alive, say, microorganisms.

It does not account for hazardous constituents. It can even be counter-productive, as during boiling, some water vapours get evaporated, and the water left behind has a higher concentration of chemicals.

Additionally, boiling water that contains volatile organic compounds (VOCs) is dangerous, as boiling will release VOCs vapours into the air that is inhaled by the humans.

Depending on duration, the inhaled vapours may cause cancer and organ damage as well as blood and nervous system disorders. The matter deserves the attention of the authorities concerned.

F.H. Mughal
Hyderabad

Published in Dawn, June 10th, 2023

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