KARACHI: The Pakistan Navy has expressed serious concerns over the discharge of raw sewage and industrial waste into the sea and sought cooperation from the Sindh government to remove bottlenecks in the establishment of a treatment plant near Mai Kolachi.

The issues of the marine pollution, installation of a treatment plant, expansion of Karachi Fish Harbour and others were raised by Chief of the Naval Staff Admiral Naveed Ashraf during a meeting with caretaker Sindh Chief Minister retired Justice Maqbool Baqar here at CM House on Tuesday.

A spokesperson for the CM House said that the naval chief informed Justice Baqar that the navy, in collaboration with the Karachi Port Trust, wanted to install a 60 million gallons per day (MGD) sewage treatment plant near My Kolachi.

Admiral Ashraf said that the project was part of the Greater Karachi Sewerage Treatment Plan, commonly known as S-III, but there were some issues with the provincial government over the land of the project that needed to be resolved.

Naval chief raises issue of marine pollution in meeting with interim chief minister

The chief minister told the naval chief that a case involving the Mai Kolachi land was pending disposal in court. However, he assured him that the provincial government would take steps to materalise the treatment plant project.

A source said that around 100-acre of land at the Mai Kolachi area was required for setting up a Wetland Park to treat 60 MGD of swage and industrial wastewater through various outlets. However, the project had been delayed because of litigation over the land.

The chief minister informed the naval chief that the provincial government had already started work on the project to treat industrial waste before dumping it into the sea.

He said that funds had also been allocated for the S-III project and the work needed to be expedited.

“There is also a federal government project for the treatment of industrial waste,” he said, adding that work on the projects also needed to be sped up.

Expansion of fish harbour

The CM House spokesperson said that the naval chief also informed the chief minister that the Karachi Fish Harbour needed further expansion.

He was of the view that the expansion was required to accommodate an increasing number of fishing boats. The chief minister said that the caretaker provincial government would definitely take steps to expand the Karachi Fish Harbour.

Admiral Ashraf said that although the provincial government had given Cadet College Kakkar to the navy it needed to complete the paperwork to start the college.

Justice Baqar directed the officials concerned to complete the paperwork at the earliest.

When the naval chief informed about a refinery being set up in Karachi in cooperation with China, the chief minister assured him that the provincial government would provide all necessary support for the execution of the project.

Seminar on World Fisheries Day

Also on Tuesday, the CM said that challenges such as overfishing, habitat degradation and regulatory gaps persisted and concerted efforts were underway to enhance governance, including the implementation of licensing and environmental impact assessments.

“By embracing sustainable practices and strategic investments, we can unlock the full potential of Pakistan’s fisheries and aquaculture sector, fostering both economic prosperity and the well-being of our coastal populations,” he said while speaking at a seminar organised by the National Institute of Maritime Affairs to mark World Fisheries Day at the Bahria University.

Justice Baqar said that seafood products, ranging from fish and shrimp to crabs and squid, including frozen and fresh seafood, canned goods, and value-added items like breaded fish fillets, could find their way to international markets if adherence to quality standards and the integration of technology was ensured.

“Our key export destinations include the United States, Europe, the Middle East, Southeast Asia, and South Korea. Remarkably, Pakistan’s seafood export reached an all-time high, hitting $496 million in 2022-23,” he said and added that the potential for growth was substantial.

The CM said that the fishermen communities were not merely guardians of the sea and added that they embodied the essence of our cultural heritage, preserving traditions that had been cherished and passed down through generations.

Justice Baqar said that Pakistan was blessed with a coastline stretching over 1,000 km and an expansive Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) covering 290,000 sq. km, including the extended continental shelf.

“This endowment positions Pakistan with significant potential for the development of the Blue Economy,” he said, adding that marine fishing activities were concentrated along the coasts of Sindh and Balochistan, constituting 30 per cent and 70 per cent of Pakistan’s total coastal area, respectively.

Fishing has been a vital source of sustenance for communities along the Indus River and the Arabian Sea for periods, he said.

“Our waters harbor approximately 70 commercial fish species,” he said and added that the fisheries sector not only significantly contributed to the country’s economy but also formed the backbone of livelihoods for the coastal communities.

Published in Dawn, November 22th, 2023

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