Washing clothes and cars along the Gilgit River, is turning out to be an everyday affair.
Families from nearby localities bring loads of laundry to wash in the river practically every day, especially along the 15km-long patch from Basin to Sonikote, while others bring their cars, taxis and rickshaws and wash them clean by using water from the river.
The whole episode, however, has a downside: chemicals from soaps and detergents that people use to wash their clothes and vehicles pollute the river, making it poisonous, which is consumed by people living downstream.
The Gilgit River is, undoubtedly, being polluted by its own residents; but the worst part of it is that this not a cause for concern for residents.
“How will the river be affected if a few people wash their clothes in it?” asked Sherdil, a local from Konodas. Sherdil might not be entirely wrong in his claim, but when dozens of people start washing their clothes and cars in the receding river, it does have an effect.
A taxi driver, Nisar Khadim, said he did not find anything wrong with washing cars in the river. “It makes no difference if we wash our cars here. It is a gift from nature,” he said. Khadim said he is a poor man and by washing his car using the water from the river, instead of at a service centre, he saves around Rs150.
In reply to a question by The Express Tribune, Sherdil, said he daily sees around 15 cars being washed on the river bank. “The river gradually seems to be becoming a permanent free car-wash centre,” he added.
An assistant professor at the Karakoram International University, Maisoor Ahmed, said that chemicals in soaps and detergents are not only harmful for humans, but are also threatening aquatic life.
He added that other non-degradable items such as plastics bags and tetra packs thrown into the river are also lethal for the river’s biodiversity.
When contacted, City Magistrate Mohammad Chirag said that washing cars and clothes in the river is banned and offenders are not only liable to pay fines but may also be sentenced to prison. “We have penalised people in the past for violating the law and will take more severe action in the future,” he added.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 27th, 2012.