The inquiry committee tasked with investigating the recent contamination of Keenjhar lake in Thatta has downplayed the likelihood of the windmills at Jhampir being the source.
Although the report it submitted on May 11 was only an initial one, as a detailed inquiry has not been completed, it has identified the contaminant – urea – but not the source where it came from.
“We are certain that the Horolo stream (hill torrent) brought the toxins to the lake after the April 16 rains,” said water expert Ahsan Siddiqui, flanked by Sindh Environment Protection Agency’s director-general Rafiuddin Ahmed and regional director Mujeeb Shaikh on Wednesday. The three are on the five-member committee.
The aquatic catastrophe devoured many of the lake’s species, killed birds and a few animals during the four to five days it lasted. Even though it did not badly affect humans as much, there were reports of people falling ill after drinking water from that part of the lake. The lake, famous for its Sindhi legend of Noori Jam Tamachi and as a visitor’s resort, is a source of livelihood for fishermen and growers.
According to Siddiqui, the samples collected from the lake contained 50 milligrammes of urea per litre of water. He was not sure if the wind mills were using this chemical. When asked about the use of an anti-sulphate chemical along with the concrete while laying the foundation of windmills, the director-general noted the questions, saying the committee will investigate.
The windmills of Horlu, Jhampir and FFC (Fauji Fertiliser Company) are nearest the lake. While the former two voluntarily stopped their work when the situation arose, the FFC had to be issued a notice to stop.
The report has pointed out that 29 industrial units in Kotri, Jamshoro have been described as ‘agents of pollution’. Their effluent is carried to the lake from the Kalri Baghar Feeder canal which moves through Kotri and Thatta districts. However, the water expert believes that the six-kilometre-long seasonal stream, Horolo, brought the toxins. “The lake has two sources of water – the KB Feeder and the Horolo stream. It is the latter which caused the contamination.”
DG Rafiuddin pointed to the movement of oil tankers which are washed with water from the lake and the pesticides and fertiliser drained from the nearby fields as other suspect sources.
The committee was asked to inspect the mills and turbines, link the laboratory tests with the activities at the mills and affix responsibility on individuals or organisations for the contamination.
The committee did not say when it would complete the final report.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 17th, 2012.