Members of the River Ravi Commission (RRC) met with the chairman of the Planning and Development Board on Saturday to discuss the site of a proposed bioremediation pond for the cleanup of Lahore’s river.
The commission was set up by the Lahore High Court’s green bench in April 2012 to look into possible methods to restore the ecology of the Ravi, which has become an increasingly toxic dumping ground for the city’s domestic and industrial sewage.
On February 1, the court had directed the commission to meet with officials of the Water and Sanitation Agency (Wasa) and the board to discuss the location of the bioremediation pond, proposed by the commission as a pilot project.
A commission member, speaking on the condition of anonymity as he was not authorised to speak to the media, said that an ideal 50-acre site at Babu Sabu had been selected for the project on the basis of satellite mapping and studies of the river’s flow and river bed.
But Wasa had already pledged the site for a wastewater treatment plant to be built by a Japanese company which would have the capacity to treat up to 400 cusecs, the commission member said. The bioremediation pond would be able to treat 10 cusecs. An average of 1,800 cusecs of wastewater drains into the river.
“The Punjab government fears that the RRC project may disrupt negotiations with the Japanese company.
Hence it’s been decided that the Planning and Development Board chairman will write a letter detailing the specifications of the RRC project to the Japanese consultants and see if they agree to part of the land next to their proposed plant being used for the bioremediation site,” said the commission member.
Asked if the bioremediation pond could be established elsewhere along the river, the member said the Babu Sabu site had been chosen as the water treated there could be disposed into the river without requiring electric water pumps, which may be needed at other places.
The Japanese company’s project was initially proposed to be built at Mehmood Booti, said the commission member.
However, they were offered the Babu Sabu site after the French government offered to build a plant at Mehmood Booti.
However, the Punjab government later turned that project over to the National Engineering Services of Pakistan. It remains at a very early stage.
The River Ravi Commission recommended in December 2012 that a bioremediation site based on an artificial wetland be set up to treat wastewater at Babu Sabu, similar to the Bioremediation Garden and Orchard in Islamabad.
Bioremediation is the use of micro-organisms to remove pollutants from water. It is inexpensive compared with wastewater treatments suggested for the river by multiple foreign consultants, according to the commission.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 17th, 2013.