Three months since an independent commission recommended setting up multiple sewage treatment plants on the catchment areas of the Rawal Lake, action has yet to be taken.
Despite the recommendations of the Islamabad High Court’s Environmental Commission, no progress has been made on the construction of five sewage treatment plants and a sewage network along the lake.
The absence of these facilities threatens aquatic life, as well as the health of over 3 million residents of Rawalpindi.
The IHC commission in October had recommended the urgent approval of funds for the project from the Ministry of Planning and Development Reforms. The project was jointly prepared by the Capital Development Authority (CDA), Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) and the Cabinet Division.
The aim was to ensure the supply of clean drinking water by constructing the five decentralised sewage treatment plants in the upstream of the Rawal Lake. The project in catchment area of the lake is estimated to cost Rs2,258 million.
The Rawal Lake is a source of drinking water for Rawalpindi, which receives untreated sewage and other water from the irregularly growing population of Bara Kahu, Bari Imam, Shaadra, Bani Gala and other adjoining population centres, which make the water highly polluted and toxic.
However, funding by the planning commission is still pending, and the delay in construction of decentralised sewage treatment plants along with a sewage network continues to pose a health hazard.
In 2012, on the direction of the Supreme Court, the Rawal Lake Monitoring Committee had tasked a private firm to identify causes of pollution and propose treatment plants.
The consultancy firm, Usman and Company, had proposed five sites for the construction of treatment plants in 2012, at an estimated cost of around Rs2.4 billion.
The ICT Administration submitted a PC-1 to the finance ministry for final approval. The concept paper ultimately reached the planning division, however, progress on the project has yet to be made.
“Years ago, Rawal Lake had the capacity to store 37,000 to 47,000 acre-feet of water, and its water was crystal clear, but now its storage capacity has reduced due to the continuous flow of silt and other sewage into the lake, and its colour has turned slightly brownish due to the influx of polluted material,” an official in the EPA told The Express Tribune.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 14th, 2015.