KARACHI: Taking notice of the perpetual pollution of the recreational beach, Sea View, the water commission has put the defence secretary on notice.
Justice (retd) Amir Hani Muslim, who heads the Supreme Court-mandated commission on water and sanitation, in his order after Tuesday’s hearing in Karachi, held the Defence Housing Authority (DHA) and Cantonment Board Clifton (CBC) responsible for the pollution.
During the hearing, Dr Ghulam Murtaza, a senior research officer of the Pakistan Council of Research on Water Resources, and the DHA submitted their separate reports. The commission’s head described the former report, based on examination of water samples collected from different locations along the Sea View, as ‘alarming’ and the latter as ‘evasive’.
“The DHA and cantonment boards in Karachi have made the lives of the visitors going to Sea View miserable.” The commission noted that the restaurants at Sea View and Do Darya drain sewage in the sea and that there is no mechanism for collection of solid waste either.
Justice (retd) Muslim observed that the DHA has filed an evasive report, while no official from the authority appeared before the commission, except its counsel, Advocate Shahid Hussain. But even the counsel failed to respond to the commission’s queries, it added.
“… the officials of DHA have failed to come forward to provide any assistance and cantonment board is shifting responsibility on DHA,” Justice (retd) Muslim observed. “… the commission is constrained to issue notice to the defence secretary to appear in person and justify as to how these agencies [DHA and CBC], which are under administrative control of the Ministry of Defence, can play with the lives of the citizens under their laws in defiance of the Constitution.”
Additional Attorney-General Salman Talibuddin briefed that the DHA is a development agency and, hence, it is its responsibility to construct the infrastructure for sewage treatment. The cantonment board operates the developed infrastructure and manages the municipal responsibilities, he added. He said that the DHA and CBC have been giving contradictory stances.
The commission directed Dr Murtaza to re-collect the samples for an updated examination from different locations along Sea View and to submit the report at the next hearing. He will be accompanied by a senior officer of the Sindh Environmental Protection Agency.
The commission asked the defence secretary to explain to the commission which law permitted the civic agencies to release untreated sewage into the sea, which is injurious to human health and hazardous to marine life.
“If the secretary fails to appear, the commission will file a reference to the Supreme Court to take appropriate action against those who have defeated the directives of the commission.”
The defence secretary will have to give a reply to the commission’s queries in light of Dr Murtaza’s initial report at the next hearing on May 21.
Major (retd) Shaukat Alvi, advisor to the projects in DHA, and Colonel (retd) Tariq Mehmood, the additional director of DHA engineering project, had informed the commission on May 8 that a functional treatment plant existed earlier. “But it was [either] abandoned or allowed to become non-functional after the scheme was handed over to the cantonment board,” they claimed.
The sewage, according to the commission, is being discharged from four separate locations from Dua and China Town restaurants to Do Darya.
During the previous hearing, Justice (retd) Muslim had ordered that the original development plan of the DHA should be submitted to the commission. The details of the planned treatment plants, operating treatment plants and the quantity of sewage should be elaborated in the plan, it was said. The officials of DHA and CBC had sought a week’s time to furnish the details.