Release of untreated sewage destroying marine life

Sewage not been being diluted by sea, claims researcher

Oonib Azam June 08, 2018
Sea view, Karachi is depicted here. PHOTO: FILE

KARACHI: A few days before World Oceans Day was to be observed around the globe, the Supreme Court-mandated judicial commission on water and sanitation had been reprimanding the authorities concerned for allowing release of untreated sewage into the Arabian Sea through Sea View.

World Oceans Day will be observed today (Friday) around the globe to create awareness about seas and emphasise the need for conserving marine resources.

Research conducted by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) – Pakistan has revealed that due to continuous discharge of untreated waste, Sea View in Karachi is rapidly losing its marine life. The Defence Housing Authority (DHA) has been disposing sewage into the sea for the past several years.

The judicial commission on water and sanitation has warned that it might ban all the constructions in DHA and Clifton if the authorities concerned did not resolve the issue of the release of untreated sewage into the sea. The commission observed that while new constructions were being permitted on whims, there seemed to be a severe lack of planning in the area.

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Around 580 million gallons of sewage is disposed of in Karachi into the sea every day, of which 10 million gallons is disposed of through Sea View.

WWF-Pakistan senior officer Komal Naeem shared with The Express Tribune findings of a study that she undertook, according to which the level of biological oxygen demand (BOD) at Sea View had increased to between 500 and 900 milligrammes (mg) per litre. She explained that the BOD range must not be more than 80mg per litre. As the BOD increases, the level of oxygen gets lowered which adversely affects the marine life, she said. “The marine life either has to displace or die,” she remarked, adding that this was the reason most of the fishermen had to go to deep waters these days for fishing.

According to Naeem, seven samples of water were collected all from the Sea View strip, in which coliform and enteric bacteria were also found apart from the high levels of BOD. Due to the presence of coliform and enteric bacteria at the shore, visitors as well as the marine life are vulnerable to several diseases, she claimed. “These are the opportunistic bacteria and can harm in favourable conditions,” she said.

The study also revealed that the untreated sewage being released into the sea only contained domestic waste not the industrial one.

The researcher recommended that the DHA should construct subsurface drains at the Sea View. “Sewage water is currently coming back to the shore and it’s not getting diluted,” she said, adding that with the subsurface drainage system, the sewage water could be diluted into the sea.

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Meanwhile, Dr Pirzada Jamal Siddiqui of University of Karachi Centre of Excellence in Marine Biology said that since the Sea View is an open area, the capacity of seawater to dilute the sewage could be high as compared to the Malir and Korangi River’s sides. “In no civilised society, untreated water goes into the sea,” he said.

Solid waste

WWF-Pakistan Technical Adviser Muhammad Moazzam Khan said that due to the presence of solid waste in the sea, the composition of the marine life has been drastically changed over the years. “Karachi harbour is so polluted that you won’t find any animal there,” he said and recalled that in 1980s, there used to be fishing at the harbor on a massive scale.

Khan added that in 1950s, experiments were conducted between Shams Pir and Baba Island for the fishing of prawns. “Now, there is nothing there,” he lamented.

Naval chief’s message

In a message on World Oceans Day, Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Zafar Mahmood Abbasi said the day is celebrated worldwide to signify the importance of oceans and promote awareness for the sustainable use of oceans and marine resources.

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This day makes us realise that we all are in one way or the other connected to the oceans and seas, he said, adding that the theme selected this year for the day was ‘Preventing Plastic Pollution and Encouraging Solutions for a Healthy Ocean’.

The naval chief said Pakistan was blessed with a long coastline with abundance of living and non-living resources. "Pakistan Navy has embarked upon a comprehensive Maritime Awareness Campaign Plan to enhance the understanding of general populace regarding oceans and huge potential of our blue economy," Admiral Abbasi added.

With additional input from PPI


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