Pakistani couple guarding river in Shanghai

Published: June 11, 2018
Representational image of a river. PHOTO: REUTERS

Representational image of a river. PHOTO: REUTERS

SHANGHAI: Every Saturday, Pakistani couple Aiza Kashif and M Kashif Qazi in their don blue vests and caps, their uniforms as volunteer river wardens.

They are among 107 volunteers in Zhangjiang township who report pollution in the Chuangxin River. Aiza has been a biology teacher in a private school in Shanghai’s Pudong New District since she moved to Shanghai with her husband in 2012.

She was asked by the township government to supervise river protection as an unofficial “river chief” this year. Aiza believes the offer was partly due to her work as an anti-drug campaigner in 2016 in Zhangjiang, when she organized a concert to raise drug awareness.

“My husband and I decided to patrol the river together so that we can help each other and talk about what needs to be done,” she said. She is required to report everything from changes in water quality to floating garbage to damaged river banks.

“The work is not difficult. I just take photos of problems I see, and post them in our WeChat group,” she said.  Aiza’s work is made easier by GPS positioning attached to her photos, since she cannot read or write in Chinese. As unofficial river inspectors, they don’t have to deal with the problems they find, only report them.

“My reports are taken care of by professional staff,” she said. Born in Lahore, Pakistan’s second city has a PhD in pharmacy from the University of the Punjab. The river chief system began in 2016. River chiefs are normally administrative officials accountable for  bodies of water under their supervision.

“I was a little skeptical when I got the offer. Will this actually help the river environment? Am I qualified for this position?” said Aiza. Her husband convinced her to take the task and they decided to do it together. Aiza and her husband are responsible for two different sections of river. When her husband, a veterinarian, is away on business trips, she does both patrols by herself.

“On weekends, we often take our kids walking along the river together and I take the chance to share with them things about water resources and environmental protection,” she said. Aiza said the water quality has improved since she took up her role.Xinhua


Published in The Express Tribune, June 11th, 2018.

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