Polluted waters: Hyderabad authorities determined to clear Phuleli canal of encroachments | Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Pakistan Press Foundation

Polluted waters: Hyderabad authorities determined to clear Phuleli canal of encroachments

Pakistan Press Foundation

HYDERABAD: Despite the backlash expected from encroachers, the Hyderabad municipality has refused to back down from its anti-encroachment drive.

It is determined to strike against the squatters and industries polluting the air and water bodies in the city. Hundreds of industrial units in SITE area and thousands of residential and commercial structures, built over several kilometres on the encroached land of Phuleli canal, will face the wrath of the law.

According to Hizbullah Mangrio of Sindh Irrigation and Drainage Authority (Sida) that manages the canal, construction of structures within 100 feet on either side of the banks of any water canal is not allowed.

“Removal of encroachment is no doubt going to be a tedious job but we can’t shy away from it in the face of human disaster, which all these elements have collectively created,” said Hyderabad division commissioner Qazi Shahid Pervez, while talking to The Express Tribune. “We shall not back out!”

The success of the recent anti-encroachment drives, led by former Hyderabad commissioner Asif Hyder Shah, has encouraged the authorities to stick to their guns.

Pervez referred to successful operations against squatters. “Just look at Kakool Wah [a waterway in Dadu district] operation. Now I have requisitioned Rangers for that operation,” he said, suggesting a similar move for Hyderabad.

The 60-mile long Phuleli canal is a water source for Hyderabad, Tando Muhammad Khan and Badin districts. It irrigates 629,650 acres of agricultural land in these districts.

Hyderabad’s City taluka, biggest among the district’s four talukas, alone generates around 660 tons of solid waste every day, according to former municipal commissioner Aijazul Hassan. The bulk of this waste is thrown by the Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (HMC) on the canal’s banks as it has yet to acquire landfill sites for disposal. Around 220,000 cubic metres of waste water is also released each day in the canal from many sewerage pumping stations, according to the Sindh Environment Protection Authority (Sepa).

The commissioner, who called a meeting on Thursday to take decisions on this issue, also informed that the industrialists have been given a month to start installing in-house waste treatment facilities. “Otherwise, their factories will be closed under environmental laws.”

Some other decisions taken at the meeting included an end to dumping of solid waste in Phuleli canal by the HMC, lifting of existing garbage from the canal, acquiring land for landfill sites and the development of three sewage treatment sites.

“Writing [for the removal of encroachment from the canal’s banks] to the district administration has become a routine work for us all over these years,” said a Sida official. “But we never expected that this will budge the authorities.”

For his part, HMC municipal commissioner Zahid Hussain Khaimptio said that two landfill sites near Latifabad taluka’s Mehar Ali Society have been identified. One piece of land is around eight acres and the other is six acres, he said. “Initially, we are going to do four things: stop dumping solid waste on Phuleli, lift the existing waste, remove factories and industries from its banks and shift the big and small cattle pens out of there,” he said.

The SITE association, which represents the businesses based in the industrial area, has objected to the installation of in-house treatment facilities. In a letter addressed to Sepa’s Hyderabad office, it argued that the provincial government should set up a combined effluent treatment plant. The letter was attached with a copy of the minutes from a November 18, 2015, meeting in Karachi which decided to fund combined effluent treatment plants for Karachi industrial zones at the government’s expense.

After the December meeting in Hyderabad, Sepa, SITE and an independent expert began a survey of in-house treatment facilities in the SITE area. As the survey continued, Sepa directed the industrial units to establish the treatment facilities.

“We have inspected over 130 units of auto parts, textiles, pharmaceuticals, paper mills and food so far,” said Sepa regional director Munir Abbasi. “None of them are equipped with the treatment facilities. All are contributing to pollution of air, water and noise.”

Sepa has planned to carry out analysis of the chemicals released in the drains and air by these industries after completing the survey of treatment facilities, he added. Under the Sindh Environment Protection Act, 2014, each of the industry violating the environmental laws can be penalised with up to Rs5 million in fines.

On Tuesday, deputy commissioner Mutassam Abbassi and HMC’s municipal commissioner Zahid Hussain Khaimptio visited the cattle colony, set up over 207 acres in the outskirts of Hyderabad.

Kaimptio said cattle pens around Phuleli will be relocated to this colony after completion of the remaining work. However, he did not give a timeline. “We are confronted with an overabundance of problems and shortage of resources,” said Khaimptio in a statement.

Express Tribune