Sea of sewage
IN recent weeks, the residents of Karachi have been noticing that the waters of the Indian Ocean have been especially filthy. At Seaview, the beach most easily accessible to citizens, the waters have taken on a dark, oily tinge, a viscosity that is not that of normal seawater even by the standards of this metropolis with its glaringly insufficient trash disposal infrastructure. The speculation was that it must be an oil slick. On Thursday, matters were clarified. At a seminar on ‘Awareness on sea pollution and sea litter’ organised by the National Institute of Oceanography in Karachi, researchers said that what residents were actually seeing was sewage, directly flushed out into the sea from a major drain in the city that had been clogged but was now unblocked because of the recent rains in the city. Scientist Dr Nuzhat Khan told participants that a 3km area of the coastline had been affected. She pointed out that marine pollution was a serious issue and that from Korangi Fish Harbour to Port Qasim, it was possible to even see cow dung from Cattle Colony floating in the waters.
Paint this nauseating picture into the snapshot we already have and the outlook appears grim indeed. Some two years ago, Sindh administration sources concluded that at least 8,000 tonnes of solid waste is either dumped or ends up in just the Karachi harbour every day. This includes waste from chemical, textile, plastics and the thousands of other industrial units in the city that operate pretty much independently of regulation and monitoring. In addition, there is the waste generated by a vast city of over 20m people; given that Karachi’s infrastructure is tattered to say the very least, by some accounts about 350 gallons of raw sewage and untreated industrial waste flow into the sea each day. Are the relevant government agencies concerned? Perhaps they need to spend a day at the beach.