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Karachi: 21 September 2020: ‘Freshwater flows should be regulated as they enhance local livelihoods, conserve wildlife and promote sustainability of the environment in the long run. Revival of natural waterways and redesigning our development schemes can help tackle urban flooding and the adverse impacts of widespread rains in future.’ This was stated by speakers during a briefing session about city-wide partnership for sustainable water use and water stewardship held under WWF-Pakistan’s International Labour and Environmental Standards (ILES) Application in Pakistan’s Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) project at a local hotel in Karachi. Speakers said that it is high time to ensure that rivers stay healthy and floodplains remain fertile to support wildlife and meet human needs.
Speaking on the occasion, Dr. Mir Zafar Ali, Founder Eco-Pakistan said that 60 to 80 per cent people living in the major 24 cities across Pakistan have issues in accessing clean water. He shared that most of the people in Karachi get water supply once in a week and the water they get after so long cannot be used for cooking or drinking purposes. He was of the view that water quality should be improved by reducing pollution, eliminating dumping and minimizing release of hazardous chemicals and other materials. He warned that releasing untreated industrial wastewater directly into freshwater bodies or the sea can damage the aquatic ecosystem and destroy wildlife. He mentioned that individual health is dependent on environmental health, therefore, joint efforts need to be taken to sustainably manage freshwater resources and adopt smart solutions to conserve water in Pakistan.
Love Kumar, Senior Officer ILES Project said that freshwater species and healthy rivers provide food and support income generation opportunities for the local people. According to the Living Planet Report 2020 issued by WWF recently, a shocking 84 per cent of freshwater species populations have been lost due to multiple threats in last 50 years. He warned that if a such trend continues, most freshwater species will become extinct. He urged the need to protect and restore water-related ecosystems, including mountains, forests, wetlands, rivers, aquifers and lakes. He also shared that Karachi has witnessed rapid and uncontrolled expansion in population in the past three decades. The landfills and developments on natural waterways and sewage systems have blocked the flow of rainwater. ‘Lack of robust planning and coordination among relevant departments resulted in damage to the infrastructure and caused economic loss’, he added.
This year the monsoon spells wreaked havoc across Karachi, inundating the streets and houses for days. Despite being the economic hub Pakistan, Karachi lacked preparedness and basic infrastructure facilities. It is reported that a very small percentage of the total sewage generated in Karachi undergoes primary treatment while the rest of it is discharged directly into the sea. In addition to this, untreated domestic waste and a huge amount of hazardous industrial waste is released untreated into the water channels, drains and the sea, thus creating health hazards and playing havoc with the environment.
The participants gave recommendations and suggested solutions to address the issues emerging from widespread rains and floods in the city. They proposed that relevant government departments and citizens should take joint responsibility to get rid of plastic pollution and urged that all types of encroachments on water drainage systems should be removed immediately. They suggested that better water management practices should be adopted and all wastewater treatment plants should be made functional.
Farah Nadeem, Senior Officer, Capacity Building, Policy and City-wide Partnership, WWF-Pakistan; Shahid Amjad, Head of Environment and Energy Management Department at Institute of Business Management (IoBM); Abdul Basit, Deputy Director at Planning and Development Department, Government of Sindh; Neelum Qadir, Green Banking Officer from Faysal Bank Limited and Asif Ali Sandeelo, Coordinator Communications at WWF-Pakistan also spoke on the occasion.