In 1994, less than 15% Istanbul’s residents had access to waste water treatment. By 1998 this figure had climbed to 65%. By 2016, 100% of Istanbul’s sewage was being sent to the treatment plants before being released into sea. Today the 15 million citizens of Istanbul can feel satisfied that they are no longer a burden on environment. There are 154 treatment plants that effectively process the entire 326 million gallons/day (mgd) sewage produced by Istanbul residents.
In yet another country, an unfortunate city chose just the opposite route. It decided to take a downward plunge to sink deep in its own effluent. Karachi started with three sewage treatment plants with a combined capacity of 150mgd. By 2005 their treatment capacity had been reduced to about 50mgd. By 2015 all three treatment plants were dysfunctional and their capacity to treat sewage had shrunk to zero. Thus from 2015 onwards Karachi’s 15 million citizens have been criminally discharging 100% of their raw sewage into the nearest coastal waters. There may be few parallels of a population so vociferously engaged in engulfing itself in cesspools of disease and degradation.
A Judicial Commission headed initially by Justice Iqbal Kalhoro and then by Justice Hani Muslim may have been the finest gift received by the effluent-ridden province of Sindh for a very long time. Ably supported by an outstanding petitioner Shahab Usto, they began to question the colossal negligence that had sunk the province into its own excreta. The Judicial Commission did an excellent job at shaking up the sleepy provincial administration for ignoring peoples’ water and sanitation requirements for past many decades. The Commission even managed to operationalise at least one sewage treatment plant (TP-III Mauripur) that will hopefully treat 77mgd.
There are, however, some fundamental flaws in the Greater Karachi sewage.