Rid Karachiites of unsafe drinking water: SC

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‘I have a direction to resolve issue in Sindh’: Murad

Staff Reporter

Karachi

Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Justice Saqib Nisar has expressed dissatisfaction over the prevalent conditions of availability water in Sindh.
He made the comments during a hearing regarding non-functioning water filtration and treatment plants in Karachi. Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah and Former Mayor-Karachi Mustafa Kamal were summoned.
“The situation [in Sindh] is very painful for me,” he said. “Human waste is being used in drinking water.”
Chiding Shah for the incompetence of Sindh government in providing clean drinking water, the CJP asked Shah if he was ready to drink the water.
In August, a report submitted to the judicial commission constituted by the SC to investigate authorities’ failure to provide clean drinking water and poor sanitation conditions in Sindh, headed by Justice Muhammad Iqbal Kalhoro, found up to 90 per cent of water supplied in Karachi is unfit for human consumption due to the presence of bacterial contamination.The report was based on laboratory analysis of water samples collected from surface and underground water sources from different parts of the metropolis.
The prosecutor presented court with a video showing the current state of treatment plants in Karachi. The CJP said that the video presented in the courtroom should be televised by all media channels to spread awareness among the masses.
However, the Sindh CM rejected the video, saying it exaggerated the conditions. “If I get the opportunity, I will present another video to court soon,” said Shah.
Responding to Shah, the CJP remarked that the Sindh CM may reject the video but he should read the commission report. “Review the gravity of the situation by reading the commission report,” he said. “Try to find solutions through it.”
“Do not take this negatively,” the CJP said. “We will find out who was responsible for past mistakes in the next phase.”
“I wish Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) chairman Bilawal Bhutto was present here to see and become aware of the situation in Larkana,” the CJP added. “You’re an elected leader. Only those nations succeed that believe in knowledge, leadership, and law,” he told Shah.
He ordered the provincial CM to to resolve the problem. “What future will we offer to our children if we provide them water with human waste?”
“Please tell us how long will you take to find a solution, one week or 10 days,” he asked.
He said once the plan was outlined, the apex court and the government could work together to solve the problem in six months. Shah, however, sought more time to resolve the issue.
The CJP said the period could be extended if the Sindh CM presented the court a timeline regarding the solution, adding that he was aware of corruption in the processes but was not going to make any accusations. “Give us a plan, and we will cooperate with you,” he said.
“We do not want to step on the government,” the CJP noted. “We are playing a constitutional role in public interest. Whenever there will be a void, the judiciary will continue to fill it.”
Meanwhile, Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah said that he has a direction to resolve the issue of contaminated water across the province. Briefing the media regarding his appearance in the Supreme Court hearing at while visiting Jahangir Park on Wednesday.
He was accompanied by Minister Local Government Jam Khan Shoro and Senator Murtaza Wahab. Murad said that as a chief minister he had exemption to appear before the court, but “I thought the supreme court was working hard to resolve the issue of contaminated water in Sindh and it is the issue of our people, therefore I must appear in court and I did,” he said, adding, that he had set a direction to resolve the issue (contaminated water) and hoped it would be resolved in minimum time period. Replying to a query, he said that he has identified 726 major points all over Sindh from where domestic waste and effluent is released into distributaries and canals. “We have made schemes for installing treatment plants to treat the domestic waste and affluent before releasing it into the water distributaries and canals and this would cost about Rs3.586 billion,” he said and went on saying that in the first phase treatment work would be started at 221 points for Rs800 million and he has allocated Rs400 million means 50 percent of the allocation. Water testing laboratories are being established in 23 districts for which he has approved an amount of Rs105 million, he said, adding, there was 953 non-functional water supply and Reverse Osmosis (RO) plants schemes. “I have approved an amount of Rs4.9 billion to make them functional and work on most of the schemes has been started,” he said. Replying to another query, Murad said the documentary shown in the Courtroom of Supreme Court on untreated effluent being released into the water bodies and canals was one sided-production. “It was an old documentary and now the situation is quite different,” he said, informing that he told the honorable court that a drainage scheme for Shikarpur city of Rs505 million was in full swing.
The drainage system in the city of Shikarpur has improved considerably. Another drainage scheme of Rs1406 million was also in progress in Larkana so that untreated wastewater could not be released into River Canal. A similar scheme was also in progress in Mirpurkhas. “We are working hard to stop the release of wastewater, industrial waste and effluent into canals but it would take some time to resolve the issue properly because lost funds are required for the purpose,” he said. Replying to a query, Murad said that the Supreme Court has ordered him to order an inquiry against former City Nazim for illegal allotment of the land belong to Treatment Plant-II (TP-II). “Just after returning from the court, I have directed the chief secretary to issue inquiry order,” he said.
Replying to a query, the chief minister said that the Supreme Court took up the issue of water being released downstream Kotri and said it was a waste of water. He said that he told the Supreme Court that the release of water downstream Kotri was necessary to stop sea intrusion. The sea has already encroached upon the sweet land of Thatta and Badin.
“We feel still essential water was not being released to save delta and stop sea encroachment,” he said. To a query, Murad said the Supreme Court of Pakistan appreciated the services of Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto for making 1973 constitution. “I am quite satisfied and relieved that the court [Supreme Court] that had sent Shaheed Bhutto to gallows has appreciated him {Shaheed Bhutto} today for giving the best constitution to the country,” he said. Informing about the K-IV project, he said the federal government had agreed to share 50 percent cost of Rs25 billion project and so far it has released only Rs3 billion. As a matter of fact, the cost of the project has gone to Rs33 billion, including Rs5 billion of land acquisition. Murad Ali Shah said that Sindh cannot be singled out since the predicament of contaminated drinking water and unsanitary system are more or less the same across Pakistan.
He quoted Pakistan Social & Living Standards Measurement (PSLM) Survey of 2014-15 which shows percentage distribution of source water by household. In Sindh, 41 percent tap water, 33 percent hand pump, 11 percent motor pump and 4 percent dug well water while in Punjab 18 percent household use tap water, 28 percent hand pump, 45 percent motor pump and one percent dug well. Murad Shah said the report shows that the condition in Sindh as not as bad as being painted. Unfortunately, Sindh is at the lower end, receiving river water contaminated with all kinds of effluent from the province of upstream. “Studies show that several industrial cities, including Faisalabad, unleash untreated effluent in the River Indus,” he said. Talking about water quality status of major cities of the country, Murad Ali Shah informed the court that 69 percent people of the country consuming unsafe water. He quoted Pakistan Council of Research in Water Resources, Ministry of Science reports that revealed the ratio of unsafe drinking water in which Punjab is 69 percent, KPK 47 percent, Balochistan 81 percent and Sindh 81 percent respectively.
It means it is a national issue and must be solved holistically. Murad said that his government was committed to resolving the contaminated water issue for which work with sincerity and commitment was in progress. Later, the Chief Minister also visited Empress Market, Bohri Bazar and other areas of Saddar and met with shopkeepers, vendors, and people. He also listened to their problems and took selfies with them and had a morsel of Biryani at a Biryani shop.