Sindh’s losing wetlands to industrial pollution

Sindh’s losing wetlands to industrial pollution

KARACHI: While the nations around the world were busy celebrating World Wetlands Day (WWD) on Sunday to mark the date of the adoption of Convention on Wetlands, February 2, 1971 in Iranian city of Ramsar on the shores of the Caspian Sea; the wetlands of Sindh continued to suffer with acute water shortage, increasing pollution, shrinking vegetation and sheer negligence of the government authorities, as well as international organisations working to protect these sites.
For 2014, the Ramsar Convention has chosen a theme “Wetlands & Agriculture” for the day. WWD was celebrated for the first time in 1997, providing an opportunity to government agencies, non-governmental organisations and community groups to undertake actions aimed at raising public awareness of wetland values and benefits in general and the Ramsar Convention, in particular. But unfortunately, in Pakistan, which is also a signatory of the convention, nothing is being done at ground level by government and the international nature conserving organisations.
The Keenjhar Lake, also known as Kalri Jheel, which is an internationally protected wetland site under the Ramsar Convention, and the biggest source of drinking water to the country’s commercial hub ( Karachi ( is suffering with industrial waste and other sources of pollution. 
According to the local residents of Thatta district, the filter plant at Kotri Industrial area, which was installed to filter the highly intoxicated industrial effluents, has stopped working and thus the level of the pollution in the protected wetland has increased to alarming level. 
“The lake is already suffering with increasing level of pollution and since the Kotri site filter has stopped working, the level of pollution has reached to alarming level,” said Muhammad Ismail, NGO worker of the district. 
He said the highly contaminated industrial effluent, which comprises highly toxic waste from hundreds of industrial units of Kotri and Nooriabad, is being poured in the lake without proper treatment.
Besides being the main water supply source, the lake is also considered to be an important site for breeding and a passage for water birds that migrate to Pakistan in winter from Russian Siberia and other cold countries. The official record of Sindh Wildlife Department reveals that the lake used to be a birdwatcher’s heaven and almost 0.3 million migratory birds of about 200 species were reported to be seen near it; but rise in pollution, especially the industrial waste, has drastically changed the ecology of the lake.
Besides industrial waste, the practice of washing vehicles in the lake and picnickers littering it also contribute to rise in pollution of the lake. One can see tonnes of empty soft drink cans, food item wrappers, polyethylene bags, plastic bottles and papers everywhere near the edges of the lake.

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