Mystery shrouds the source of contamination in the Keenjhar Lake, the main source of drinking water for over 90 percent people of Karachi, after environmentalists found scores of fish, other aquatic life and grazing animals killed due to chemical contamination of the freshwater lake.
The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Pakistan experts first observed the chemical contamination of the Keenjhar Lake on Tuesday after they found thousands of fish, other aquatic organisms dead while the cattle that consumed the lake water also died instantly.
They first suspected the 50-megawatt Wind Energy Project of the Fauji Fertilizer Company Limited being established near Jhimpir, within a few hundred meters of Keenjhar, saying some “chemicals” used in erecting wind turbine towers or exploration might have caused the contamination of the freshwater lake.
“Our first suspect is the wind energy project where exploration may have caused the contamination of the lake that was carried to the lake by rainwater through Haroloo rainwater drain after rains in the area a couple of days back,” water consultant associated with the WWF, Dr Ahsan Siddiqui, said.
He said actual source of contamination could only be ascertained after chemical analysis of the water samples drawn from the Keenjhar lake but said the physical examination revealed that some extremely hazardous mineral or compound, including urea, might have caused the pollution.
Dr Siddiqui alleged that the management of the Wind Energy Project in the vicinity of the lake did not allow WWF and Sindh Fisheries Department experts to enter into their wind farm to examine what was going inside their premises.
“But we have recommended to the authorities to close the Haroloo rainwater drain so that it could not further contaminate the lake, increase freshwater in the KB Feeder canal,” he said, adding that the entire lake was not contaminated and there was no immediate threat for consumers of water in Karachi.
A Karachi Water and Sewerage Board (KWSB) official also rejected the claims that entire Keenjhar lake was contaminated with the suspected chemical or mineral and the contaminated water could affect people in Karachi, saying only 10 percent of the lake was affected.
The Deputy Managing Director (Technical) of the KWSB Ali Muhammad Palejo told The News that they had learnt that Haroloo drain brought rainwater in the Keenjhar Lake after recent heavy rain in the area that caused the contamination and it affected the 6 square kilometers of the lake.
“But the Keenjhar Lake is spread over 60-sq kilometers of the area and the suspected chemical contaminated only 10 percent water of the lake. As such there is no threat to the water consumers of Karachi from the contamination,” he added. To a query, he said water experts from different government departments had collected samples from the lake and they were analysing them to find the actual source of contamination.
According to him, industrial effluent from Kotri and Jamshoro industries was also being dumped into the lake through KB Feeder that was also a cause of concern for them and said the only solution was a combined effluent treatment plant and completion of Right Bank Outfall Drain (LBOD).
Replying to another query, the Water board official said the KWSB chlorinated the water to kill the bacteria but they didn’t have any system to cleanse the water of any chemical contamination. On the other hand, Sindh Environment Minister Shaikh Muhammad Afzal told The News that a team of experts from the Sindh Environmental Protection Agency (Sepa) had been immediately dispatched to the Keenjhar Lake to take the water samples.
“We are also in touch with WWF experts and as soon as chemical analysis is completed and reports are furnished, we would be in a position to fix the responsibility and take remedial action,” he added.
Sindh Irrigation Minister Jam Saifullah Dharejo also directed the Chief Engineer of the Kotri Barrage to collect samples of water from the Keenjhar Lake and send them for chemical analysis to ascertain the actual cause of contamination of the lake water.
Wind Energy Project management rejects allegations
The management of the 50-mw Wind Energy Project of Fauji Fertilizer Company Limited has rejected the allegations that they used any chemicals in construction or exploration that caused the lake’s contamination and destruction of aquatic life.
“In wind energy farms, steel and plastic is used for wind towers and we don’t use any chemical or oil as fuel. Wind energy is the most environmentally clean source of energy in the world,” Project Manager of the Wind Energy Project, Brig. Tariq Izaz, told The News.
He said instead of going into blame-game, authorities and so-called experts should first have the chemical analysis of the water and find the actual source instead of pointing fingers towards players who have nothing to do with environmental pollution.
The wind energy expert said authorities should also look into the possibility of Dolomite contamination as there were several open mines of the mineral which were extracted by the Pakistan Steel from Jhimpir and pointed towards the possibility that dolomite was taken into the lake through rainwater.
“Populations living along the Keenjhar lake on the Jhimpir side and the small industrial units also throw their waste in the lake. This possibility should also be looked into by the water and environment experts,” he added.
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