The polluted natural drains of capital await sewage treatment plants to protect the ecology

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The federal capital, once known for its scenic beauty, habitat, and natural streams, has quickly lost its elegance due to rampant population and housing growth that threatens its ecosystem and tranquility.

Its natural streams, flowing from the Margalla Hills’ perennial and seasonal springs, have turned into filthy and fetid drains due to the city manager’s failure to establish a proper waste disposal mechanism.

The rapid population growth and heavy development in the catchment areas continued to pollute creeks, which spread an unpleasant odor throughout the city, and turned the creeks into breeding habitats for mosquitoes.

The capital is home to about 26 small and large streams that flow through the mountain streams, encompassing rainwater and throwing it over various residential areas, eventually merging into two main streams outside of Islamabad.

“Due to the discharge of household waste and leaks from municipal sewers, these streams are heavily polluted and emit foul smells and breed mosquitoes,” says an official with the Environmental Protection Agency of Pakistan (Pak-EPA).

“This is a constant threat to the environment, habitat and human health of the capital. Therefore, there is an urgent need to focus on this dilemma,” the official said.

In Islamabad’s original master plan, the natural streams were left open with large spaces on either side to allow them to flow smoothly along their natural course. Later, the encroachments were built by narrowing to make room for residential and commercial lots.

Overflowing clogged sewers and plastic waste dumped in Nullahs, as well as poor waste management by citizens, the Capital Development Authority and Islamabad
The Metropolitan Corporation had apparently failed to meet its responsibilities.

“It was our shared responsibility. But on the one hand, citizens have shown negligence in keeping these tributaries clean, and on the other hand, city managers have failed to establish an adequate waste disposal system,” a CDA official said.

“When you observe the tributaries of these various drains, they show pure and crystal clear water, but they become dirty and smelly as they flow through the human settlements,” the official said on condition of anonymity.

“In some places, the waste water flows directly into natural streams thanks to broken pipes. It gets worse at night,” he added.

The information at CDA also shows that initially stormwater and sewers were laid separately. However, certificates of completion were later issued to take the least account of this principle.

“Such actions encouraged people and they stopped running separate pipes for sewage and rainwater to save the meager cost of piping and started draining sewage into storm sewers,” the official said.

Speaking only of wastewater treatment plants, there is one wastewater treatment plant (STP) in Sector I-9 that treats up to six million gallons of wastewater per day (mgd) for a total capacity of 14 mgd due to a disrupted network of wastewater supply lines in various industries. At full capacity, this plant can supply enough water for horticulture in the capital.

Deputy Director-General for Water CDA Sardar Khan Zimri said funds have been allocated to improve the network of mains for the smooth flow of sewage to the sewage treatment plant. “Once the broken lines are repaired, we will receive almost 10-12mg of wastewater for treatment. ”

There are also reports that in the absence of sewage treatment plants, untreated water from locations in the catchment areas mixed with water coming to the Rawal Dam, exposing residents of twin towns to serious health hazards.

The Supreme Court had sometimes ordered the installation of sewage treatment plants in a suo motu notice on water pollution. Although the Citizens Authority tried to establish STPs in catchment areas such as Shahdara, Bari Imam and near Banigala in light of this order, this approximately Rs 3.9 billion project could not start.

“This project has remained in limbo for one reason or another in recent years,” said another official. “When this project begins, it will take 14 months to complete and will be able to treat 9.6 million gallons of untreated water per day.”

According to the CDA, a PC-I was being prepared under the direction of the Planning Commission as an Engineering Procurement and Construction (EPC) project. After the award, the city council turned to a revised PC-I approval. At the same time, Pak-EPA objected that an environmental impact assessment (EIA) had not been conducted for the project.
The validity period of the bid has now expired.

Now the citizens’ authority has contacted the planning commission about the interior
Ministry for advice on how to proceed with the project. The CDA has informed the planning commission that an EIA cannot be carried out for a project carried out in EPC mode.

The CDA has also proposed to the Planning Commission to allow the project to be carried out without the EPC mode, so that the Citizens’ Authority can have the Environmental Impact Assessment carried out before the contract is awarded.

Meanwhile, amid the deteriorating situation, the government has earmarked an annual budget of Rs 200 million for 2022-23 for the construction of water treatment plants for the Korang River and Lake Rawal.

Since only a small amount of wastewater is treated in our country, there is an urgent need to at least make the wastewater usable for irrigation, as the rapidly depleted glacial and groundwater resources would put us in serious trouble.

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