POLLUTION IN KARACHI

SHAHZEB KHANZADA
Sep 24 - 30, 2007

The inhabitants of metropolitan city Karachi that is the main business hub of Pakistan are subject to severe pollution problem. This pollution is badly hurting the health and as a result life of the people living in Karachi who earn sufficient money to contribute a major share to the revenues that go to the exchequer.

In July 2006, the scientists of Pakistan space and upper atmosphere research commission (SUPARCO) warned government that pollution has crossed tolerable limits in Karachi. The level of pollution had risen to an extent that scientists warned about the catastrophic results for human health if the concentration of pollutants further increases by even 1 microgram per cubic meter. They also recommended that further addition of the automobiles should be stopped as environment was unable to tolerate the ill effects created by the existing ones for the health.

After eleven months in June 2007, it was Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) that named Karachi the most air polluted city in the world. It is quiet surprising to see Karachi even more polluted than the cities like Delhi, Dhaka and Kolkutta.

Recently, a three day environment awareness event was organized by Honda atlas cars in Murree. Arif Alauddin, Chief energy and environment unit, UNDP Pakistan commented in the event that air and water pollution are the number one killers in the world. According to a report of world health organization, 3 million people die each year from the effects of air pollution. The major contributor to this is the vehicular emission.

There is a direct relation between the increase in number of vehicles and the rate of growth in population. CNG conversion of vehicles has grown exponentially and Pakistan is now ranked second in the world in number of CNG run vehicles. However, pollution has been an unstoppable factor in Karachi and according to some estimates the total emission of vehicles in 2005 after addition of 1.4mn vehicles had increased to 4.7mn tons as compared to 2.5mn tons in 2000-2001.

The city of Karachi has not been able to get rid of the double stroke engine rikshaws which are a major source of smoke and noise pollution in the city. The emissions from rikshaws due to the mixture of fuel and mobil oil used by the rikshaw drivers are very hazardous for the human health. Noise pollution is another factor and according to some reports in most of the areas in Karachi where traffic density is comparatively more than others, the noise level is much higher and it is well above the tolerable audible range of 85 decibels. These higher noise levels have severe negative effects on human health. It may cause hearing loss in the early age. Besides, it can result in high blood pressure and ultimately heart problems.

A bigger chunk of total employment is provided by the industrial sector. This share is mammoth if small, medium and large industrial enterprises are included in the list. By simply visiting these industries and observing the work style of the workforce one can hardly find any industry where employees are provided any protection against the higher noise levels. The machinery makes noise and labor is used to of working in that very environment. Research has proved that this type of working style negatively affects the workers productivity and also reduces their useful life. The solution to this problem can simply be achieved by simply providing earphones to the workers which avoids bad effects of noise and also eases the communication between them. However, no precautionary measures have been taken by the industrial community in Pakistan in this regard.

Apart from noise, there are several other factors that are very injurious for the workforce working in the industry. Cement, textile and various other industries have contaminated air where it is very injurious to breathe in the open atmosphere. However, one can hardly find workers in these industries who are well equipped in order to avoid this dangerous phenomenon.

If one goes out of his house for few minutes and walks down the road in Karachi then the level of pollution is easily observable on his face. It is due to the humidity that is there even if one walks in an area which is farther from sea but has more traffic density.

Karachi also suffers from the waste and sewage that is directly drained from factories into the sea. This off course is not a practice that is in accordance with the international standards. This waste should be treated first before draining out into the sea where as in Pakistan it goes untreated. It is very hazardous for the human life. The paint and various other industries emit lead that goes in the sea. It is in turn consumed by human body through sea food and hence causes diseases like kidney failure and anemia which are very common in Karachi.

In the recent past, the events such as sinking of oil tankers took place on Karachi coast and marine life was left on the mercy of leaking oil that killed many fishes which were later found dead on the coast. The initial reaction from the media and citizens compelled government to announce serious action and investigate the issue but here again government knew that people have very short term memories in Pakistan and it is very unfortunate that no step what so ever was taken afterwards.

Government officials proudly claim their achievements and milestones that they managed through higher trade numbers. It is very difficult to understand why they have not equipped ports and trained their personnel to deal with this enhanced trading activity on the ports. The increased shipping activities on the ports have further distorted the picture. The shipping industry discharges their waste in the sea and it has created water pollution which is also a great threat for the marine life. One doesn't need to be a scientist to analyze and observe all this. A visit to the port and harbor tells all about the worsened condition brought by above mentioned reasons.

The catch on Karachi fish harbor is decreasing every year. There are so many reasons behind it but water pollution that reduces the reproduction of marine life can also be held responsible for this.

The waste water is uncontrolled now and it is widely used thus causing severe diseases.

If this water is used for irrigation then its ill effects are multiplied. In this scenario, If certain vegetables that are consumed uncooked, can be very hazardous for the human life. It becomes evident when one goes through the history of reported patients in the leading hospitals of the city.

This is the high time when the city government should allocate reasonable budget to eradicate these basic but injurious problems. Practical measures should be taken to ensure compliance by the industries. Ports staff should be well equipped to monitor the waste of ships and should be strict and vigilant in this regard. Vehicles that cause Air and noise pollution should not be banned first and then allowed after the potential threats of strikes by the owners but banned strictly. Some alternate measures should be developed that can fulfill desired objectives.. It should be done because it is the basic right of each and every citizen of Pakistan to live a clean and pollution free environment.