28 February 2009

Four million threatened by contaminated water

Another report indicting the waste water treatment system in Pakistan. The more I think about it, the more it seems that Pakistan's water policy must not only focus on conservation. It must also focus on cleanup.

Four million threatened by contaminated water: Report
By Iqbal Khwaja
Thursday, 26 Feb, 2009 | 06:30 AM PST |
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Dumping waste water into irrigation canals will lead to epidemics in Sindh if sanitation and drainage issues are not addressed. - File photo.
The lives of nearly four million people of Thatta, Badin, Tando Mohammad Khan and the rural parts of Hyderabad districts were under threat due to the supply of highly contaminated water. - File photo.

THATTA: The lives of nearly four million people of Thatta, Badin, Tando Mohammad Khan and the rural parts of Hyderabad districts were under threat due to the supply of highly contaminated water. These districts of lower Sindh get water through the irrigation system of left bank canal system of Kotri Barrage, including Phulelli Canal, Pinyari and Akram Wah.

This has been observed in a survey jointly carried out by UNDP-GEF-SGP, its partners BDRO Badin Development, Research Organization, and Javaher-al-Bukhari foundation.
‘Populace of these districts depends solely on the canal water for consumption as the underground sweet water was not available. The water of these canals was dangerous for health due to the dumping of highly toxic and hazardous waste at various points to the tail-end of the canals in Badin and Thatta districts,’ said Masood Lohar, while talking to Dawn here on Wednesday.

Citing the findings of survey Lohar said, nearly 20 to 25 tons of solid waste, from almost 60 per cent areas of Hyderabad city and its surroundings, was dumped into these canals daily. The solid waste included municipal/domestic waste, industrial waste, animal waste, combustible and non-combustible waste, hospital waste and other types of effluents.

Industrial waste was very dangerous for health; according to recent reports it accounts for fatal diseases among people. There were around two hundred big and small industrial units on the encroached banks of these canals and in the adjacent areas of Hyderabad city alone. The chemical waste from these units was thrown into the irrigation canals without any check by the concerned quarters.

Report further said, the waste water of different localities of Hyderabad city – having no other alternative for drainage – was dropped into these canals through 36 big and hundreds of small inlets.

Mohammad Khan Samoon, an environmentalist said, the situation always compounds in the Rabi season when only small quantity of fresh water is released, while the flow of the sewage remains the same in canals. The details gathered by the survey team revealed that around 1.5 million gallons of gutter water was released into the canals daily.

Lohar emphasized, that the Sindh government should immediately constitute a task force to ensure implementation National Environmental Quality Standards (NEQS), adding that without proper measures thousands of human lives are exposed to several deadly diseases.

Over the years, Pakistan’s population has seen a tremendous increase. In the census of 1951 the population was 33.7 million, which has now risen up to 150 million. In 1951, per capita water availability was 5,269 cubic feet which has come down to 1,126.

Beyond the impact of population growth itself, the demand for fresh water has been rising in response to industrial development, increased reliance on irrigated agriculture, massive urbanization, and rising living standards.

With growing issues of water scarcity, distribution inequalities, water pollution, loss of ecosystems and the generation of effluents, Pakistan was categorized as a country under water stress.

These are tremendous challenges that need a sane and de-politicized response. The whole water debate, therefore, has to be rephrased in a radically different way to help people move away from entrenched, interest based positions on particular infrastructure development schemes, and towards more rational, integrated and practical approaches covering the whole water sector.

In fact, considering the global and national water scenario, the time has come to take a clear and principled stand to stop the systematic devastation of the water systems.

The report warned of epidemics in the lower part of Sindh if necessary measures were not taken to tackle this sensitive issue and advised the functionaries of district government Hyderabad, Thatta, Badin, Tando Mohammed Khan to either install treatment plants for purifying toxic water or to dig out drains parallel to these canals to carry away the sewage and other pollutants.

26 February 2009

Small, sustainable cities; the key to the future

Pakistan's current installed energy capacity is approximately 20,000MW. By 2030, the Planning Commission thinks we will need somewhere in the region of 162,000MW. Where do you think we are going to find this energy?
As things stand, the single largest source of energy in Pakistan lies in conservation. But, as of yet, none of the energy or electricity policies to come from government have looked towards conservation as a means of providing energy.
At the same time, our large cities are incredibly difficult to supply energy to. They are very large and so need large energy production sources - usually situated hundreds of miles away - to pipe energy to them. An alternative: smaller cities. Smaller cities will require smaller energy production facilities and, it is possible, that such facilities be made to provide energy from renewable sources such as solar, wind or run-of-the-river.

Catherine Tumber writing in the Boston Review makes a compelling case for small cities. But she goes further, much further, in describing the potential benefits of smaller cities. Read here to find out more about the possible future of urban development.

25 February 2009

Environment: Untreated waste into River Chenab

Another good bit of environmental reporting by Ali Raza of The News. What we are doing to our rivers is a crime. Not just against nature, but against all the people who live downriver. Pollution like this not only contaminates crops, but poisons the communities who are dependent on canal water for everyday use.
Environment: Untreated waste into River Chenab

22 February 2009

Music provides urban inspiration in Venezuela

The El Sistema is a music program for high school students in Venezuela. They are now led by Gustavo Dudamel, one of the youngest (and certainly the most exciting) composers today. Here's Dudamel conducting the Carreño Youth Orchestra as they perform Shostakovich's Symphony No. 10, 2nd movement, and Arturo Márquez' Danzón No. 2.
(Brought to you by TED)

15 February 2009

Jacob Bronowski - The Ascent of Man

This clip from the epic Ascent of Man has Jacob Bronowski set out up the critical struggle between science and madness. Though speaking of Nazi atrocities, his words ring true for the madness that swarms around us now.

14 February 2009

Enrique Penalosa: an urban innovator draws a crowd

The latest from one of my heroes: urbanism pioneer Enrique Penalosa

(Left to Right: Arif Pervaiz of the Clinton Foundation, Enrique Penalosa & Me)

Boston Bicycle Transportation Examiner: Enrique Penalosa: an urban innovator draws a crowd

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13 February 2009

Problems With Suburbia

I stand by everything this genius says.