They say a River is the life and blood of a country. Pakistan is fortunate enough to be blessed with many rivers but it is unfortunate that they have not been given the proper attention and respect that they deserve. Let me tell you an example of Our “Beloved” River Ravi. Situated just alongside Lahore, it was a river once full of life and purity. Nowadays it is merely a sewage carrier for the city. All plant and fish life have been wiped clean and one cannot even stand near the river because the sewage odour is so foul.
Imagine a city of 9 million people or more, give or take. They use on an average 200 litres daily for all their needs. An overwhelming majority of the water (70% or more) after usage becomes waste water. The math is below
90000000 (people) x 200 (litres/person) = 18000000000 Litres/Day
Wastewater produced = 18000000000 x 0.7 (70%) = 12600000000 litres/Day
Sadly, only 1% or less waste water is treated, rest is just thrown in the river. This leads to
12600000000 x 0.99 (99%) = 12474000000 litres/Day
That is is the amount of waste water only domestic users add to the river per add. Add industries and the figure rises even higher.
Karma works in mysterious ways. Once you mess with nature, nature will mess with you as well.
1) Vegetables grown near the river have heavy metal content in them, not fit for consumption. Even the outside layers have high bacteria count and have to be washed thoroughly else they would cause disease
2) The cows that use the water for milk production have the same effect. They affect the health of the cow as well as the quality of milk. Again the pollutants can crossover to the milk and can find their way back to us.
3) The water in the river seeps down to the groundwater, which we pump for our usage. The groundwater near the river is now unfit for human consumption and the area is increasing fast.
4) Aesthetic reasons. Ravi could have been a recreation spot for the people where they could go for a swim, fish or even relax. But who wants to go to a very huge sewer with black muddy water and human excreta smell.
Cleaning the river is not an easy step. There is no magic wand that someone can waive and the river will clean itself. If done with dedication, still it will take many years before the river can return to its former self. Some of the steps which should be taken immediately are
- Treatment of all waste water to acceptable levels before pumping into Ravi.
- Making EPA (Environment Protection Agency) an effective organization that checks and controls the discharges of industries. All industry should have an in-house Waste water treatment plant.
- Public awareness about less water usage and reuse. The less water used, the less waste water produced
- Government should take up this issue on priority and proper planning with funds allocated to this sector as well.