Pakistan to raise river pollution issue with Delhi
By Iftikhar Gilani
NEW DELHI: Pakistan is expected to take up with Indian authorities the issue of water quality and increasing levels of pollutants in the western Himalayan rivers, which are the main source of water to Pakistan, on Tuesday.
Pakistan Indus Water Commissioner Syed Jammat Ali Shah, who is arriving here to participate in the bi-annual Indus Commission meeting on Tuesday, is believed to have told his Indian interlocutors that he was perturbed to see the scale of pollution in the Jhelum river during his visit to the Kashmir Valley last March to inspect the Uri and Kishanganga hydro-power projects.
Shah has indicated that his team will raise the issue of quality of water flowing to Pakistan at the joint commission meeting in Delhi because he believes the issue comes under the purview of the Indus Water Treaty.
The interlocutors who have spoken to him after his visit to India quoted him as stating that he was disturbed to see drains from Srinagar to Baramulla town opening directly into the river. An engineer who accompanied Shah to the Uri project said the Pakistani commissioner was visibly dissatisfied with the explanation of the steps taken by the Jammu and Kashmir government to check water pollution.
Shah had also been quoted as saying that the water level in the rivers is low, particularly during the winters when only filth flows to Pakistan.
He is not the only one raising the alarm over pollution in Himalayan rivers. The J&K Pollution Control Board too confirms the increasing deterioration of water quality in Jhelum, the lifeline for the Kashmir Valley.
Experts in Srinagar have called for joint India-Pakistan efforts to check pollution and improve water quality in Jhelum, Chenab and the Indus that flow directly to Pakistan. The pollution control board officials lament that they are not provided funds even to monitor water quality. For the past few years, they have failed to set up monitoring stations beyond Srinagar, where filth levels are the highest.
Doctors say northern Kashmir areas, particularly those in the immediate vicinity of Srinagar city, are reporting the most cases of water-borne diseases like jaundice (hepatitis-E).
South of Srinagar, where Jhelum enters the city, the board has recorded pollutants at a high degree beyond acceptable levels for human consumption.
Jhelum is known for draining dirt, garbage and sludge over the years and during periods of high militancy, it could be also seen draining scores of corpses. Experts believe over the last decade, its water has become more acidic and that there has been a gradual increase of sodium and potassium sulphates, nitrates, nitrogen containing substances, and iron in it. It has also led to extinction of several species of fish.
In Srinagar alone, among 52 sewage units, 35 flow directly into Jhelum. The rest also ultimately drain into the river. Each of these units adds 3,000 cubic feet of sewage to the river every second. This is besides the hospital and municipal waste and sewerage that go into the river every day.