Naghmana Zafar Chaudhry
One cannot be unsighted of Sea while living in Karachi. The access to sea has blessed the city with numerous economic opportunities, as well as fashioned the socio-cultural life. Pakistan’s coastline stretches 1001 Km from Sir Creek to Gwatar Bay; but Karachi is the only notable city along the coast with international footprints. The two seaports located at Karachi handle almost 99 percent of the country’s trade. Much of the country’s coast is scarcely populated and almost free from pollution however, marine pollution is localized and much pronounced in Karachi and its adjoining areas.
The city houses about 9 percent of the country’s population and abode nearly 60% of country’s industries. The marine environment along the coastline of Karachi is facing serious threat due to pollution and dumping of effluent from various industrial and municipal discharges. According to official statistics, 472 million gallons of sewerage is thrown into the sea on daily basis. The City currently has 3 Sewerage Treatment Plant (STP) with optimum capacity of treating 150 Million Gallons per Day (MGD) but they only treat 51 MGD. Local communities with the support of relevant stakeholders are taking steps to address the situation. Installation of small STPs at DHA phase VIII, Pakistan Naval Academy, Manora and Naval residential area Karsaz are some encouraging examples. However, City is currently facing shortage of 322 MGD of treatment capacity which can only be achieved with culmination of long awaited Greater Karachi Sewerage (S-III) plan.
Other than sewages estimated 10,000 industrial units at Karachi produce about 80 MGD of industrial effluent. Moreover, estimated 18,000 to 20,000 ton of solid waste is produced by karachites. Unfortunately most of the solid waste also reached to the sea because proper waste disposal facilities are lacking in the city. The situation has exacerbated so much that at some places it causes pungent smell in the coastal areas during low tides and the coastal populace has to grapple with pandemics during season change due to this issue.
Likewise, pesticides, herbicides and chemical fertilizers used in fields in far upstream areas from coastlines are also deposited in the ocean. The traces of fertilizers and chemical sprays flow though local streams and rivers in to estuaries. These chemicals are usually nitrogen rich and tend to destroy the aquatic plants that rob the water of oxygen. Such affected area cannot sustain any marine life and become a dead zone. Around the world, 500 such dead zones have been discovered. Recently scientists have confirmed discovery of the biggest dead zone of the world in the Arabian Sea, to be specific; in the Gulf of Oman. This dead zone is a huge environmental threat to marine life and it will have far reaching socio-economic consequences on humans as well. Large number of fishers and seafood exporters are dependent on the marine resources of the Arabian Sea. The maritime spaces of Pakistan are safe from being lifeless and still sustain marine life; but the brim over affect of dead zone in the Gulf of Oman can distress our coastal zones. Demarcation of MPAs by the Government of Pakistan is one key step towards improved ocean governance in the Region. Indus River Canyon (Exclusive Economic Zone) has also been marked as MPA after Astola Island. Indus River Canyon Marine Protected Area (IRCMPA) covers 27,607 square kilometers and claimed to be the largest MPA of the Arabian Sea.
Deadly combination of local and regional threats has put our coastline ecosystem, their services and people at risk. The traditional threats like overfishing, dumping of solid and untreated liquid pollution, depletion of mangroves swaps, habitat alteration, protection of bio-diversity, and most importantly, lack of awareness about maritime issues continue to affect the management of the maritime spaces of the country. Further, issues of climate change and ocean acidification have exacerbated the impact of traditional environmental threats.