Wastewater Treatment Plants in Karachi, Pakistan - City’s sewage treatment plants remain shut for rehabilitation

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Wastewater Treatment Plants in Karachi, Pakistan - City’s sewage treatment plants remain shut for rehabilitation

Wastewater Treatment Plants in Karachi, Pakistan

A news item appeared in today's (20 Sep 2015) newspaper, Dawn ( www.dawn.com ) which speaks volumes of the pathetic scenario of the wastewater treatment plants in Karachi. I'm reproducing the news below:

City’s sewage treatment plants remain shut for ‘rehabilitation’
FAIZA ILYAS

KARACHI: None of the sewage treatment plants of the Karachi Water Sewerage Board (KWSB) are functioning and there is no sign when the plants, closed for rehabilitation, will resume operation.

Sources told Dawn on Saturday that the city’s two sewage treatment plants located in the Site and Mauripur areas were shut down more than a year ago while the third one in Mehmoodabad had been lying closed since 2008.

The Site and Mauripur plants, the sources said, were closed for maintenance and renovation whereas the Mehmoodabad plant came to a halt after the now defunct city government used its land to resettle people affected by the Preedy Street project.

A recent visit to the Site and Mauripur plants showed that work on their rehabilitation and maintenance was yet to pick up pace.

Some officials told Dawn on condition of anonymity that the government had unnecessarily closed the entire Site plant as it only required replacement of old machines.

“Strangely, the plan includes reconstruction of the main operating room, though there is no need. It only requires replacement of the pumping machines,” said a staff member, adding that the Site and Mauripur plants had been built only to treat domestic sewage through a biological process.

The problem with Karachi, according to him, is that most gutter lines are not connected to the KWSB drainage network and most sewage directly flows into storm drains and from there into the sea.

Therefore, he argued, the government should have fixed this problem before closing the treatment plant for renovation.

“The plant could never run to its full capacity of 51MG per day. It used to receive only about 20MG of liquid waste daily or even less when it was operational,” said another official.

The sources said that a major cause of the degradation of the plant built with German support in 1960 was its so-called upgrade in the 1990s during which the machines of good quality were sold as junk and replaced with substandard equipment. The plant used to generate biogas, too, they said.

Some KWSB officials expressed surprise over the plants’ closure at the same time and said the rehabilitation work should have been carried out in phases without affecting their operation.

Others expressed doubts over credibility of the company which had been awarded the project to rehabilitate the plants and said the company’s selection had been made purely on political grounds.

No KWSB staff was found at the Mauripur plant during the visit to provide details about the plant designed on anaerobic pond system. It was set up in 1998 with a capacity to treat 54MG sewage per day but is lying closed these days.

The plant, the sources said, encountered a number of problems during its operation as it was not suitable for treating urban waste water. Both the Site and Mauripur plants lacked systems to utilise the ‘treated’ water, they said.

KWSB managing director Misbahuddin Farid, who has recently rejoined the board as its head, declined to comment on progress of the plants’ rehabilitation and only said that the project had been awarded.

“I have joined the board only a few days ago and can’t comment on events that happened during my absence,” he said while admitting that the discharge of untreated sewage into the sea was a major issue and should be addressed on a priority basis.

He saw the costly maintenance of the plants as one major reason for their failure.

About the KWSB’s S-III project under which new sewage plants were to be built and old ones rehabilitated, he explained that the Greater Karachi Sewerage Plan (S-III) conceived in 2003 could not be implemented in time because the land required for the scheme was not provided to the board.

“Now, we plan to rehabilitate the two old plants in Site and Mauripur and build a new one in Korangi. The total capacity of these plants will be 500MG per day,” he said.

The Mehmoodabad plant, he said, had been encroached upon and could not resume operation.

According to sources, the project for the sewage treatment plants has been awarded to Pak Oasis, the same company involved in other water related projects of the government especially in Tharparkar and has attracted a lot of criticism.

Project director Imtiaz Magsi was not available for comments.

Dr Mirza Arshad Ali Baig, former director general of the Pakistan Council of Scientific and Industrial Research currently providing consultancy services on environmental issues, said that it was not just the closure of the plants that should be of concern but the plants’ capacity to effectively treat waste water also required attention.

“Apart from a few private establishments that have treatment plants, domestic and industrial sewage by and large is not being treated at all in Karachi. Our analysis of the water ‘treated’ by KWSB plants had shown that there was no major difference in the levels of contaminants after treatment,” he said.

He was of the opinion that the city should have primary treatment plants at the waste generating points and secondary plants for cleansing the treated water to the extent that it could be utilised for industrial purposes.

Technical adviser on fisheries working with the World Wide Fund for Nature–Pakistan, Mohammad Moazzam Khan, said that high levels of coastal pollution had completely destroyed marine life in the port’s and the city’s backwater areas.

“These channels were once home to diverse marine flora and fauna that helped fishing communities earn a livelihood. But all of it has been destroyed and regretfully there is no possibility of their rehabilitation as the pollution level it too high,” he said, adding that studies had shown that fish caught from the polluted waters was also toxic.

The impact of pollution, he warned, was on the increase and if nothing was done to control discharge of untreated waste from Malir and Lyari rivers into the sea, the situation would get worse by the day.
Published in Dawn, September 20th, 2015


F H Mughal

F H Mughal (Mr.)
Karachi, Pakistan
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