Protest as effluent poses health hazards

Tanneries cause waterborne diseases

SIALKOT - A protest demonstration was held as Sialkot is in the grip of severe environmental pollution being caused by the tanneries posing serious threat to the human and animal health in the region.

In addition, they are negating the high claims of the government to make efforts for eliminating the environmental pollution. The protesting people also urged Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif to immediately send the special teams of Health Department’s doctors and paramedical staff for thoroughly conducting the medical checkups of the people in these villages.

According to a survey, the tanneries’ wasted chemical infiltrates into water table. The survey was conducted on “hazards posed by the use of contaminated water and need and utility of the use of safe drinking water”. The survey revealed that the contaminated water heavily loaded with toxic pollutants emitting out of the tanneries set up in the area between Upper Chenab Canal (UCC) and canal Marala Ravi Link (MR Link) near Sambrial. It is infiltrating into the water table. It is not only diminishing the fertility of the soil but also posing the humans with the worst possible threat by causing almost incurable maladies.”

The use of polluted water has considerably heightened the graph of the waterborne diseases in the Sambrial area. Local people urged the government to immediately step up to effectively implementation of the relevant rules and regulations, besides, bounding the factory owners to treat the water containing chemical waste before pouring it into water channels.

Over 264 small and medium sized tanneries have been set up in Sialkot city and the outskirts. As a result, leather manufactures have emerged as a major industry in Sialkot district.

Most of these tanneries are located in the thickly populated areas near Sambrial, Daska, Zafarwali, Sahowala along main Sialkot-Sambrial-Wazirabad Road, Sialkot-Daska Road and Sialkot-Head Marla Road.

The survey further revealed that the affected rural areas include Sambrial, Zafarwali, Begowala, Saahowala, Roypur and surrounding areas. These tanneries dispose of their untreated water into seasonal Nullahs, sewerage watercourses and near agricultural lands, which has caused environmental degradation and contaminates the water table in the area.

Hundreds of acres of the fertile agricultural land has been destroyed and the people of these areas have been suffering from fatal diseases including hepatitis, bally, liver and stomach disorders by the chemicals.

In village Zafarwali-Sambrial, people including Hafiz Abdul Majeed Shahid, Bashir Ahmad, Ch. Asmat Ullah and Abdul Majeed Butt said that all the tanneries located there were unabatedly discharging their chemicals, untreated water and effluents in the fields and the Nullah Aik. They said that 200-feet underground water has been poisoned and chemicalised through the prolonged discharging of the dangerous chemicals and effluents by the tanneries..

They said that due to the unending negligence of the government functionaries, there is no alternative arrangement of providing potable water to the local people and the people are forced to drink chemicals mixed water. In village Zafarwali, after ruining the fertile agricultural lands of the farmers, the effluents being discharged by the tanneries have reached the residential areas. The ill smell rising from the stagnant tanneries chemicals in the fields has badly polluted the air.

The protesting people have urged the federal, provincial government to immediately install a water treatment plant for providing potable water for the people.

The affected people also suggested that the underground pipeline should also be laid down for the safe discharge of the effluents. The uncontrolled pollution caused by these tanneries have made the life of locals very hard due to the criminal negligence of the government functionaries.

Around 350,000 square feet of finished leather is processed per day by these tanneries functioning in Sialkot city but 200,000 square feet is completely processed in Sialkot based tanneries, which have 150,000 square feet area. The survey revealed that about four liter water is used in manufacturing each square feet of finished leather from hides and skins and two liters of water gets utilised for each square feet in the processing of finished wet-blue leather.

The total water being discharged from Sialkot tanneries is established at 1.1 million liters per day. The effluent of these tanneries is pumped into the seasonal Nullahs such as Aik and Bhed, which pass through the Sialkot city and its adjoining areas, while the tanneries located outside the municipal limits discharge waste material in Naullah Palkhu.

The tanneries located along the Sialkot-Sambrial Road discharge their effluent into “M Naullah” which falls into Nullah Aik in Daska tehsil.

Medical experts said that the tanneries and the leather manufacturing units along Sialkot-Sambrial Road are badly polluting the environment as there is a bad sanitation system with no proper outlet for disposal of poisonous chemical water and the water has assumed the shape of pond.

The medical experts further added that the people of Sambrial’s nearby villages and cattle were suffering from many serious diseases.

According to the medical experts, the pollution during the next 10 years will further increase to a dangerous level and the new generation could be deprived of pollution-free atmosphere. If the remedial measures are not taken, the people of the area may develop various physical ailments, they said.

The large scale setting up of tanneries has enlarged the scope of employment for the unemployed educated and skilled persons at local level. But the same time, this industry is creating health hazards for the inhabitants of those areas where tanneries are functioning.


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