Mon. Jun 5th, 2023

Dumping Garbage and Sewage Waste into Gilgit River: A Neglected Health Hazard

Gilgit River. Photos by Farman Karim Baig

By Piyar Karim

Gilgit River is a crucial source of drinking water for over 10,000 residents of Gilgit city, including Cheeta Colony, NLI Colony, Noor Colony, and Zulfiqarabad. The river is also vital for agriculture and tourism in the region. However, the river is facing a severe public health hazard due to uncontrolled dumping of waste, sewage lines, and car washes that have increased pollution and contamination levels. The government’s lack of action and public negligence have exacerbated the situation, posing significant threats to the health and well-being of the local population and the environment.

The riverbanks on the University Roadside have become the local government’s landfill, where tractors loaded with garbage, including hospital waste, are often set on fire. The garbage turns to ash, and the melted and coagulated plastics and aluminium remains flow into the river, making the water highly contaminated and unfit for human consumption. According to the World Wildlife Fund, Gilgit city generates tonnes of solid waste daily, which is disposed of in an unscientific way by the Gilgit Municipal Committee.

On the other side of the River View Road, car washes wash filth and chemicals from vehicles into the river. Sewerage lines from car service centres and residential areas are also dumped into the river, further adding to the contamination. Studies have found the river water highly unfit for human consumption, with pathogenic bacteria like Salmonella and Shigella present in almost all samples. The presence of Enterococcus and E. coli bacteria indicates faecal contamination and the presence of pathogens such as Salmonella. The water is being consumed by a majority of Gilgit city inhabitants directly or from uplift pumps along the riverbanks. The increased rate of phosphates recorded by researchers indicates high amounts of waste, which can lead to toxic algae and decrease in biodiversity.

The state-of-the-art laboratory established through the Italian government’s Social Economic Environment Development (SEED) conducted studies from December 2014 to July 2015 to evaluate the effect of major drains emptying directly into Gilgit River within municipal limits. The results were alarming, concluding that the consumers of the river water are extremely vulnerable to water-borne diseases and the water is unfit for human consumption.

To address this issue, it is essential to conduct more investigations on contamination and implement proper sewerage systems to preserve this vital resource. The government must take necessary action and put in place a proper waste disposal system. Public awareness campaigns must be launched to educate people about the importance of protecting the environment and the harmful effects of pollution. NGOs must work together with the government to provide clean drinking water to the people and ensure the sustainable use of the Gilgit River.

In conclusion, the pollution and contamination of Gilgit River pose a severe public health hazard, and it is high time the government and the people take necessary action to preserve this vital resource for future generations. The government must ensure proper regulation and enforcement of waste disposal, sewage management, and industrial practices to prevent further contamination of the river. The local community must also be engaged and educated on the importance of responsible waste management and sustainable use of natural resources. Only through collective action can we ensure a safe and healthy environment for ourselves and future generations.

The Author is English Language Facilitator at Karakoram International University Diamer Campus Chilas

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