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5 pm, when the police once feet eachwereall mendedwith- bundagain echelons of
againretreatedin defeat. in hours.Villagersfrom nearby But thevillagersarestill wary power in the
wasn't villagesalso arrivedto lend a
But the administration of theadministration,andconse- country. The
quite finishedyet. Five days helpinghand. quentlymorevigilant.They are v i l l a g e r s , o n
later ttreyretumedsurreptitious- The four policemenpostedas convinced thatboththeadminis- the otherhand,
ly and breachedthe bund at guardstried to resist,but were trationandthe police arebribed have only the
aroundnoon The womenof the outnumbered and thus easily by the Tanners'Association two chowki-
village,sincethe men were at over-powered. Sincethen,nei- whichis a powerfullobby with dars (watch-
work, set aboutreconstructingther the administrationnor the manyresources at its disposal, men) they have
the bund.Threebreachesof 25 policehavedaredto breachthe andconsiderable clout in the hired to guard

An examination of medicalrecordsanda sur-
vey of ttreareasrevealsthatthereis a high inci-
denceofrespiratory disordersandskininfection
Workersare commonlyexposedto hair fibres
or chemicals withno protective measures.
Drinkingwaterin Kasuris obtainedfrom tube-
wells.Residents complainaboutthedeteriorating
waterqualityandits organoleptic (affectingthe
sense organs) effects,whichcommenced abouta
decade ago.Theanalysis of waterfrom thetube-
wells showsthat it is belowthe World Health
Organization's safetystandards.
Qrcea river,theRohiNullahin Kasuris now
a wastewaterdraincontaining domesticsewage
from the town and effluent from the tanneries.
The river bed is alsothe dumpingsite for
garbageand othersolid wastes.Farmersonce
usedthis mixedsewagefor irrigation,as a
hanksto the uncontrolled,haphazard dischargeof tan- wateringhole for their buffaloes,and to wash
nery effluent,Kasuris now famousfor its stagnantpools clothes.It hassincebecometoopollutedfor any
of murky, salmon+olouredliquid thathaveeamedit the of theseactivities.
dubioustitle of being one of Pakistan'smostpolluted Farmershavetakenstepsto preventthe efflu-
towns.Kasuris situatedabout55 km south-east of ent spilling onto their land by building earth
Lahore,nearthe borderwith India wheretheriver Sutlej bunds,yetthis oftenleadsto arguments, fights
entersPakistan.The Kasur district coversan areaof 400,000 and confrontation with the administration.
hectares,of which285,m0areclassifiedascultivableland.It is Certainareasof their land arenow infertile and
situated the centreof Punjabandconsidered
in its mostfertile arenot producingcrops.Farmersreportthat
area.Undernormalinigatiorqthe soil is very productive.Rice, cropyield hasdroppedby up to 507oover the
sugarcane, cotton,variousvarietiesof fodder,maizeandvegeta- last5 yearsandtheynow resortto buyingfeed
bles are the main crops.But today,not a treeor plant grows fromelsewhere for theiranimals.
beyondtwo kilometres downStream or south of the city. AU Kasur has a tokendrainagesystemmanaged
because of thetanneries. by the municipal committee.The systemwas
Kasuris a townof about 250,000 people.The city's main com- designed by the Public HealthEngineering
mercialactivityis its leathertanningindustry,closelyfollowed Department andis still incomplete.The system
by thetextileindustry.This smallcity hasa totalof 159tanneries alsoremainscloggedresultingin poolsof waste
whichare situatedin threeclusters:48 in Dingarh,95 in Qadir waterspreadthroughoutthe town andits sub-
Nagu and16in NiazNagarcolony. urbs.It is estimated thatthefutue totalvolume
The sanitaryconditionsin Kasurare similar to thosefoundin of the sanitarywastewaterof Kasurwill reach
manyrural townshipsbut areexacerbated by thecloseproximity about30,000cubicmetresperday.
of residentialdwellingsto the leathertanningunits.Tanneries Thetanneries boasttheirown effluentdrainagesystem.It was
emit vapours,fumesand dust into the streetsin additionto dis- graduallyconsfuctedwithin the threeclustersof tanneries with-
chargingwastewaterloadedwith dangerous, oftendeadly,chem- out anyprior hydraulicor structuralcalculations. Its dimensions
icals.The seepage of chromiuminto thewatersupplyhasgener- are,however,so inadequate that most of the time it remains
atedmuchdebatein intemational fora.Thereis heatedcontrover- clogged,floodinglow lying areaswith 8,800cubicmetresper
sy overits toxicity,its preferential
absorption into thefoodchain davof themosttoxictannerveffluents.


thebundandwarn themif any underthe growingpressureof
other attemptsare made to internationalenvironment lob-
breachit. The chowkidars' bies.Thoughit has adopteda
salariesarepaid ftom a collec- seriesof conservationist poli-
tive accountto whichthe whole cies,peoplearestill deniedthe
villagecontributes. right to managetheir own envi-
In all of this,thepeople's
con- ronmentandresources.
trol overlocal resources has The villagersof Kasurmay
beentheleastof thestate'scon- havewon thebattle.But thewar
cerns,eventhoughit has been againstpollutionis far from

Kasurcity andoff themainroadlandsellsfor Rs.150,000 anacre.
Thevariousbodies,organizations andgovemmentdepartrnents
workingon the Kasurproblemdo so in isolation.Thereis thus
muchduplicationandback-tracking. A studyby the United
NationsIndustrialDevelopment Organizationin 1992identified
lackof coordination amongvariousagencies as the singlemost
importantfactorstandingin thewayof rehabilitation.
Politicianshaveprofitedfrom the pollution Veteranpolitician
and formerGeneralSecretaryof the People'sDemocratic
Alliance,KhurshidMahmoodKasuri,leasedout his banenlands
belowTibbi for tannerywaterdischarge. "Hadhe not doneso,we
wouldnot havebeensobadlyoff," saysa residentof Tibbi. It is
believedthat Mr Kasurilost the recentelectionsbecauseof his
"mutuallybeneficialdealingswith thetanners."

i: $:
wasteis disposedoff by dumping
Pakistan'sForeignMinister,SardarAssefAhmadAli, hasbeen
electedto theNationalAssemblyfrom Kasur.Villagerscharge
him with grossneglect.He, in his defence,saysthereare200vil-
lagesin his constituency and"it is not possiblet0 visit eachand
everyonein my 264-day afterassembly sessions."
"I got Mr. NawazSharifto approvea Rs. 12 million project
TheRohiNullahis nowa stinking sewertlowing through Kasur. grantfromtheEuropean Consortium for US$8 million for setting
from tanneriesis usedfor by-products,
but it is estimatedthatthe up an institutefor trainingin industrialwastedisposal,and for
totalquantitiesto be disposedof are100-150tonsperdayof tan- establishing aneffluenttreafnentplant.But therupeecounterpail
nerywastes(treated/untreated leatherpieces,hair, fats etc.)and fundswerenotforthcoming, sothegrantlapsed,"saystheForeign
150-200 tonsperdayof domesticsolids. Minister.hior to the election,AssefAhmedAli saidthat if he
Theexcessive clromiumpollutionhaswroughtsocio-economicwereelected, his foremostprioritywouldbe to build drainsto
changesaswell.Thepriceof landhasgonedownsubntantially. An removewastewater.