International river’s day: Man, 70, on mission to save Malir River
Sitting crossed legged at a dhaba sifting through his document folder before a waiter brings him chai. Mohammad Siddiq Baloch lifts the cup and sips it before all a sudden recalling that half a kilometer from that bistro there’s a farm house which hosted Mohammad Ali Jinnah in his last days.
Malir used to be so green and revitalizing that during his convalescence the Quaid e Azam was advised to spend some time here before resuming his work, retells the glory his hometown once held before things went South.
March 14 is celebrated as the ‘International Day of Action For Rivers’ and the theme this year is: Rights of Rivers. The 70 year old Baloch, however, has been fighting one case after another for the same since over a decade now.
“There used to be a fleet of pickup trucks to carry the various produce of Malir farms but the agriculture has seen sharp decline since 1970s, that when sand mining picked up for excessive construction in Karachi.”
Now there’s hardly a few carriages to transport the remnants of agricultural produce to Sabzi Mandi (centralized vegetable and fruit market of Karachi), says Baloch, alias Mama.
Siddiq Baloch has won his case in the Sindh High Court to stop the discharge of toxic waste from the Naguri Society Dairy Farms into the Malir River. Siddique Baloch has been fighting for the right of the Malir River for the past forty years.#RightToOwnMalirRiver pic.twitter.com/OTQQjXpFsW
— Hafeez Baloch AWP (@BalochHafeez201) February 21, 2023
Mama Siddiq, a farmer himself, has been fighting cases as an active petitioner to revive, or salvage, the ecology of Malir River and adjacent farm lands and goths that he alleges, have been marred by commercialization and land grabbing.
In 2013, he won a case against sand mining and dredging of Malir River banks that had been rampant along the river despite explicit sections of act that restricts the excavation of sand and gravel.
The Sindh (Prohibition of taking minerals including reti (sand) and Bajri from any land) Bill, 2003 expressly deals with illegal sand mining that will result in hurting the ecology.
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Section 3 of the said law says: “Except with the prior sanctions of Government, no person shall take minerals including reti (sand) and bajri from any land by excavation or otherwise
Provided that no sanction shall be accorded if it adversely affects the topography, archaeology, ecology and environment of that area.”
He said despite the implementation of this act after my winning the case in 2013, though in a stealthy manner, the sand and gravel excavation has not stopped.
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Just recently, Mama won a case he’d filed against sewage dumping in a rain drain that segues into Malir River. “It’s a Malir River tributary turned into a sewer for Nagori cattle colony where numerous dairy farms rearing thousands of buffaloes, dump their effluent into it.”
He said he’d initially approached The “toothless” Sindh Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) to budge them into action against the contamination of the tributary.
Even when a authority whose mandate is to stop ecological degradation cannot stop few powerful men from dumping effluent, know that I am just an individual and my activism makes a very vulnerable target, he said.
Section 21 (2) (a) of the SEPA act directs “immediate stoppage, preventing, lessening or controlling the discharge, emission, disposal, handling, act or omission, or to minimize or remedy the adverse environmental effect”.
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He added that, like a concerned citizen and resident of Malir, approached the right avenues and landed in Sindh High Court which decided in his favor. On February 23, the High Court ordered that Section 21 (2) (a) of Sepa Act must be implemented within 45 days. Meaning immediate cessation of the illegal practice by the defendant Nagori Dairy Society.
They are still dumping, and things have not gotten much better so I will file a contempt of court case against SEPA and Dairy farmers once the 45 days of the court’s provided period is over.
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In his 70’s, Mama says it’s difficult for him to run from pillars to post for what’s supposed to be protected by means of law and by the state itself.
“The struggle to salvage the ecology of the beautiful Malir River is troublesome, but I can’t sit idle as they lay ruination to my hometown”
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He said he shall do whatever is in his power to stand up against all illegal practices that have turned Malir, once an oxygen tank for Karachi that was self-sufficient in agriculture and water supply, into a parched and barren land with its people desperate to get clean potable water, and put it in the crosshairs of housing schemes and industrial effluent.