KARACHI - The chemical and poisonous industrial waste discharged by sugar mills in Badin district is becoming a serious health hazard for the residents of 350 villages who are suffering from various skin and other diseases. The poisonous waste is also ‘killing’ the ecosystem of the freshwater lake.During a visit to the villages located alongside the drainage nullah, locally known as Amir Shah Drain, which carry the industrial waste of the sugar mills to fresh water Nareri Lake, the residents complained that drinking water of wells had been turned brackish and poisonous due to chemical waste of the sugar mills, besides the offensive and suffocating chemical smell of the waste has forced hundreds of people to leave the area on healthier grounds.Some local residents have also complained of suffering from asthma and eye infection and various waterborne diseases.The residents of the area living along side the drain told The Nation the rashes on the bodies of newborns are also visible, showing horrific aspect of the skin diseases caused of chemical waste transforming through their mothers. The sugar mills of three districts-Badin, Tando Mohammad Khan and Mirpurkhas-are discharging their untreated effluent into the Nareri Lake, destroying not only the freshwater body, but it is also causing outbreak of diseases among the people in the area.The Nareri Lake, located in Badin district, is among the list of Ramsar Sites, Wetlands of International Importance. In the 19 Ramsar sites of wetlands in the country, 10 sites are located in the Sindh province.There are over 32 sugar mills in the Sindh province, mostly in the rural areas, established by political figures or industry owners, but most of the mills have grown old and need to be upgraded from environmental point of view.Though the local politicians and government officers are aware of the sufferings of the poor but they are helpless against powerful owners of the mills who drain out the poisonous effluent in the drains which carry the hazard waste in Nareri Lake, a freshwater body on which depend the food requirement of the local residents mostly fishermen.Besides health problems, the untreated liquid, gaseous effluent and solid waste of Sugar Mills causing adverse impact on the ecosystem and environment, which is being dumped through a drain into the Lake about 25 kms away, a freshwater body in the Badin district, an electoral constituency of powerful political family of the Speaker National Assembly Dr Fahmida Mirza and her husband Dr Zulfiqar Mirza.Thousands of the residents of 350 villages on the side of the nullah, which carries the industrial waste of sugar mills complained that effluent releasing from sugar mills adversely affected ground water, which is the only source of fresh water for both drinking and agricultural purposes in areas around, besides it caused of emergence of severe diseases of skin, asthma, Hepatitis B and C among the people.Ghulam Qadir Soomro, a primary teacher in village Haji Ahmed Soomro located alongside the drainage nullah said that foul smell emanating from the drain has made life miserable for them, even creating difficulty in breathing. He added the children of the village even do not go to the school due to bad smell.The wells have become polluted due to underground seepage of chemical water, causing spread of the waterborne diseases of diarrhoea among the people of the village. Allah Rakhio Maheri, resident of another village of Haji Rustam Maheri complained that untreated effluent of the sugar mills is destroying the livelihood and causing skin diseases.‘If a person even touches the water mistakenly, he or she fall victim of infections on body and skin diseases’, he narrated, adding the diseases have been spread in the livestock especially the udders of the buffalos’, he added.The Badin district is rich in terms of natural resources as oil, gas generated from the area, but it on the top of the poorest population in the country.The residents said they conveyed their problems to the elected representatives that poisonous water of sugar mills spreading diseases among the peoples of area and polluting the underground sweet water, besides it damaging ecosystem of freshwater lake.The civil society organizations working on awareness and advocacy campaign against the ‘menace’ of discharging of untreated industrial waste in the fresh water lake had brought to the attention of the government the problem, how the chemical waste is causing serious health problems but so far no relief had been given to the residents.Meanwhile, a study of effects of effluents of sugar mills, conducted by the Strengthening Participatory Organization (SPO) in collaboration with the Development and Management Network-a consortium of 66 local community development organizations, unveiled that the liquid and gaseous effluent produced by the sugar industry had adverse impacts on the ecosystem as discharging waste water contain high levels of oil, suspended soils, organic matter and chemicals.The study, which based on chemical analysis of samples of effluents being discharged from the Ansari Sugar Mill Matli, disclosed the wastewater of sugar mills released into water bodies endangering fish and other aquatic life, besides making ground water unsuitable for animal and human drinking purpose within a strip of 30 kilo meters on both sides of the surface drain.The chemical analysis of industrial effluent further disclosed that it also may cause many kinds of adverse impacts including chronic and carcinogenic effects on health as well as it may lead to death of most of the living organizations.Ms. Raheema Panhwar, Programme Officer at SPO said the people of area, who are victim of wastage of sugar mills Badin, have been protesting against the offence of sugar industry but on one at government level ready to pay heed to their miseries. The people of the area held several meetings with the administration of Sugar mills and elected representatives in the district but their voices remained unheard, she remarked, adding that SPO has decided to support the local communities through launching an advocacy campaign to protect their basic human and environmental rights and support to preserve their livelihood and ecology of Nareri Lake, a freshwater body in the district. Even, most of the sugar mills committing violation of the environmental laws as each industry has to setup a treatment plant for safe disposal of its waste under environmental impact assessment, which is mandatory before initiation of the project, Ms. Raheema Panhwar of SPO said, recommending that the government should step in and closely monitor sugar processing at mills and enforce a foolproof environmental management system, as the unsafe practices of sugar mills are leading to a great deal of environmental damage and becoming serious health hazard.When contacted, Dr Sikandar Mandhro, an elected lawmaker of the area said that he already raised the issue in the Sindh Assembly and demanded for severe action against sugar mills, which releasing ‘poisonous effluents’ in freshwater body.‘Its not environmental pollution but it a ‘poison’ being discharged by the sugar mills, which killing the people, wildlife and damaging ecosystem and environment’, lawmaker belonging to the ruling PPP opined and demanded of the government to implement on environmental laws and ensure installation of treatment plant in the industry for safe disposal of chemical effluent.Muhammad Nawaz Chandio, another member of Sindh Assembly of the area also shared same views and demanded severe punishment for the sugar mills involved in discharging of industrial waste unsafely.When The Nation drew the attention to the industrial waste causing environmental and health hazard in Badin district, the Provincial Minister for Environment Department, Shaikh Muhammad Afzal said that inspection of the sugar mills has been initiated by inspectors of the department to ensure the environmental standards. He said that his department will take action against the sugar mills releasing untreated waste and committing violation of environmental laws, appealing the people to the come forward with the proofs in this regard.