The more the judicial commission comprising Justice Mohammad Iqbal Kalhoro investigates what lies in the underbelly of Karachi, the more shocked it leaves everyone involved. The state of Karachi’s water, sanitation and the environment are a complete and utter ruin. The city receives 200 million gallons of unfiltered water daily while the Karachi Water and Sewerage Board (KWSB) has no functional system to properly chlorinate the drinking water or to check the presence of major contaminants in it.

The problem can only be described as criminal negligence, and the people of Karachi are the ones who bear the cost and consequences. The government’s principle responsibility is to provide a safe and healthy environment for people to live in, instead it has destroyed that very environment by pumping untreated industrial effluents into it, destroying the natural ecology, mangroves and everything else in its way.

What is worse is that the waste that the metropolis generates is not being treated at any of the government facilities as they have been closed for rehabilitation. Meanwhile all laboratories and environmental monitoring stations of the Sindh Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) in the city have been inoperative for at least four years “owing to financial constraints”. This means that no one has any idea regarding the nature of the waste being generated, or the amount that is being dumped untreated into the Lyari and Malir rivers.

The commission has recently been tasked by the Supreme Court to hold an inquiry into the state’s failure in providing clean drinking water and sanitation facilities in the province. What they have found is that regulatory bodies like SEPA were completely ineffectual as the three laboratories for chemical, microbiological and analytical analysis had been non-functional for years, while a mobile monitoring station for testing air quality also lies abandoned. The department is not only understaffed and penniless but posts are lying vacant with no one to fill them.