One of the second biggest fresh water resources of Sindh, the Haleji Lake, is fast turning into a pool of stagnant saline water, severely threatening the ecology of the region and the whole province.
A vibrant bird sanctuary just a decade ago, has succumbed to the massive negligence on part of successive governments and what once was a major destination of the migratory birds from central Asia and Russia, is now devoid of any life form for the moment. Haleji Lake is located some 80 kilometers from Karachi and covers a area of 6.9 square kilometers, making it the second biggest source of water after the Keenjhir Lake. The lake which was once regarded a s the “bird watcher’s paradise” does not hold the most favoured destination for the migratory birds anymore as the water of the lake has turned saline and has
severely affected the fish colonies in the lake.
“The lake’s water is highly saline. Its quality has become so poor that it stinks now. It is not suitable even for washing hands and face with. Lotus plants, which attracted many bird species, have almost vanished from the lake while the floating fern (Salvinia molesta) is fast encroaching on the lake, having already covered about 10 to 15 per cent of its area. There has been no addition of trees, which could help improve the lake’s ecology and encourage wildlife,”says Jehangir Durrani, a wildlife expert representing the World Wildlife Fund-Pakistan posted at the Keenjhar Lake.
The city government of Karachi decided to abandon the lake for its daily need of potable water some 15 years ago, choosing the larger Keenjhar Lake for the purpose. As a result, the fresh water supply to the lake from the Jam Branch was also stopped resulting in a dead cesspool of bacteria rich water. "The lake’s major problem is water that needs to flow. Right now, it can’t be termed a lake because the little water the lake receives stays put. The lake can rehabilitate naturally if the government starts releasing adequate water into the lake that is also used as a means of supply of freshwater,” said Hafizullah, the WWF site manager at the Keenjhar Lake. The lake was included in the WWF’s recommendations for the Indus for All Programme. But it had to be left out after consultations with stakeholders. Work on selected sites in the second phase of the project is pending because of non-availability of funds,”he said.
Currently Keenjhar Lake has been the focal point of the current government as the area around it has been designated for a large commercial hotel. Haleji Lake is in a dire need of restoration and rehabilitation and the government can effectively engage the private sector to help restore the once glistening paradise of the province.