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PFA destroys mounds of vegetables irrigated from wastewater.

LAHORE -- The Punjab Food Authority (PFA) has uprooted thousands of kilogrammes of vegetable crops cultivated on the 60-kanal area with sewerage and untreated wastewater during a crackdown on Sunday.

The provincial food watchdog officials conducted the raid following the directives of PFA Director General Capt (retd) Muhammad Usman to ensure supply of healthy and toxin-free vegetables in markets. During the raid, PFA officials discarded various vegetable crops, including radish, carrot, spinach, bitter melon, beet and coriander, despite resistance from farmers involved in illegal and harmful farming.

Usman also rushed to the spot and led the operation after receiving information that farmers were showing resistance against the action of the enforcement teams. The operation was conducted in Shahdrah Town area.

The PFA DG underlined that the operation would continue across Punjab against the cultivation of vegetables with untreated wastewater. He highlighted that vegetables irrigated with chemicals and untreated wastewater were the main cause of hepatitis and other diseases among consumers.

Usman indicated that owing to the action of the provincial food authority and effective enforcement most farmers irrigated vegetables through tube-well water last year. The authority was under the process of formulating a policy to counter this menace on permanently. It would help different government departments to collaborate and jointly action against such illegal farming practices.

He pointed out that the Water and Sanitation Agency (WASA) has already extended its full cooperation to the authority for identifying such malpractices. As per the understanding, WASA's field inspectors will monitor use of sewerage water in fields. 'The authority will use this information for the efficient and effective enforcement to end vegetables' cultivation with sewerage and untreated wastewater.'

The PFA DG said farmers can cultivate non-edible crops such as like bamboos, flowers and indoor plants, in red zone areas with untreated wastewater. He pointed out that the authority had discarded thousands of kilogrammes of vegetable crops by ploughing on 1,300 kanals land in various areas during September. All these farms were being irrigated with untreated wastewater.

According to some estimates, 26% of the total domestic vegetable production of Pakistan was cultivated with wastewater. A nationwide assessment in Pakistan showed that the direct use of untreated wastewater for agriculture, particularly vegetable production, was common in most cities. The main reasons for this use were the absence of alternative water sources, the reliability of the wastewater supply, the nutrient value and the proximity to urban markets. Another aspect of this illegal practice is high water pumping cost due to swelling power tariffs.

Research showed that green vegetable crops irrigated with untreated wastewater were highly contaminated with heavy metals and were the main source of human exposure to the contaminants. Various studies indicated eight heavy metals in green vegetables irrigated with untreated wastewater, including copper, nickel, zinc, chromium, iron, manganese, carbon monoxide and lead. It showed that metals in vegetable grown on wastewater irrigated soil were significantly higher than those of tube well water irrigated soil and WHO/FAO permissible limits (P and lt; 0.05).

A research also showed that wastewater irrigation also has several occupational risks for farmers, labour and marketers, besides consumption related health risks. This illegal farming practice also has an environmental risk for people walking in these farms or children playing wastewater-irrigated fields.
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Publication:The Express Tribune (Karachi, Pakistan)
Geographic Code:9PAKI
Date:Nov 5, 2018
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