Researchers have warned that high level contamination in both Kabul and Swat rivers were badly impacting fish population.

Researchers have warned that high level contamination in both Kabul and Swat rivers were badly impacting fish population.

The researchers made the findings while working on a project to analyze endocrine disrupting chemicals and types in Kabul and Swat rivers.

“Our research studies during the project found high concentration of phthalates, dissolved form of plastic, which is badly affecting fish health and diversity in both the major rivers of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa,” informed Dr. Bushra Khan, Associate Professor, Environmental Science Department University of Peshawar.

Dr. Bushra has recently completed a three years project titled as�`Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals (EDCs) in Kabul and Swat Rivers and their impact on Fish Population and Rural Community Livelihood’.

The project is jointly carried out by Environmental Science Department University of Peshawar in collaboration with Perdue University Indiana (USA).

The project helped four students in Pakistan to do research for PhD studies and four MS students. While three students in USA are doing PhD and three MS on basis of research and analysis in this project.

Talking to APP, Dr. Bushra informed that project research found high concentration of phthalates in both the rivers, mostly in Kabul, which is affecting fish population by damaging the reproduction capability of fish due to hormonal changes.

Phthalates, she continued, were known carcinogen which were not only causing decline in fish population but could also spread cancer among humans because this water was used for irrigation and could effect food chain.

Water sampling from eight locations in Kabul river, from Warsak to Attack and 12 locations from Madyan, Panjigram to Landakay at Swat river in two season, summer and winter, found more than two dozen types of chemicals including pesticides, pharmaceutical, contaminated sediments etc.

The phthalates, also known as plasticizers, were of different types including Benzyl Butyl, Di nonyl, Diethyl, Diisobutly, Bis and others.

Bisphenol A, another plasticizer known to disrupt endocrine system, was also found in most of the samples but at lower concentration than phthalates.

These chemicals were getting accumulated in river water due to discharge of untreated effluent of more than 100 small and large scale industries besides municipal waste of different big cities including Swat, Mardan, Charsadda, Peshawar and Nowshera, Bushra opined.

Due to bad impact on fish health, the number of fish species in Kabul river has been reduced from existing 59 to less than half, she disclosed.

Adding that she said, decline in fish population was also affecting livelihood of hundreds of thousands of people living near embankments and engaged in business of fish catching and selling.

Sharing the data about concentration of different chemicals in river Kabul and Swat, Dr.

Bushra apprised that phthalate ranged from 200-900 ppt during high flow and 400-1000 ppt during low flow.

The total pharmaceutical concentrations ranged to 10 ppt during high flow and 800 ppt during low flow.

Heavy rains during the monsoon season brought additional chemicals such as herbicides and pesticides used in agriculture.

“Between 2018 and 2019, a total of 121 fish belonging to six species were sampled and processed,” informed Sabah Shaukat, a student of Environment Department doing PhD by holding research in the project.

Scarcity of fish population in these rivers could be gauged from the fact that they did not collect same fish species from all sites within each river system, Sabah informed APP.

Due to phthalates presence as dominant endocrine disrupting chemical in the water, the fish examined were mostly found to have defective reproduction system due to hormonal changes, she added. In some fish they could not be able to differentiate their gender, she hastened to add.

During the project, 445 household surveys were also conducted to evaluate as how water quality and quantity has impacted livelihood of water users.

The data showed that livelihood in this area were significantly shaped by changes in water quality and quantity as all interviewers reported a substantial decrease in the fish number and size.

While households reported diversifying their livelihoods, changing water sources and increasing their agriculture input in response to increasing social-ecological change and water stress.

Dr. Bushra, who is Principal Investigator from Pakistan side, also warned that if water of River Kabul was used for human consumption without proper treatment, it would prove to be much detrimental for human health. She said KP government also planned to launch a scheme for supply of drinking water from Kabul river to population of its provincial metropolis, Peshawar.

Before execution of the project, proper steps needed to be taken for evaluating quality of the water and treatment of waste water before dumping into river water, she stressed.

In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa there was no facility for treatment of waste water which was entering into rivers without getting any treatment as a result of which water was getting much contaminated, badly impacting aquatic biodiversity, human health besides environment.

About the project suggestions, she said, it mainly focused on proper treatment of waste water before entering into rivers.

There was also need to design a National River cleaning strategy as rivers in other provinces are also serving as waste dump thus affecting aquatic flora and fauna besides endangering human health and environment as well.

The project also suggested holding more studies in these river systems to determine the ultimate cause of fish population decline.

Originally published at Urdu Point