The Malakand district in northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) holds significant strategic importance, serving as a historical battleground from the times of Buddhism through British rule, the Sikh era, and conflicts involving the Yousafzai tribe. Alladand, a small valley within district Malakand, holds historical significance as the first capital of the Yousafzai tribe in over five centuries. In Alladand Dheri, the legacy of Sheikh Mali Baba persists, with the distribution of cultivated land changing every ten years through a lucky draw system.
However, the historical land is now facing imminent danger. The irrigation channels built five centuries ago have been contaminated with white water, discharged from marble factories. This not only damages the irrigation channels but also whitens the crop lands, posing a significant threat to agricultural productivity.In a groundbreaking revelation, Dr. Asghar, an associate professor at Totakan Degree College in Malakand, unveils a comprehensive study that delves into water quality, heavy metal concentrations, and pollution sources, raising a critical alert for public health and environmental well-being.
The research reveals a concerning scenario of surface water heavily contaminated with elevated levels (exceeding WHO standards) of Al (aluminum), Ca (calcium), Cr (chromium), Cu (copper), Fe (iron), K (potassium), Mg (magnesium), Mn (manganese), Ni (nickel), P (phosphorus), and Zn (zinc), posing significant health risks through ingestion and skin contact. Dr. Asghar points to effluents from the marble industry as the main contributors, urgently advising the relocation of processing facilities away from river canals and agricultural areas to designated industrial zones.
Emphasizing the gravity of the issue, Dr. Asghar calls for regular pollution monitoring and advocates for the adoption of phytoremediation strategies to counteract the adverse effects of pollution. The study underscores the importance of implementing safe practices, including sewage treatment plants and safety measures during irrigation and marble industry operations, all while preserving environmental resources.
Looking ahead, Dr. Asghar proposes innovative solutions for the agricultural sector, suggesting the use of biochar and diatomite as chemical soil remediation agents. The study envisions a path towards reclaiming heavy metal-contaminated soils and fostering sustainable agricultural practices.
Dr. Asghar’s findings hold global significance, particularly aiding countries grappling with marble runoff affecting freshwater resources. The study proves invaluable for the Government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan, providing crucial insights to formulate policies safeguarding freshwater bodies and agricultural lands, thereby protecting both aquatic and terrestrial life.
As communities grapple with the challenge of balancing industrial development and environmental preservation, Dr. Asghar’s research emerges as a guiding beacon, urging swift actions and informed policies for a healthier, more sustainable future.