A recent far-beyond-normal monsoon spell that wreaked havoc across Pakistan has given a fresh lease on life to the country’s largest freshwater lake, putting smiles on the faces of thousands of people who have depended on it for years. Record-breaking rains that destroyed communication infrastructure and crops across the country but mainly in the south and northwest have produced enough fresh water to replace the toxic waters of Manchar Lake. Located west of the mighty Indus River in the southern districts of Dadu and Jamshoro and spreading over 250 square kilometers, Manchar is also one of Asia’s largest freshwater lakes. With an average depth between 2.5 to 3.75 meters, the lake can expand to 500 square kilometers during the peak monsoon season.However, it has become a dumping ground for industrial waste generated from upper parts of southern Sindh and a few areas of southwestern Balochistane, putting the lives of those who depend on the waters at risk. A gradual buildup of pollutants that began from 1992 after the construction of canals and artificial drains has contaminated the lake and destroyed fish stocks, forcing the local fishing communities to either migrate or seek other forms of employment.The canals were aimed at tackling salinity and water logging which was affecting the large tracts of arable land in the adjoining areas, but the misconceived project actually destroyed the lake. According to Nasir Panhwar, a Hyderabad-based environmentalist, wastewater effluents did wash into the lake even before the construction of the canal known as the Right Bank Outfall Drain (RBOD), but they were “manageable” and did not pollute the water to an extent where it would destroy the lake ecologically.Manchar Lake gets fresh water from three sources: fresh rainwater from 18 torrents in the Kirthar hills, the Indus River and the RBOD. “Less rains, a gradual reduction of water from the Indus River due to the construction of barrages and dams and the industrial waste washed into the lake through RBOD have combined destroyed the ecology of Manchar Lake,” he said.The lake, filled with glistening light blue waters nowadays, gives off a dazzling look. The otherwise saline and murky waters have been replaced with fresh rainwater, relieving the local communities in many ways.“I am seeing this new look after years, which is no doubt eye-soothing,” Rahib Ali, a local fisherman sitting on the eastern bank of the lake, told Anadolu Agency.It was a decade ago — in 2010 — when super floods which inundated a fifth of the land in Pakistan had filled the lake.“But more than the eye-soothing view, it will meet our several physical and economic needs,” he added.The first and foremost requirement of the area’s people is potable water, for which they had to travel miles. One could literally not even gargle with the lake water until a couple of weeks ago.“We had to travel to the nearest bazaar, which is three kilometers (1.8 miles) away, to buy potable water. We could use that water only for drinking purposes, not for washing or cooking, as we could not afford to travel and buy that much water daily,” added Ali, 54, who was wearing a blue shalwar kameez, or loose trouser and shirt.Many could not even afford to buy potable water and would use the toxic lake water for drinking, bathing and washing, which caused eye and skin infections and waterborne diseases, mainly diarrhea and gastroenteritis.“But now, our men and women do not have to travel to procure water. We have ample water now, at least for the next several months,” Ali said with a big smile.“All we have to do is boil the water before drinking it, as it still has remnants of toxic effluents,” he maintained, while acknowledging that most of the communities do not do that.Dozens of women were spotted washing clothes at different sites along the lake bank.“We can easily wash clothes now. Before [the rains], the [lake] water was as saline as we had to apply an entire piece of soap to turn it into foam to wash clothes,” Sohni, who goes by only one name, told Anadolu Agency.A group of children were enjoying dips a few meters away from her in shallow waters. “It’s so clean and sweet. It’s the first time I have seen water this clear in my lifetime,” said Mohammad Farhan, 13, as his mates splashed water on him.