The dwellers of Karachi witnessed immense hardships during the recent third spell of monsoon rain when a brief but heavy spell of rain submerged many thoroughfares and low-lying areas of the city, causing traffic jams and depriving vast city areas of power while strong winds uprooted trees, poles and electrocuting several people.
The monsoon rain once again becomes a nuisance instead of a relief from the scorching heat for the people of Karachi. The rain has increased the troubles of the citizens because many of the city’s areas drown in rainwater.
The rain caused a complete breakdown of urban life. Poor design and management of roads, drainage, intersections, underground sewers and sidewalks caused unparalleled chaos and damage.
Due to the over spilling of drains and the absence of properly directed flow of rainwater, streets, transitways and lanes were rendered unusable.
The mayhem exposed grave shortcomings in the planning, development and management of a city that houses over eight percent of the national population. Many factors contributed to this disappointing scenario.
There haven’t been any physical structures made for flood control nor investments made in the drainage system. Weak and inefficient urban infrastructure designs that don’t account for local topography and climate are also a reason for floods so often in the city.
Garbage and encroachment
Furthermore, the intermediary drains leading to big nullahs which are themselves far in between also full of garbage or encroached upon, leaving no path for any accumulated water to head to the nullahs.
As the city expanded in a haywire manner, the stormwater drains were transformed into sewerage trunks. Even the planned neighborhoods had their primary sewerage conduits ejecting into the nallahs.
Over the years, land grabbers and builders recklessly constructed structures on, and along, the nallahs. With the irregular reclamation of nallahs’ banks, the width of the water stream decreased.
This created a perpetual problem both for the usual flow of sewage and the rainwater during monsoons. In certain cases, these constructions made the maintenance of nallahs impossible.
Karachi’s topography has been altered without any regard for the overall form of the city.
Whether it’s widening a road, constructing an underpass or a settlement, only local engineering benchmarks are taken into account.
This causes disasters like the present episode, and the flooding alongside the Super Highway and its adjoining areas is an example.
Over the years we have seen one agency blame the other. More recently with the provincial government headed by the PPP and the federal government run by the PTI, the blame game has reached new proportions.
Earlier it was the MQM blaming the PPP. Now the war of words is between the PPP and the PTI. The Karachi resident suffers throughout.
In politics, even if the problem is someone else’s fault, the blame game is a waste of time, effort, and energy that takes the attention away from the solution. It creates restlessness and creates a trust deficit.
The prevailing political situation will only create conflict and will become a huge hindrance in the way of progress.
Rather than humiliating each other, political parties should really be working together to fix the issues and only by mutual cooperation can we lead our country in harmony.
Sindh govt punishing Karachiites
For the last 12 years, the PPP was in power in Sindh. People of the province were crying due to lack of basic necessities of life people were facing problems in Sindh because the provincial government had failed to deliver.
There were no basic facilities across Sindh province while corruption had marred all departments of the Sindh government.
Allegations on PPP’s corruption, lack of interest in resolving Karachi issues and misappropriation are nothing new, nor is the corruption of the city administration, the mayor of Karachi and KMC a cover-up.
The Sindh government should take practical steps to solve the problems of the people instead of making showy statements.
Cleaning of drains and the prevention of sewage water from entering the houses of people is possible only with the joint efforts of KMC and the Sindh government.
Coordinated decision necessary to prevent such disasters
Coordinated decision making for development and management is necessary to prevent such disasters. Decisions that stem from scientific wisdom gained through analysis and evaluation of realities give rise to better results.
In Karachi’s case, decisions are geared to generate political benefits, instant praise from masses due to high visibility and short-term gains only.
Neglect of pressing issues in favor of stand-alone mega projects and the over dominance of the provincial government on the local tiers of government are just a few glaring issues.
Demographic data, maps and scientific opinions are needed for proper urban drainage and flood prevention plans. While this information is gathered, its usage is constrained due to difficulty in free access, lack of updates and incompatibility and differences in formats.
In the recent past, Karachi has seen intense densification in existing neighborhoods due to the street commercialization policy enforced by the erstwhile City District Government since 2002. Over 40 major corridors have been declared commercial areas.
The policy has enabled the plots on these streets to be converted into high-rise constructions.
At the same time, the ensuing pressure on water supply, electricity, sanitation, drainage, transportation and parking space was not taken into consideration.
It was criminally assumed that by earning revenue, the vices of development could be ignored.
Spot commercialization is already taking place in various areas of Karachi. Multiple jurisdictions, lack of motivation to enforce the law and the absence of political will to differentiate between short-term revenue gains and sustainability are the common issues found here.
Spot densification alters the rain and sewage water flow gradients. Property owners only develop their own plot-level services with no consideration of the overall flow of water.
In many cases, physical structures such as speed breakers obstruct the water path. To combat urban flooding government needs to clear the channels – the river, the drains and the then the intermediary channels.
Leaving open spaces in footpaths for water to be absorbed and being mindful of rainwater drainage needs when designing infrastructure projects would also help in reducing urban flooding.
There is also the need for a complete city master plan for drainage. Until corruption from local bodies and KMC is eradicated, drainage problems will remain standstill.