Karachi urban flooding-who is responsible for this mess

 More than 50 lives lost-properties and infrastructure worth billions damaged

Heavy rains have wreaked havoc in Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city and financial and commercial hub. The port city and financial hub experienced the worst urban flooding as the result of torrential rains. The urban flooding has exposed the weak infrastructure and lack of basic services. The people are asking the question that who is responsible for this disastrous situation in Karachi.

Nearly 50 people lost their lives while property and infrastructure of worth billions of rupees was damaged. The trading activities in the commercial areas and manufacturing in industrial areas was halted due to urban flooding. In some markets, the water caused damage to goods in the shops. 

There is no doubt that Karachi received unprecedented rains. The record breaking rain caused urban flooding. But it is also true that civil administration did not make preparations to deal with the natural calamity of such scale. The truth is that we are not investing enough to enhance the capacity and capability of civic bodies responsible to provide municipal services to people. We need to change our priorities. We trying to run a mega city like Karachi in a way we run small town or a city. It is not possible.    

Last year, the city, which is home to roughly 22 million people, was named among the 10 least livable cities in the world by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) — the research and analysis division of the Economist Group — in The Global Liveability Index 2019. 

Poor infrastructure of drainage, sewerage, poorly planned developments, lack of resources, corruption, inefficiency, neglect, poor governance and indifferent attitude of the ruling class has contributed towards the mess that the people of Karachi finds themselves in. Karachi needs proper urban planning and development. China cutting, encroachments, landgrabing and rent seeking policies have added to the woes of Karachi. 

Since the late 1980s, Karachi has been governed mostly by the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) — a party representing Urdu-speaking migrants from India — and the Pakistan People's Party (PPP), which is more popular in the rural areas of the southern Sindh province. While the MQM has been in power locally, provincially it is the PPP that calls the shots. Both parties regularly accuse each other of neglecting the city.

Citizens are blaming the authorities for the catastrophic situation, saying there had been no preparation before the start of the regular monsoon season. Karachi residents complain that their city lacks basic infrastructure facilities despite its role as the nation's economic and financial hub.

All those who make decisions, policies and planning in this country whether elected or non-elected are responsible for this mess in Karachi. No one can be spared from the responsibility of catastrophic situation.  

The political parties are busy in blame game. They are accusing each other for the mess in Karachi. The matter of fact is that all the political players have contributed more or less in this situation faced by the people in Karachi. Both the military governments and civilian government ignored the needs of mega city and failed to provide ample resources to Karachi to maintain the already existing infrastructure and to further develop and improve it.  

All the mainstream political parties got the opportunity to serve Karachi but they failed.  MQM dominated the politics of Karachi since 1987. Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) also gets the opportunity in the past to serve this city.  PPP, PML-Q and PML-N also formed governments in Sindh province and at federal level. Karachi never gets its due share in the resources it needed to provide basic services and to built modern infrastructure.

 From the Posh and well planned areas like DHA, Clifton and North Nazimabad to poor and unplanned areas of Surjani town, Malir and Korangi, faced the similar situation. The streets and houses were inundated in water. The people of DHA and Surjani town spent sleepless night without electricity and water. A newly developed middle class housing society New Nazimabad is still inundated in water five days after the rain. The ground floors of the houses are still under water causing damage to furniture and other valuables. This housing project was developed without a drain system. 

However, after torrential rains inundated the city, both the MQM and the PPP came under fire for a lack of preparedness to deal with the situation. MQM  runs the city administration for last four years and PPP is running the provincial administration for last 12 years. But main issues of public infrastructure, health, education, transport, sewerage, clean drinking water, roads, modern policicing and others remained unresolved. 

The federal government of PTI made several promises to provide resources in last two years never fulfilled. The karachi played important role to bring PTI in power. It was not possible to form the government without 14 seats it won from Karachi.

Political differences only make a part of Karachi's protracted management crisis. Experts say that the current predicament is largely a result of rapid and uncontrolled expansion of the city in the past three decades.

Large metropolises in South Asia, such as Mumbai and Colombo, have relatively better waste disposal systems, whereas in Karachi, garbage is usually dumped on streets that end up blocking drainage lines. Even little rain in the city can cause streets to flood and make life difficult for the residents.

Poor infrastructure has caused damage during the urban flooding. Karachi needs the basic infrastructure of a modern mega city. This development of modern infrastructure required resources. Both the federal and provincial governments are not providing enough resources for this infrastructure. Karachi needs billions of rupees every year for infrastructure development. 

Karachi needs an empowered, integrated, effective and well functioning local government system. All the political, economic and administrative powers and authority according to the Article 140-A of the constitution is required to run this city on modern lines. Local tax collection needs to be increased. 

Karachi needs well connected public transport and rescue system. All the major cities in Punjab has the well maintained 1122 rescue service to deal with emergency situation. But karachi has no such service. 

New developments in the city have blocked the drainage system. Also, informal settlements around major drainage lines have obstructed the flow of water. It is important that authorities regularly remove solid waste from the drains. As of now, city administration has not lived up to the challenge.

                                                             Khalid Bhatti 

1 comment:

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.

Powered by Blogger.