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Perspectives

Karachi: a 'city of lights' under a dark shadow

  • With extreme weather events likely to become the norm due to climate change, a contingency plan is essential in order to save lives and minimise damage to property and infrastructure
Published August 19, 2022
Photo: Reuters
Photo: Reuters
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Proper infrastructure is a fundamental need for any city, region or country.

Karachi, Pakistan’s most populated city, houses people from all walks of life.

However, negligence and a lack of infrastructure planning over the years has proved detrimental for the daily lives of its citizens, much of which is evident during the monsoon season each year.

Suffice to say, as the city and its already tenuous systems shut down every year, citizens face an uphill climb in just getting through their days.

The very first hazard the monsoon rains reveal is harmful potholes, evident on roads across the city.

Throughout the year, patients not only suffer a bumpy ride all the way to the hospital, but the terrible traffic on the roads often results in loss of human life.

During monsoon season, these potholes become a mosquito hatchery which results in vector-borne diseases such as malaria and dengue.

Adding to the misery of the common man, officials don't seem to care much about taking any action to resolve these issues.

The city has a barely-functional public transportation system.

Poorly maintained minibuses, more deathtraps than anything else (especially when they race each other illegally with passengers on board), have seen their routes being increasingly restricted to only a few in the city.

The lower-middle income and working group segments of society who depend on these buses for their daily commute face several problems, including walking long distances from bus stops to their respective destinations.

With a lack of proper public transport system in the city, masses mostly rely on their own vehicles such as motorbikes and cars. For decades, the city’s public transport system was hostage to private transporters.

The contractors responsible for building and seem to be nowhere and there seems to be no accountability because authorities concerned are their partners in crime, it seems.

Such contractors are known to use substandard material that gets swept away either by a drizzle or a single overflowing sewer. The masses have to bear the consequences. This broken road network causes physical injuries to bones, muscles and joints.

The damage caused to vehicles owing to potholes, or should one say, craters in roads, these days cannot be estimated as it is beyond conjecture.

This year, during the ongoing monsoon season, many neighbourhoods had waist-length water on the streets, which also entered their homes.

This was rainwater was mixed with sewerage water along with floating debris of animal offal, heads and other trash usually littered the streets.

As time progressed, the water turned putrid and the stench became unbearable.

Along with the threat of water-borne diseases, electricity supply was in some cases suspended in order to prevent electrocution incidents. Many citizens remained without power in areas with extreme flooding.

In 2003, 2006, 2009 and 2011 too, Karachi witnessed almost 300 millimetres of monsoon rains. In 2007 and 2010, it was around 400 millimetres.

If a nation is subject to infrastructural disasters with such consistency, it is indeed the responsibility of government officials to enact concrete means of disaster prevention and adequate mitigation methods.

With such a predictable pattern of urban flooding in Karachi, it is unacceptable that government officials appear on the media with lame excuses, year after year.

Through the course of the monsoon season, Pakistan's Federal Minister for Climate Change, Senator Sherry Rehman was quick to warn citizens of upcoming urban flooding, reminding them too that infrastructure and disaster mitigation was not within the Ministry's ambit, urging provinces to do their part.

"Pakistan’s cabinet has declared a monsoon emergency but now we need to brace for the next round of rain torrents. Starting tomorrow. All provinces and district administrations, NDMA & PDMAs need to act now to take as many preventive measures as possible," she tweeted amongst a series of tweets and warnings.

Citizens are still waiting.

With extreme weather events likely to become the norm due to climate change, a contingency plan is essential in order to save lives and minimise damage to property and infrastructure.

While major drains were cleaned in Karachi after the uproar that was raised following the 2020 monsoon disaster, clearly the problem requires a deeper analysis in order to arrive at workable solutions.

The article does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Business Recorder or its owners

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Hussain Afzal

Hussain Afzal is the Head of Multimedia at Business Recorder (Digital)

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