Two-day torrential rain exposes Karachi administration’s weaknesses

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Salahuddin Haider

Two days of torrential rains, apart from being a major disaster, thoroughly exposed the weaknesses of Karachi administration, and with it the Sindh government’s resistance to deny funds and financial authority to local bodies, which are mandated by the people to take care of them.
The Mayor, out of the country, perhaps can escape criticism, for his travel abroad, proved a blessing in disguise for him, but the resulting burden on deputy mayor was enormous. He was tested to the hilt, tired his best to bring relief and succour to the sufferers but could succeed only partially. He (Dr Arshad Vohra) could draw some satisfaction from the fact that his efforts, though enormously handicapped, did yield something positive.
Surprisingly, the rains in terms of measurement, were not much. Karachi had seen much worse situations over the years, when 4 to 5 inches of rains in 24 to 48 hours caused a total deluge. Human sufferings were immense in terms of loss of lives, and losses to property, and business.
But this time, the maximum rainfall was just one inch (25 millimetre) in Saddar, and marginally less than that in Share Faisal area or the nearby PAF base where it was just 17 inches or a little more.
This was easily manageable, but choked drainage system of a city inhabited by 20 million souls, made things worse. That the city would suffer from deluge, was least expected. Sindh government, local bodies minister especially, awoke when it was far too late. Power outage depicted apathy of the K-Electric, whose story ever since privatization is pathetic. The company, which changed hands for a second time, after release from government control, claims to have invested US dollars 1.2 billion dollars. There may be truth in it, but the end result, tells an altogether different tale.
Low lying areas in district central, or east became an instant victim, but a posh Defence Authority area could not escape from its after-effects. Khyaban-e-Shahbaz was under ankle deep water and in Mahmoodabad, KBR, and localities like that brought unbearable situations for those living there. Flood water, inundating residential districts, rushed into their houses, and people, awaiting hoplessly for official relief, saved got engaged in rescue work all by themselves. They used household instruments to flush out gushing water from their rooms,verandahs, and lobbies etc.
The Clifton under-pass was flooded, and shut off for traffic for the second time after its coming into being 13 years ago,had to rely on pumps to be cleared.
It faced that situation only once, soon after its completion under former Mayor Mustafa Kamal, but then Kamal, and the then governor Ishratul Ebad had to demolish unathorised construction of bungalows of Aga Khan, and his close associates. They had to remove cement bags from underneath which had blocked the outflow of water, a system for which was readied before its commissioning.
Some credit goes to Jam Shoro, the local bodies minister, who arranged pumps to flush out water, and got areas cleared for traffic to flow, but the decision was indisputably belated and showed lack of insight and planning.
The fact that eight people, two innocent children included drowning themselves into ponds dug out for under construction under-passed in Defence Authority area, showed complete apathy for human suffering. Both the Sindh government and the local municipality was to blame for that.
In the tussle for power between them, people alone were the victims. The government is not willing to restore KDA and other local institutions to Mayor, elected by the people and is mandated to take care of them, and the chief minister, both previous and the present one, seem power hungry.
That has now to stop.Laws framed after General Pervez Musharraf who had given maximum authority to municipal institutions, aimed solely to usurp powers, and leave such vital institutions at the mercy of the authorities, or of the weather.
In Shahbaz area of DHA, people had to run helter skelter for safety, and many moved to relatives in other areas to spend the night which was nothing short of a nightmare.