After a long dry spell Karachi received its first winter showers last week. Which should have been a very welcome blessing, but it turned out to be a bane to the city dwellers.
Life in the metropolis seemed to have come to a standstill as rainwater inundated a number of major thoroughfares causing hours-long traffic jams, disappearance of public transport from the roads leaving commuters stranded on bus stops, while those living in low-lying areas couldn’t venture out to pursue any activity. On top of that, some 100 feeders of the Karachi Electric (KE) gave in cutting power supply to many areas. All this, to say the least, is unbecoming of the country’s largest city and its commercial capital.
Yet it is hardly surprising, given the neglect and indifference with which the city’s affairs were run – until the recent resurrection of the local government – by the provincial authorities. Illegal commercial constructions and unplanned human habitations were allowed to go on unchecked, with the result that barely any open spaces were left for rainwater flows. With its over 20 million population Karachi called for a new well-laid drainage system. Instead heaps of garbage clogged even the old rainwater channels. It may be recalled that before the last monsoon season the Met office had forecast heavy rains for the city, and the media highlighted the issue, yet those in charge kept looking the other way. Admittedly, Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah did lead a cleaning campaign but that was too little too late.
It is now for Karachi’s new Mayor, Waseem Akhtar, and his colleagues in the city government to address Karachi’s myriad problems, which are only going to get more complicated with an unstoppable flow of migrants from other parts of the country. Unfortunately, the provincial government has not devolved important subjects, including the Building Authority, to the city government.
Despite his limited powers and resources, the Mayor can bring about significant improvements in the city. Aside from resolving the garbage issue, which is being done, he needs to drain out stagnant water pools-breeding grounds of disease causing insects and bacteria- in slum areas, streamline traffic management, plant trees to counter air pollution, and of course construct, on a priority basis, water drainage system that is good enough not only for the present needs, but for the long-run.
The KE must also get its act together. Rains are a lame excuse for its system getting dysfunctional. As a Recorder Report points out, feeder tripping is not something new; it has become a matter of routine because the power utility has failed to install the required protective devices to prevent tripping. Hopefully, the havoc the rainfall played with public life will serve as an instructive lesson and necessary amends will be made before the next rains come. –Business Recorder