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Church wall along garbage dump collapses

May 21, 2013

KARACHI, May 20: Over a 125-foot-long portion of a wall of St Andrew’s Church fell down early Monday morning when a tractor of the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation hit it while collecting garbage from a dump set up along the wall of the religious place of the minority community.The 145-year-old St Andrew’s Church, located in the city centre in Saddar, is protected under the Sindh Cultural Heritage Protection Act that prescribes long prison terms and heavy fines for those causing damage to any premises protected under the act.Responding to Dawn queries, Reverend Yusuf Fazal, Presbyter in charge of the Scotch Church of St Andrew’s, said that KMC garbage collectors had been using the area along the wall of the church as a garbage dump, with scant regard for the sanctity of the church.

He said the church had approached the KMC many a time to relocate the garbage dump, but it was never shifted permanently and the practice of dumping and lifting garbage resumed after a few days of lodging such complaints.

Reverend Fazal said that only a portion of garbage was lifted by the KMC tractor if and when it arrived while the remaining stuff was burnt there.

The over-one-century-old wall had not only been bearing constant weight of the garbage but also the damage caused by the burning litter along it, he added.

Besides, he said, the powerful front blade of the tractor also hit the foundation of the wall.

He recalled that Monday’s was not the first collapse incident, the wall had been damaged a few times earlier also and the church had to get it repaired from its own resources though the matter had been reported to the civic agency.

Reverend Fazal said that pungent and foul smell from the garbage and the smoke when it was burnt engulfed the entire area seriously affecting not only worshippers in the church but also other visitors and traders having shops in the neighbouring market.

He said that some time back the church and the shopkeepers jointly hired a watchman to stop the civic agency staffers from dumping the garbage along the church. But sweepers again dump the garbage here in the evening after the duty hours of the watchman, he added.

He said that the church was a religious place so its sanctity demanded that garbage dump not be there and it be re-located somewhere else.

On Monday also, he said, the church again reported the matter to the KMC and submitted an application to the director office at Arambagh so that action could be taken against those involved in the practice and the damage it caused.

Besides, he said, the KMC had been requested to reconstruct the wall or compensate the damage caused to it.

The church also asked the KMC to relocate the garbage dump away from the religious place so that its sanctity was not violated any further, he added.

Meanwhile, the civic agencies — KMC and District Municipal Corporation (south) — tried to shift the blame onto each other.

Responding to Dawn queries, KMC administrator Hashim Zaidi said that it was DMC south’s area and its staffers had damaged the wall. Therefore, the DMC south chief could comment on the issue.

Responding to this reporter’s queries, DMC south chief Mustafa Jamal Qazi, who is also deputy commissioner south, said that the wall had been damaged by a KMC tractor which had gone there to lift the garbage and hit the wall in the process. It was not the first time that the garbage vehicle had damaged the wall, he added. He, however, said that he had ordered the officials concerned to start the construction of the wall on Tuesday morning.

In response to another question, Mr Qazi said that he would also look into the issue of relocating the garbage dump away from the church so that not only the sanctity of the religious place was ensured but the worshippers and well as the others did not face any hardship due to the foul smell or smoke released owing to garbage burning.

Church’s history

One of the most beautiful stone buildings of the colonial era the Scotch Church of St Andrew’s is located along the Preedy Street and is flanked by Garden Road on one side and Victoria Road (now Abdullah Haroon Road) on the other.

Having a capacity for 400 worshippers, the church design is a blend of Romanesque and Venetian Gothic styles and its foundation stone was laid by Robert Napier, commander in chief of Bombay Army in February 1867 and was completed in December 1878 at a cost of Rs56,300. The most attractive element of the church, which could be seen while entering from an octagonal porch at the south corner, is the finely carved rose window. It is 18 feet in diameter and placed at the south end. Its tower became the tallest church tower in the city in 1904 when two upper floors of the Holy Trinity Church tower were taken down.

Located in the centre of Karachi, the land of the church had become very expensive and many attempts had been made in the past by various people, including some community members, to change the purpose of its land use in official documents from religious to commercial. They wanted that hundreds of shops be constructed on all the four sides of the church, but all such attempts had so far been foiled by the efforts of some committed individuals and its precious land, conservatively priced at billions of rupees, remains protected.

Some time back, the Sindh Assembly also recommended that its land use not be changed and it should only be used for religious purpose.