KARACHI, Aug 7: The government has launched an inquiry to unearth the causes of the unprecedented inundation of some upmarket housing societies during the first monsoon downpour in the city last weekend, when the heaviest amount of precipitation was recorded as 132 millimetres at North Karachi.
The investigating officials have been tasked to know whether the water came from a waterway hooked to any reservoir or someone conspired to divert it to the colonies that fell within the jurisdiction of the Malir Cantonment to save their agricultural assets.
The official inquiry body headed by the deputy commissioner of Malir district, at the same time, will look into the possible ‘blockages’ in the shape of settlements on the waterways, which lead water to the Malir river.
“The chief secretary of Sindh took us all on Tuesday to visit the area beyond the Thadho Dam where we checked all the reservoirs and saw no breaches in them,” said Karachi commissioner Shoaib Ahmed Siddiqui while speaking to Dawn on Wednesday.
“We surveyed the whole area and met many officials and public, who confirmed that the downpour was excessively heavy, which became much graver because of showers in the districts surrounding Karachi,” he said.
He said there were blockages in the shape of ‘huge settlements’ between Saadi Town and the Malir river, which could be a cause for inundation of the town, Amroha Society etc.
“However, the chief secretary has formed a committee headed by the deputy commissioner, Malir, which has been tasked to probe the matter and come up with causes and solutions for the immediate way forward to ensure it should not recur,” said Commissioner Siddiqui.Asked whether Saadi Town and adjoining colonies themselves were not the ‘blockages’, he said, all such matters, including the speculation against the owners of huge farmlands in Malir who were being accused of diverting water to Saadi Town, had been taken into account and would be duly looked into.
The inquiry team is expected to submit its report soon after Eid.
It was the first time that the city’s youngest and pricey neighbourhoods endured the brunt of monsoon wrath – a fact that equally perplexed the inhabitants, officials and independent experts.
Officially, the possibility of a breach in any of water bodies in the sprawling fringes of the city has been turned down. The city’s municipal bodies, the Karachi Water and Sewerage Board (KWSB) and the irrigation department, which controls the Thadho Dam and other reservoirs in the city’s rural areas, within the jurisdiction of the Karachi District Council, have declared that they found no breaches in water bodies except for two on an earthen canal in the city’s northeast, hooked to the Hub Dam, which had been plugged by Monday evening.
The widely circulated conspiracy theory alleged that the owners of agricultural farms contiguous to Saadi Town deflected the gushing water towards the residential colonies to save their crops.
Lately, the KWSB chief said the first-time inundation was the result of the widespread rains in the whole region encircling Karachi. The all-embracing rains on the Khirthar Mountains got a route towards Karachi filling its key rivers of Lyari and Malir to the brim, thus restricting the subsidiary drainage system to get an entry into the riverine path towards the sea.
“All that augmented the pressure on our drains and forced some of them to opt for reversal,” the KWSB official had said.
Some officials blamed certain ‘undiscovered’ historic waterways, which got activated when the rains battering the entire region, including other districts of Sindh and Balochistan surrounding Karachi.
Eminent city planner Arif Hasan, however, said that although there was no discovery of certain ancient waterways, discerned in rare situations, yet they possibly existed and needed to be known.
He, however, said a more possible aspect of the fact that some rain-proof localities were exposed to gushing water could be narrowing of the bed of many storm drains in North Karachi because of large-scale encroachment.
“Many drains have vanished in North Karachi as in other parts of the city. The narrowed Mehmoodabad Nullah and a Clifton drain eaten up by the Mai Kolachi bypass show how such activities exacerbate the draining of rainwater. I believe that the same has happened in North Karachi where many drains have been encroached or blocked,” he said.
He said Karachi was not alone in its messy character as Mumbai and Bangkok suffered from similar clogged situations during rains for similar reasons.
Tasneem Ahmed Siddiqui, who has an encyclopaedic knowledge about the city’s slum population and changing demographics, called it intriguing to see certain neighbourhoods inundated by rainwater for the first time in spectacular fashion.
“It is not just an ordinary thing. Though the officials claim that there is no breach in their reservoirs, yet it has to be confirmed through independent sources,” he said.
He said normally rainwater from Balochistan entered a Lyari River creek in North Nazimabad, Surjani, Gadap and Taiser towns before falling into the Arabian Sea.
“The water that submerged Saadi Town and Amroha Society must have come from other channels or water bodies, especially when we see the authorities have set up many reservoirs during the last two or three years,” he said.
He demanded a comprehensive aerial survey of the area to know the causes behind the phenomenon.
“An extraordinary bad situation should be tackled extraordinarily,” he said.