ISLAMABAD, Nov 2: Almost 80,000 residents of the 20 illegal slums in the federal capital are living in squalor, but the Capital Development Authority (CDA) has failed to improve conditions despite announcing that it would either shift the slums out of the city or declare them model villages.
These 20 slums are present in sectors F-6, F-7, G-6, G-7, G-8, H-9, H-10, I-9, I-10, I-11 and other parts of the city. These slums include Musharraf Colony G-8, Miskeen Colony G-8, Shopper Colony G-7, Allama Iqbal Colony G-7, Gora Colony H-9 and several others. Most of these have been established along nullahs.
Residents of these slums belong to various sects and religions, but most of them are from central Punjab, especially Christians, or Pashtuns from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.Syed Masood Alam, 54, a resident of Miskeen Colony G-8/4 told Dawn that his father had migrated from India to Karachi in 1947 and he (Masood) was born in the metropolitan.
“In 1995, I shifted to Islamabad and constructed a house in the colony. Some other people did the same and we managed to obtain an electricity and water connection.
“However, both the Water and Power Development Authority (Wapda) and CDA frequently disconnect the electricity and water supply,” he said.
Masood said there were over 350 houses in the colony where 2,000 people were residing.
He added that during the previous tenure of the Pakistan People’s Party, a politician of the federal capital ordered the construction of a well worth Rs1 million.
However, he said during the caretaker government’s tenure, Wapda disconnected the electricity supply to the society. As a result, residents were also deprived of the water supply.
“We have been using a connection from a CDA pipeline to get water. I have regularly been visiting the civic authority in the previous decade for the regularisation of the colony. However, it did not issue a No Objection Certificate (NOC) which is necessary for an electricity connection,” he said.
Similarly, Surriya Bibi, an elderly resident of the slum, said every year during the monsoon season, the water level of the nullah raised and water entered the houses.
“This year, the roof of my house collapsed due to the heavy rain. We are willing to go somewhere else if the CDA allots us plots in any other area of the capital,” she said.
Ghulam Rasool, a resident of Musharraf Colony, has also been seeking the regularisation of the slum.
While talking to Dawn, he said the candidate of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz. Chaudhry Ashraf Gujjar, during his election campaign promised that he would regularise the slum even if he lost the election.
“He won the election from our polling station but now, he says the minister does not listen to him,” he said.
Raja Daniyal, a student of Class 6 in Federal Government Model School G-8/1, said due to the unavailability of electricity, he could not study after sunset.
“This becomes a major problem for me especially while preparing for exams. The government should resolve the issues of slums,’ he said.
Apart from the water and electricity problems, residents of these slums are also facing health issues.
Gastroenterologist Dr Waseem Khawaja, while talking to Dawn, said the absence of a sanitation system not only contaminated underground water but also caused stomach-related diseases.
“Residents of slums usually do not pay much attention to hygiene due to which they are more prone to diseases and put an extra burden on hospitals,” he said.
On the other hand, the civic agency claimed it had tried to resolve the slums’ issues but failed due to corruption within the CDA.
An officer of CDA, on condition of anonymity, said the management of the civic body had tried to resolve the issues of slums twice, but because of embezzlement, both projects failed.
“In 1984, the authority decided to convert slums into model villages but only a few slums in G-8/2 and Saidpur Model Village benefited. The pace of work was extremely slow.
Moreover, the Saidpur Model Village project was worth Rs30 million but Rs390 million were spent instead due to corruption. CDA then dropped the idea,” he said.
Referring to the second attempt, he said that in the late 90s, it was decided to shift the slums out of the city.
“Plots were created in Alipur Farash and were allotted to residents of Essa Nagri Sector I-9, Muslim Colony Bari Imam and other colonies. Despite the allotment of plots, these slums could not be removed,” he said.
The official added that if one plot was allotted to someone, 10 others would start illegal constructions hoping they would also get a plot.
“The only way to resolve this issue is to remove all slums at once,” he said.
Similarly, CDA spokesperson Asim Khichi told Dawn that in the past, it was decided that basic facilities would be provided to slums after declaring them model villages.
However, only a few slums were turned into model villages.
“Plots were created in Alipur Farash but it was observed that after plots were allotted to the slum-dwellers, they shifted back to the slums. These slums are illegal and a collective decision will be taken about their status,” he said.
The slums have also become a threat to law and order in the city.
According to Superintendent of Police (City) Capt (Retired) Mustansar Feroze, slums have become hideouts for criminals and every month, several criminals are arrested from there.
While talking to Dawn, he said, “We frequently hold combing operations in these slums because criminals use the unregistered houses as hideout,” he said.