Officials of the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC) informed the Supreme Court-appointed judicial commission on water quality and drainage in Sindh that 80 per cent work had been completed to clear stormwater drains in the city.
Retired Justice Amir Hani Muslim, who heads the one-member commission, asked the KMC officials at the outset of the hearing why he had seen no progress since last week, when he visited various stormwater drains of Karachi and directed authorities to de-silt them.
The KMC officials responded that 80pc work had been completed with regards to clearing the nullahs.
The commission emphasised that not only did the drains have to be cleaned, but encroachments in or alongside them had to be removed as well.
Karachi Mayor Wasim Akhtar told the commission that authorities are unable to lift the garbage from some points, to which Justice Muslim responded that Akhtar should specify such stormwater drains so a solution could be found regarding them.
Under project concept (PC-1) of the cleaning campaign, the 28-kilometre-long Gujjar Nala was to be cleaned and restored to its original width, KMC's project director informed the commission.
He said the PC-1 was worth Rs312 million, out of which 80pc amount has already been spent on the cleaning and encroachment drive.
Justice Muslim suggested that the remaining 20pc funds could be spent on clearing the rest of the nullahs.
The commission inquired how the encroachments and illegal settlements could be removed from the stormwater drains. Akhtar replied that the government would have to find a solution to the problem by engaging with the schools, mosques, madressahs and colleges that have obtained lease and occupied the land meant for nullahs.
Local Government Secretary Ramzan Awan said he had observed that six-storey buildings have been constructed alongside a nullah in Lyari.
Justice Muslim remarked that such problems would be resolved if "10-15 [government] officers are sent to jail".
The Karachi mayor assured the commission that work on clearing the remaining drains would start as soon as funds are released by the Sindh government.
The commission directed the local government secretary to hold a meeting with all stakeholders about the cleaning of nullahs and development projects in the city on Friday. He was ordered to submit a report after finalising an execution plan.
Yet to receive funds: Akhtar
The Karachi mayor while speaking to reporters said work has started to clear nullahs under his supervision. In the first stage, the drain at Glass Tower is being cleaned and a wall is being erected around it, he said.
Akhtar said the buildings that have been constructed after encroachment are an impediment to the cleaning of the nullahs, adding that his office has so far not received the funds requested from the Sindh government to clear the drains.
Asked about the Supreme Court's order to clean Karachi within a week, the mayor said that garbage has been lifted from all the roads in his ambit while work is still underway on others.
"The Sindh government did nothing in this regard and neither did they contact me [about lifting the garbage]," Akhtar claimed.
Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar had expressed his displeasure over the heaps of garbage that have become a regular feature of Karachi's cityscape and ordered the authorities to ensure that all trash is removed within the week.
"I want a neat and clean Karachi within a week," CJ Nisar had ordered on March 17 while hearing a citizen's rights case concerning Sindh's water and sewerage problems in the Supreme Court's Karachi registry.
During the proceedings, Justice Nisar had recalled that Mayor Akhtar was supposed to resolve the garbage issue.
The city mayor, who was present for the proceedings, had put the onus of responsibility on the provincial government, reiterating his earlier stance that all his powers in this regard had been shifted to the government.