KARACHI: By protecting agricultural fields and fruit farms in the rural areas surrounding the city, a green shield can be created, which would not only help provide protection against hot weather conditions but make these places economically viable.

This suggestion was put forward by noted town planner and architect Arif Hasan at a consultative meeting organised by a group of concerned citizens at the Urban Resource Centre on Thursday.

The programme was titled ‘Exploring strategies to respond to heatwave in Karachi’.

Shortage of water pushed people to give up farming, leading to decline in agricultural produce: expert

Recalling Karachi’s past weather conditions, Mr Hasan said heatwave in Karachi was not an unusual phenomenon as city’s temperature had been recorded as high as 47 degrees Celsius to 48 degrees Celsius. In fact, Karachi’s greenery was once destroyed by a devastating cyclone that hit the city in 1906, he pointed out.

Speaking on the challenges the city and its residents today faced, Mr Hasan criticised what he described as flawed development and said that rural area of Karachi had become barren now whereas the natural flows of rivers had been obstructed, affecting agriculture and recharging process of underground water.

He expressed concern over severe water shortages currently being experienced in Malir, which was once famous for its high-quality guavas as well as for production of eggs and chicken.

“Malir and Gadap areas were once green because of widely practised agriculture and fruit farms.

“If we can help revive agriculture and orchard farming in city’s rural areas, Karachi can definitely be cooler,” he said, adding that acute water shortage had affected Malir so badly that people associated with agriculture no longer take interest in their lands, leading to a steep decline in agricultural produce.

Mr Hasan also underscored the need for community engagement in development and said that about 60 per cent of Karachi’s population lived in slums and old areas and that city’s problems would not be solved without their involvement. He suggested making residential buildings insulated and using material which absorbed less heat.

Buildings, however, were generally designed in a way that there was no cross-ventilation, which increased temperature inside homes.

Prof Noman Ahmed, the dean faculty of architecture and management sciences at the NED University of Engineering and Technology, said that many factors were involved in causing severe hot weather conditions in Karachi including ill-planned development and environmental pollution.

“Our luxurious lifestyle has not only increased cost of living but has posed threats to environment. We use air conditioners which cool the homes inside but cause an increase in temperature outside,” he noted, adding the sale of air conditioners in Karachi increased by 17.5pc during 2016-17 and was growing as temperature was increasing.

Public spaces like parks, playgrounds and open grounds, he regretted, were shrinking and plantation had decreased across the city.

According to him, high-rise buildings along the coast obstruct the wind corridor and people in Clifton areas have started complaining of suspension of sea breeze.

Citing some studies, he said concrete structures and roads increased temperature in cities.

For instance, a Motorway Police study indicated road surface temperature was seven to eight degrees higher than temperature in surrounding areas.

“In addition, concrete buildings also absorb heat during the daytime and then they start emitting that heat afterwards which is why our buildings in cities are hotter even at night,” he explained.

A study conducted in 2015 at the city’s medical facilities in low-income areas during the heatwave was also discussed.

The study showed that doctors were not motivated to treat heatstroke patients.

Shahzad Qureshi, Zahid Farooq, Zeenia Shaukat and Yasir Hussain also spoke.

Published in Dawn, June 1st, 2018


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