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Karachi’s drains

June 12, 2018


KARACHI is a city ill prepared for rainfall, even in moderate amounts. So while citizens of the metropolis await the monsoon season with some anticipation, knowing that it will bring relief from the stifling heat, there is also the dread of the havoc wreaked by urban flooding. In this regard, it is welcome that the Supreme Court, during a hearing on Saturday, ordered Karachi’s civic bodies to clean the city’s storm-water drains and sewers within 30 days. It is a fact that clogged drains are amongst the main reasons Karachi experiences urban flooding every year. Many low-lying localities face major flooding while the city’s thoroughfares turn into canals, with normal life paralysed. With the Met department forecasting pre-monsoon showers from the 15th of this month, the KMC and other bodies that run Karachi’s civic affairs need to heed the court’s orders without delay.

Ideally, the apex court should not be giving these instructions to the administration of the country’s largest city; matters such as cleaning drains should be part of the civic bodies’ routine duties. Unfortunately, the situation is complicated in Karachi. For one, there are multiple agencies that control land within the metropolis, so the matter of jurisdiction can arise. Secondly, the local government law in Sindh gives limited powers to municipal bodies, with the provincial administration micromanaging (or, rather, mismanaging) affairs. However, while such bottlenecks do exist, the civic agencies in Karachi cannot shy away from their duties and blame others. Cleaning drains and maintaining the city’s infrastructure should be part of routine business for KMC, and state institutions should not be required to shake the municipality into action. Some work has been done to de-silt drains, but keeping such channels clean and removing encroachments should be a round-the-year exercise. This would help reduce urban flooding.

Published in Dawn, June 12th, 2018