KARACHI: Spread over 1,200 square kilometres, Gadap Town is area wise Karachi’s biggest town, with a population estimated at around 300,000. It is also the most sparsely populated unit of the city.

It is divided into eight union councils — Maymarabad, Murad Memon, Gujro, Yusuf Goth, Songal, Darsano Chhano, Manghopir, and Gadap. The Gadap union council itself is probably bigger than many of the city’s towns.

Gadap Town is also perhaps the most backward and least developed area of the city. Most of it is rural and a majority of the people are involved in agriculture.

There are striking contrasts. Two major pipelines, bringing in over 450 million gallons of water from the Indus river as well as the Hub Dam, pass through the town, and all the Damlotee Wells, the traditional water source of the city, are also located in the town. But a majority of its residents face a perennial water shortage for drinking as well as agricultural purposes.

The main pipelines bringing in natural gas from upcountry to Karachi also pass through Gadap town but most of its residents have not been supplied with gas connections. A survey was carried out, but connections have not materialized. The residents have to mostly use firewood for cooking which they obtain by chopping shrubs and trees.

Similarly, the high tension electricity lines that connect the Karachi Electric Supply Corporation (KESC) network with Wapda’s national grid also go through Gadap Town, but 300 out of its over 500 villages are without electricity.

On the one hand, one of the finest roads in the country, the Super Highway, passes through Gadap Town, but, on the other, if a resident of Mohammad Khan Ganjo Goth, located almost at the northern tip of the town, has to come to Gadap Town office located in Murad Memon Goth, he has to break his approximately 90-kilometre long journey for an overnight stay in Gadap Markaz village and he can get to the office only the next day. He has to walk quite a distance, then travel in a goods vehicle (pick up or a truck) whenever that is available and finally board a bus. One wonders what happens if there is a medical emergency or a pregnant woman develops a delivery-related complication.

During the last local body elections, the Rajuni group, had won the post of nazim in the person of Ghulam Murtaza Baloch. The religious parties had supported Sajid Jokhio, who had lost by a big margin. Mr Jokhio, however, switched sides at the time of the general elections and at present is representing the constituency on a PPP ticket in the Sindh Assembly.

Gadap Town is overlapped by five Sindh Assembly seats, two of which are with the MQM, one with the MMA, one with the PPP and one with the Rajuni group (independent), while the two National Assembly seats that overlap the town are held, one each, by the MMA and the PPP.

The MQM is in the field now, and thus four groups are in the fray, the MQM, MMA, PPP and Independents. Some of the larger tribes in Gadap Town are the Brohis, Burfats, Jokhios, Chhutos and the Bikkeks. Almost one third of the population comprises Urdu-speakers, Pathans and Punjabis. The total number of registered voters, including 27,319 women voters, in the town is 68,612.

Following the removal of elected counsellors and nazims from the local bodies set-up, political interference has increased. Some political activists have taken over official vehicles and reports of collection of some newly introduced unofficial tax (bhatta) in certain areas are also trickling in. Some of the officials have preferred to go on leave while others come to work fitfully — attending office for a day or two and then going on leave.

The tillers of Gadap Town provide fresh vegetables and fruits to Karachi. Its wells were the major source of water. However over the years as Karachi continued to prosper and construction activities increased, sand and gravel requirements shot up. The immediate source was found out to be the Malir riverbed. This has played itself out as an environmental disaster.

As greedy excavators who greased the palms of law regulators took out sand and gravel from the rain-fed river’s bed, the water table in the surrounding area went down from around 40 feet to more than 400 feet.

Though on paper there is a complete ban on the excavation of sand and gravel from the Malir riverbed, hundreds of heavy duty dumper trucks loaded with sand and gravel can be seen crisscrossing Gadap Town going to or coming from the riverbed.

Reportedly, the Gadap police station is one of the most lucrative in the city and usually its SHO is posted directly by the provincial high-ups.

There are over 360 primary schools besides 37 girls’ primary schools.

A majority of these are one-room, one-teacher schools where students from classes I to V sit together and are taught by one teacher.

There are a few high schools and two degree colleges (one of which was started last year) at Memon Goth and Gadap village. Health facilities are also minimal, with just two maternity homes, at Memon Goth and Manghopir.

Many resorts, farms houses, water parks, a zoo, and other recreational facilities, which cater to the urban affluent classes, have been developed in Gadap Town.

However, all such resorts and farm houses do not contribute substantially to the Gadap Town administration in terms of financial returns.