An operation against encroachments around the city's stormwater drains began in Karachi on Wednesday, a week after torrential rains wreaked havoc in the metropolis and exposed the lack of planning by the authorities concerned.
In a statement released earlier today, Karachi Municipal Corporation (KMC) Anti-encroachment Director Bashir Ahmed Siddiqi said the operation would begin at 8am at three separate locations simultaneously.
Two of the operations will target encroachments from Café Piyala to Zaiuddin Hospital and from Café Piyala to Teen Hatti, he said.
"The third will be carried out at a nullah in New Karachi," he said, stressing that residents would not be displaced during the anti-encroachment drive.
The second phase of the drive will begin after providing residents an alternative place to live, he added.
"In the first phase, illegal sheds constructed around the drains will be demolished while the second will target houses built illegally," he said.
'Current exercise against commercial establishments'
Speaking to Dawn.com, North Nazimabad Assistant Commissioner Arsalan Saleem said that the operation was being carried out at three points and would only target "soft encroachments".
Two assistant commissioners are monitoring the drive at each of the three points, he said.
"We are also carrying out a survey to determine how many residents live in these areas and what commercial activities are carried out," he said.
He added that the original breadth of Gujjar Nala was 210ft and the plan was to restore the drain to its original design. "But, in the first phase we are only removing soft encroachments," he reiterated.
Earlier, Sindh government spokesperson Murtaza Wahab said no operation would take place against people's homes and residences.
"The current exercise is against commercial establishments on encroached land," he said in a tweet while responding to a video which a resident had shared.
KMC officials, equipped with heavy machinery and accompanied by police officials, also carried out the anti-encroachment operation on the banks of Gujjar Nala in Gulberg area.
Shaukat Siddiqui, a senior KMC official, told the media that initially soft encroachments were being demolished.
However, residents were less than pleased with the drive during which the boundary walls of some houses were razed.
Area residents said such a drive was also carried out a few years ago. They claimed that at the time, they were instructed to move their houses back by 15 feet. Now officials have increased that number to 30 feet, they said.
Residents said K-Electric (KE) had installed meters at their homes and that they were all registered voters for the past 30 to 35 years.
Many of them questioned that if their houses were built on encroached land, then why did KE install meters there and why where their votes registered on those addresses.
Rescue operations continue
Meanwhile, Pakistan Navy continued rescue and relief operations in areas most affected by the recent rainfall.
According to Pakistan Navy spokesperson, emergency response teams had shifted citizens stranded in different parts of Karachi to safer areas and provided them with medical aid, Radio Pakistan reported.
He added that cooked food and clean drinking water was provided to thousands of people in Yousuf Goth, Surjani Town, Nazimabad and other affected areas.
Meanwhile, several areas of the city including parts of DHA and Clifton were still without power, according to DawnNewsTV. In an update on Twitter, K-Electric said that electricity had not been restored in parts of DHA, including Bukhari Commercial, due to waterlogging.
The anti-encroachment drive comes a week after Karachi was flooded by record-breaking rain that claimed more than 30 lives. Roads were inundated with water and, in many areas, houses were flooded, causing some to abandon their homes in the search for refuge.
Power supply and mobile signals were also disrupted for days due to damage to infrastructure.
However, several areas including DHA, Clifton, Surjani Town, Kharadar and Naya Nazimabad remained waterlogged and without power days after the rainfall stopped, pushing many to take to the internet and the streets to vent their frustration at the lack of planning by officials concerned.