ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Engineering Council (PEC) Think Tank on Water in its 11th meeting on Tuesday decided to share its expertise with the government by suggesting concrete measures within 30 days for sustainable solution to problems related to Karachi’s storm water drainage, sewerage and waste disposal system that the record-breaking monsoon showers had exposed in August.

The meeting, which was presided over by PEC governing body Engineer Mohammad Waseem Asghar, was apprised that 468mm rainfall was recorded in the port city this year that broke the 50-year record.

The PEC body proposed that master plan of all major roads of Karachi be revised with a view to ensuring prompt drainage of rainwater.

The meeting was earlier briefed that 68 nullahs of Karachi would have to be converted from sewer to drainage to avoid urban flooding due to heavy showers.

Suggests dedicated authority to manage storm drains in Karachi

A detailed briefing on urban flooding was given by Dr Lakhani at the meeting, which was held after the Karachi Transformation Package worth Rs1.1 trillion had been announced by the government to address the chronic municipal and infrastructure issues of the country’s financial hub.

The meeting was informed that Karachi, which is among the most populated cities of the world, generated 20,000 tonnes of solid waste on a daily basis while the authorities concerned had the capacity to lift only 3,000 to 4,000 tonnes a day.

The remaining waste was dumped in grounds, vacant plots, on the roadside, at public parks and along nullahs, it noted, proposing a modern and scientific landfill site for proper disposal of solid waste in Karachi. Such scientific landfill site had not been established in any city of Pakistan, including the well-planned federal capital, it observed.

It was highlighted that public awareness about proper disposal of domestic waste was essential to ensure that people do not throw waste directly into the storm-water drains. Besides, an environmental study was also proposed to reduce the volume of runoff water.

The PEC meeting also suggested that the government establish a dedicated separate authority for storm-water drainage management. It called for separation of storm-water drainage and sewerage systems in the city, observing that multi-storey apartment buildings in Karachi had played havoc with the 50-year-old sewerage and storm-water drainage system.

The think tank observed that the authorities did not pay due attention to the storm-water drainage system because maximum annual rainfall in Karachi remained below 100mm for at least 20 years from 1985 to 2005.

However, this year the monsoon rains broke the 50-year record with 233mm rainfall in 24 hours, turning most parts of the metropolis into pools of water. It was also observed that there was a variation in the rainfall as some areas of the city received heavy rain while other places received light showers. It recalled that 231mm rainfall was recorded at PAF Base Faisal, 122mm at airport and 49mm at Gulshan-i-Hadeed in 24 hours.

The meeting was apprised that unbridled encroachment on the banks of nullahs and poor town planning were some of the major reasons for their chocking.

The participants of the meeting were informed that besides allocation of Rs437 million for the current fiscal year for the drainage system by the Karachi Development Authority, two separate World Bank programmes were also under way, but the funds would not have a major impact on the situation unless strong remedial measures were taken.

Later, Engineer Asghar, who heads the PEC think tank, told the participants that the suggestions would be provided to the government within 30 days for a sustainable solution to Karachi’s devastation.

“The federal government is going to make huge investment in Karachi and the PEC believes that it should contribute its share in assisting the government to bring back the glory of the country’s commercial hub,” he said.

He also said the PEC would organise a one-day workshop in Karachi with the collaboration of the Association of Consulting Engineers Pakistan in the second week of next month when the authorities concerned would be given technical guidelines to resolve basic civic issues.

Published in Dawn, September 30th, 2020