Sindh Governor Imran Ismail on Sunday announced the arrival of 52 modern fire tenders in Karachi in an effort to boost the city's fire emergency system.
He was addressing a press conference at the Karachi Port, accompanied by Minister for Shipping and Maritime Affairs Ali Haider Zaidi, Minister for Planning, Development and Special Initiatives Asad Umar, federal Minister for Information Technology and Telecommunications Syed Aminul Haq and PTI leader Firdous Shamim Naqvi.
The governor said the project to bring in the 52 fire tenders was an initiative of the Sindh Infrastructure Development Company Limited (SIDCL) and termed it "a great gift" for the city of Karachi. Ismail said the fire department would be responsible for the fire tenders and they would come under the ownership of the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC).
The fire engines were not purchased; instead, the project is the result of a "unique public-private partnership", according to the governor. He revealed that nine trade associations including Korangi, SITE and Landhi trade associations would be partners with the government in the project and two fire tenders will be parked with each association.
"Saylani Welfare Trust and Chhipa Welfare Trust will also be involved in this partnership and everyone will have two fire tenders parked with them," he said.
Ismail said the federal government would be responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of the fire trucks, adding that the contract with the supplier responsible for the maintenance had a duration of three years.
The trade associations and the partners in the project, he said, would be responsible for the availability of water, prompt execution and looking after the fire tenders. He further said water bowsers had also been brought in case of unavailability of water in an emergency. "They can also perform a role in an emergency of a fire tender," the governor said about the bowsers.
Ismail said the initiative was a gift from the prime minister for Karachi which was "sorely needed" and that never before had fire tenders been brought in of such modern quality. He said the premier himself wished to come to Karachi and hand over the fire tenders to the concerned stakeholders once they passed customs clearances.
The government first announced its intention to upgrade the city’s fire-fighting capacity in June last year. In a meeting with the SIDCL, it had emerged that the federal government was looking to acquire fire tenders by the end of December 2020. A statement issued after the meeting had said, “With the availability of most modern fire tenders, the damage caused by various fire incidents could be averted.”
In a subsequent meeting with the company in July, the Sindh governor was informed that the first prototype inspection of fire tenders for the KMC would be held by the end of July, while a joint delegation of the KMC, SIDCL and third party evaluators would visit China to review the production of the fire tenders.
IT minister Aminul Haq congratulated the people of Karachi saying “the federal government’s promise is being fulfilled today”, while minister Ali Zaidi announced that all port charges would be waived off for the cargo of the 52 fire tenders.
Ismail said he was hopeful the Sindh government would be a part of this initiative since the federal government had approved the project considering the difficulties of the people. He said the fire tenders had come to Sindh so he didn’t think the Sindh government would "present any obstacles" for the project.
The governor said the fire department in Pakistan was victim to lack of financial resources. “Across the world, the fire chief is considered a position of respect whereas here the fire chief doesn’t have that level of respect,” he noted.
“Firefighters are our heroes who risk their lives to save the lives of people; they are silent soldiers who never come in front of the camera. Thus their pain should be understood [and] their salaries should be increased,” said Ismail. He said he would work to find a long term solution to the issue.
Karachi Transformation Plan projects
While giving details on other projects of the Karachi Transformation Plan (KTP), planning minister Umar addressed Saturday night's power blackout in the country. He said details were still arriving but the incident hadn’t “happened for the first time”. He explained that the blackout was the result of a safety mechanism to protect the overall system, but admitted that further improvement was required since the entire country's power shouldn’t shut down in such an instance.
Umar said the PTI-led government had given the biggest development package in Pakistan’s history for Karachi, adding that Prime Minister Imran Khan believed that “until a new Karachi is made, a new Pakistan can’t be made.”
The minister further said the federal government will assume responsibilities on the Greater Karachi Water Supply Scheme (K-IV project), noting that Wapda had already started its studies on the project and how to take it forward.
Providing a timeline for the Green Line bus project, Umar said the service would be functional later this year. “By July-August […] you will see a modern running transportation system and Green Line will be operational,” he added.
The minister while mentioning different railway projects started in Karachi praised the government’s investment and role in developing the country's railway sector. He named initiatives such as the Rs300 billion Karachi Circular Railway (KCR) project and the $6-8bn Main Line-1 (ML-1) railway network, the latter of which he said was investment on a scale never before seen in Pakistan’s history.
Among other projects made part of the KTP, Umar said the Karachi Freight Corridor (KFC), which will link the Karachi Port Trust with Pipri, will provide an alternate route to Pipri which will help reduce the burden of traffic in Karachi while expediting movement of freight without port delays and backlogs.
“Consultancy awards for both [KCR and KFC] have been completed and the consultants have started their work which will be completed within the next three to four months and after the transaction structure is complete, these projects will go into bidding,” the minister added.