Two NGOs join forces to fix Karachi’s potholed roads

Published June 6, 2021
Volunteers replace a manhole cover on Jahangir Road.—Fahim Siddiqi/White Star
Volunteers replace a manhole cover on Jahangir Road.—Fahim Siddiqi/White Star

KARACHI: With the exception of only a few roads that can be counted on the fingertips, no track in the city is a smooth and safe drive or ride. What to say of vehicles, they are not even safe for pedestrians.

So it was a sight for sore eyes when a couple of non-governmental organisations stepped in to do what the government has been hopeless at. First they replaced the missing manhole covers while pointing out that it was something which needed fixing, now they are also fixing dangerous potholes.

For the past three years, activist and politician Alamgir Khan of the #FixIt Pakistan campaign has been pointing out the government’s failure in covering manholes while doing the work himself. And for some six months now, he and his team of volunteers have turned their attention to the city’s bad roads, especially the potholes in them.

“These potholes don’t just produce bumpy rides. They are dangerous, deadly and in need of urgent attention,” said Khan while speaking to Dawn.

“So we are not beautifying the city by repairing roads. We are saving lives,” he said.

“We use a kind of cold mixing formula for the patchwork that we are doing. Mind you, we are not doing complete road carpeting. We are repairing the roads through 4x4 or 5x5 patches where needed,” he said.

‘We are not beautifying the city by repairing roads; we are saving lives’

“#FixIt is doing welfare work while also protesting. Our volunteers are well-educated youth doing basic work where the government bailed out while pointing out the government’s shortcoming,” he said.

Joining forces

Khan also said that this time for fixing the roads they are collaborating with Saylani Welfare Trust. “We have joined forces with Saylani Welfare this time. Both of us are complementing each other with our work. Both of us have our workers. Saylani has brought in the vehicles for carrying the raw material. And we have our machinery and technical assistance, not to mention the experience of three years. There are still many manholes, too, that we are covering while patching up roads,” he said.

Speaking to Dawn from Saylani, one of its executive board committee members, Amjad Chamdia, said that having lived all his life in Karachi he has grown up with potholes in roads and open manholes.

“It was after we heard of a man losing his life by falling into a gaping gutter that we decided to take matters into our own hands. The man had left behind a family, a widow and three young children. It is devastating for a family to lose its breadwinner.

“Maulana Bashir Ahmed Farooqui turned the board’s attention to the matter following which we selected a team that could help in replacing manhole covers as well as do road repairs and carpeting patchwork,” he said.

“The manhole covers are so heavy that no thief or addict would have the strength to run away with them. He won’t even be able to lift it. They are not like your regular city government manhole covers that crack or break or dent even if a heavy vehicle such as a truck passes over it,” he said.

Asked which part of the city they are working in currently, Chamdia explained that there is no particular city area. “We act on complaints. Once we receive a complaint, we dispatch our survey team there. Then if the place really seems life-threatening, capable of causing accidents, we get the material and machinery for the repair work there to do the needful,” he said.

Published in Dawn, June 6th, 2021

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