KARACHI: The poorly planned anti-encroachment operation of the government has compounded the miseries of hundreds and thousands of families residing along both sides of Gujjar Nullah, many of whom have been confided to their homes and awaiting emergency food and medical supplies for the past two days, following downpour in the city.

Residents of affected areas told Dawn that the government’s anti-encroachment operation, part of which was to build a concrete embankment on both sides of the nullah, had put their lives in danger as no drainage passage for the rainwater, which was damaging and flooding their homes as well as contaminating their underground water tanks, had been built in the ongoing construction.

“The situation has become precarious because the ongoing construction has blocked the passage of flowing water. Besides, the government hadn’t taken any step to drain out the water that had accumulated in the dug-up channel over 10 days back in a half-an-hour rain spell,” explained Dr Pervaiz Yaqub, a resident of Hasan Colony located in the Liaquatabad area.

The ditch now filled up with gushing rainwater had caused mudslides, he added.

Zahid Farooq of the Urban Resource Centre (URC) said residents in some localities along the Gujjar nullah had been confined to their homes and awaited emergency supplies. “Several poor families have been without food and water for two days, though some political parties have extended support, apparently to appease voters for the local government elections.”

Sunila Anwar, a resident of Kausar Niazi Colony located in the North Nazimbad area, appealed to the government to take immediate steps to protect people’s lives and their homes.

“The embankment of nullah has fallen in our locality, posing serious threat to our homes, particularly those located in the low-lying areas. We are at grave risk as gushing water can cause human and material loss anytime,” she feared.

The government had initiated an anti-encroachment operation along Gujjar and Orangi nullahs in 2020 and ever since the communities residing there have been raising serious concerns over the drive, including lack of documentation on the extent of possible damage to houses and implementation of government promises to provide monetary support and homes to affected families.

“Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari as well as the chief minister are yet to fulfil their promises and provide homes to the people being affected by the operation. Second, few families have received the monetary support the government had announced due to multiple reasons including lack of documentation on residents,” said Mr Farooq of URC.

The government should collect data on families through a field survey instead of drone survey that only helped collect information about physical infrastructure and not number of families living in one house, he added,

Affected residents also pointed out that the government hadn’t spent the Rs2 billion allocated for their rehabilitation.

Published in Dawn, July 9th, 2022

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