Karachi's DHA residents left at mercy of rains witness replay of 2020 disaster

Published July 13, 2022
<p>A nearly 50-foot section of the causeway on Korangi Road was swept away by raging torrents during the heavy rains in the city. A team of telephony communication services carry out repair works on the cables that snapped off during the destruction on Tuesday.—Fahim Siddiqi / White Star</p>

A nearly 50-foot section of the causeway on Korangi Road was swept away by raging torrents during the heavy rains in the city. A team of telephony communication services carry out repair works on the cables that snapped off during the destruction on Tuesday.—Fahim Siddiqi / White Star

KARACHI: Scenes of August 27, 2020, replayed in real time for the residents of Cantonment Board Clifton on Sunday night. Heavy rainfall led to complete chaos in the areas that fall under the jurisdiction of the municipality.

For days, the weather forecast predicted heavy showers, and eventually the cloud burst happened. The rain was so intense that the drains were unable to handle the run-off and overflowed within two hours.

“We thought things would be different from 2020 and the area wouldn’t flood. The rain started at around 9pm on Eidul Azha, and by midnight the lanes were inundated. We woke up and saw water making its way into our home,” said Mr Saeed, a resident of Phase 6.

“Due to Eidul Azha, I had placed a fresh water tanker. Now the tank is filled with sewage,” he says.

Shamsa Jabeen, a resident of Phase 4, DHA, said the situation was pretty bad in her area. “We have no electricity since 10pm, July 10. The underground tank is filled with filthy water. After the 2020 protests, we thought things would be different.

 A street in DHA Phase IV is inundated with rainwater on Tuesday. —Photo by writer
A street in DHA Phase IV is inundated with rainwater on Tuesday. —Photo by writer

Heavy rainfall wreaks havoc on affluent neighbourhood

“Why does it happen each and every time and that too in Phase 4? It’s getting worse and I am dreading the next spell of rainfall,” she added.

The worst affected CBC areas included Phase 4 and 6 in DHA, along with Gizri, Punjab Colony, Dehli Colony, and P&T Colony.

Ahmed Mujtaba Thanvi, who runs the Voice of DHA facebook page, says this time to the social media platform was filled with requests from citizens who were stranded in their homes and needed assistance.

The VoD page has over 45,000 members and includes official representation from K-Electric, Sindh Police, CBC, political representatives.

“This year, we saw a family from Askari reach out for help. The lady had gone into labour and the water was so high that ambulance couldn’t make it. A VoD member moved the lady and her family to Ziauddin Hospital,” says Thanvi.

Given the almost non-existent presence of rescue services and roads that looked like canals, altruistic citizens with 4x4 vehicles helped move sick and elderly to safer spots — usually homes of family members located in other areas. “Approximately 100 people were rescued in the last two days. Apart from that we sent supplies including medicines, water and diapers to families stuck in their homes.”

Officially destructed

The residents of CBC thought things would change after the 2020 protest. Unfortunately, nothing materialised except lengthy court battles for 22 individuals who were at the forefront.

Yasir Mapara, a resident of Phase 6, was one of the protesters at the CBC-DHA protests in 2020. “Nothing changed in the last two years. We were called in for meetings and they explained they are doing a lot for the drainage. We had a meeting with the station commander and an impressive presentation was given to us.”

Mr Mapara was one of the 22 individuals against whom FIR was lodged by the CBC. Charges against him and the other individuals included raising slogans against state institutions, trespassing into CBC premises, terrorising government staff and halting relief work.

“CBC told us they will look into the FIR and do something. They never revoked the FIR and the case went for a year.

“At a recent dinner at the VoD dinner, I asked them what they are doing. I had asked Watto to resign and they didn’t like it. They don’t want to do anything. They are growing petunias on Seaview.”

“Everything is destroyed and they show up with water pumps. They want an actual thank you messages. This is not how you run. The authorities concerned need to sit with proper civil engineers and sort things out.”

“They will not do anything. There are a lot of egos at work. They run away from accountability,” he says.

In a statement to the media, CBC spokesman said, “The Cantonment Board Clifton is working on drainage in rain-affected areas. There are currently 1,500 sewage treatment workers in different areas of Clifton and DHA. More than 230 small pumps and 18 heavy pumps continue to discharge rainwater. 18 Watersheds are also available in different areas for drainage of rainwater.”

While there is a lot of noise that is heard and amplified by the media when it comes to the posh areas of DHA, the commercial areas and colonies under CBC remain underreported.

From the tailors and cloth merchants to the neighbourhood kiryana stores and bun kebab sellers, all bear the brunt of rainfall and the apathy of the authorities. The families living in these areas spend days without electricity and water supplies stuck in their homes.

“Business is slow these days. Amid this inflation and rising fuel prices, the last thing I needed to see was my parlour flooded,” says Naziha, the owner of a beauty salon in lower Gizri.

Rehan Bandukda, president of PTI CBC Town Tanzeem Gizri and former general manager of the World Memon Foundation said: “It’s the same story each year. We have set up expensive pumping machines and allocated extra cleaning staff, but CBC fails to understand that the need of the hour is a proper sewerage/water drain system which can handle a 100mm downpour.

“Till that engineering common sense enters their bureaucratic, full of self-importance brains, there is nothing dif ferent we can expect,” he says.

While PTI and local philanthropists attempted to direct rescue efforts, the situation on the ground was distressing, according to Bandukda.

“The pump operators were actually selling the diesel that had been allocated to the residents for generators. Within a couple of hours, all the pumps were out of fuel and the area was flooded,” he says.

Published in Dawn, July 13th, 2022

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