AS the nation reels in the aftermath of a heavy monsoon spell, a number of key areas need the authorities’ immediate attention. Apart from rescuing marooned residents, the state needs to ensure that there is proper sanitation in the post-rain situation, while battered infrastructure and communication links need to be rebuilt on an emergency basis.
Looking at the unsightly conditions in Karachi, there is genuine concern that unless immediate action is taken, stagnant rainwater and sewage will create major health hazards. In particular, foetid water heightens the risk of gastrointestinal diseases, as well as vector-borne ailments. Therefore, in both the rural and urban areas affected by heavy rainfall, there is a pressing need to drain rainwater and clean up the stinking pools of sewage.
Read: Karachi's crumbling infrastructure has made rain a bane for its residents
Moreover, the state of roads and bridges — especially in Balochistan and Sindh — is extremely worrisome. Three key bridges and a part of the National Highway were swept away in Balochistan, while Karachi’s potholed, cratered roads present a clear and present danger to motorcyclists and car drivers, causing long traffic jams and creating death traps, especially at night. In Sindh alone, as per the figures quoted by the provincial chief minister, 388km of roads have been damaged. The prime minister has also constituted a committee to assess the damage caused by the rains, and it is hoped this body carries out a thorough survey and starts repair and rehabilitation work without delay.
Looking beyond immediate firefighting measures, the state needs to build infrastructure that can tackle extreme weather. Most experts are of the view that extreme weather events, particularly heavy rains and floods, will now become a regular feature and the state can ill afford to ignore the impact natural disasters have on infrastructure. In many of our cities, particularly Karachi, even moderate rainfall creates potholes on the road surface, while in some cases arteries are reduced to mud tracks. This shows that those building and maintaining these roads have either been negligent or, worse, have knowingly used inferior material in construction.
As it has been stated before in these columns, urban infrastructure throughout Pakistan — roads, drainage, public spaces — needs to be overhauled to make it climate-resilient. Of course, the rulers, preoccupied with palace intrigues, have little time to focus on such key areas that affect the people. However, unless we plan for the future, we will be doomed to repeat this cycle of misery and destruction year after year.
Published in Dawn, July 30th, 2022