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Rains expose deficiencies in city’s municipal, power supply systems

Rains expose deficiencies in city’s municipal, power supply systems

KARACHI: The 54mm of rainfall in Karachi over the past two days exposed serious deficiencies in the city’s physical readiness to handle major weather events, as electrocution and flooding left nearly eight citizens dead and brought life in many areas to a complete standstill.

Experts warned on Friday that the fast depleting departmental capacity of the municipal bodies, growing encroachments and non-disposal of solid waste could worsen the situation over the next few years.

With little improvement in rain management system of the municipal authorities, the claims of Sindh government officials and the heads of the local bodies fell short of bringing quick relief to residents and commuters. Just like past years, monsoon rains this time too flooded many streets, roads and even thoroughfares due to poor drainage system and overflow of sewage.

Experts warn that lack of attention to municipal issues will spell disaster

KDA versus KMC

On Friday when the sky became a bit clear after two days of rain, Sindh Minister for Local Government Jam Khan Shoro emerged to express “satisfaction” over rain-related arrangements and chose to appreciate only a segment of his ministry for the entire effort.

“Mr Shoro has expressed satisfaction on dewatering arrangements in all schemes of Karachi Development Authority in the city,” said a statement.

“The minister said this while visiting different schemes of KDA at Clifton, Korangi, North Karachi, Surjani Town and Gulistan-i-Jauhar along with KDA Director General Syed Nasir Abbas. He also reviewed sewerage and dewatering arrangements in the KDA schemes and appreciated the KDA officials and staffers.

“The minister directed the KDA DG to submit a report about dewatering from all KDA schemes to him on a daily basis.”

Almost the same reaction came from Karachi’s Deputy Mayor Dr Arshad Vohra, who said the city’s post-rain shape would have been much uglier had the manpower and equipment of the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC) and elected municipal representatives not been on the streets to clear the gushing rainwater inundating the sprawling metropolis.

The claims from the authorities belie the scenes in the city as the intermittent monsoon rains for two days were enough to cause urban flooding despite their forecast by the Met Office almost a week ago.

The situation does not surprise experts who warn that due to climate change, the frequency and pace of rains is expected to rise for Karachi in the years to come and with such infrastructure of the city and competence of the institutions, or lack thereof, Karachi could face devastation on a large scale.

‘An urban region’

“Karachi is no more a regular or normal city — it has become an urban region,” said Dr Noman Ahmed, head of the Department of Architecture and Planning at the NED University of Engineering and Technology. “The KMC (Karachi Metropolitan Corporation) over the years has lost the capacity to maintain the rain-related and other infrastructure that is required to meet such challenges. After induction of third-party or contractor system, the KMC has no more such capacity. By late 1970s, every municipal body had its own workshop and staff for such situation but it has become obsolete now.”

He said the way Karachi had grown so fast in terms of area, population and concrete structures, the authorities needed to revisit and revive the city’s existing drainage and wastage disposal system.

Priorities changed

Over the years, he said, the priorities of the authorities had shifted from maintenance of infrastructure to execution of new projects, which had cut short the utility of the existing system for such situations.

“Due to climate change, it’s said that the frequency of rain and its impact or pace would increase in Karachi in next few years,” said Dr Ahmed. “If we don’t address the challenges right now, I fear the situation would further worsen. With such system in place, entire district South of the city, other low-lying areas and even the DHA would not remain safe from flooding in rains like [these].”

Amid the flooded areas, the power supply system failed to show any improvement as residents of some neighbourhoods complained the power supply that had been suspended after the first drop of rain was restored after a gap of at least 24 hours.

Loss of lives due to electrocution and poor infrastructure re-emerged this year also.

However, the spokesperson for K-Electric said that power supply to the metropolis remained as “per routine.” The power utility admitted “difficulties” while fixing faults but called them isolated in nature.

“The overall power supply to Karachi is per routine including power supply to strategic installations; key hospitals, Dhabeji pumping station and airport,” said Sadia Dada, Director Marketing and Communication, K-Electric. “The power utility experienced difficulties during restoration of some localised faults, isolated in nature, due to rain yesterday [Thursday] mainly in areas infested with illegal connections [kundas]. These areas included parts of Baldia Town, Lyari, Shah Faisal, Khokhrapar, Surjani, and Korangi. However, KE in coordination with the local administration made an all-out effort to resolve these localised faults.”

Published in Dawn, July 1st, 2017

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