The way we
Miles to go: The I.I. Chundrigar Road beautification project
It was promised that I.I. Chundrigar was truly going to be developed into Karachi's Wall Street, and Karachiites bore all the troubles the development work threw their way with a smile, but come an unexpected monsoon shower, and the road was flooded as always.
As the I.I.Chundrigar beautification plan enters its last phase, it seems as though even the elements are rebelling against those exhausting themselves trying to make Karachi's Wall Street a better place to work and look at. Soon after the government installed the sewerage lines and a new storm drainage system across I.I.Chundrigar Road, nature rubbed its hands gleefully and hailed down rain, putting to test the City District Government Karachi's (CDGK) five month long performance.
But despite the promises made by CDGK, rainwater flooded Chundrigar Road, and accumulated in the drains as it always does. Nevertheless, the project doesn't seem to be a complete failure as the water accumulation after the rain on August 21 is far less than it used to be, during the rains the road has braved in recent past. Infact, some parts of this 2.25 Km long road were surprisingly dry after the rain ceased. The CDGK authorities definitely deserve a pat on their backs for a job well done, if only halfway.
The former McLeod Road, I. I. Chundrigar Road accommodates the offices of a majority of leading financial institutions in the city including Karachi Stock Exchange, Karachi Cotton Exchange, National Bank, and State bank, as well as other banks. Business worth millions of rupees is carried out everyday on the Chundrigar Road, and thousands of people commute through it on public and private vehicles.
That is not all that makes the Chundrigar Road an important one in Karachi, though. Apart from being Karachi's economic hub, the road also showcases colonial architecture from the early days.
Given the economic and historic importance of the road that stretches from Shaheen Complex to the Mereweather Tower, a comprehensive up-gradation and beautification plan for Chundrigar Road was chalked out by the former Governor of the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP), Dr Ishrat Husain. The project was initiated on March 24, 2007 under the Tameer-e-Karachi Programme. It was executed by CDGK and supervised by a committee, headed by the Governor of State Bank of Pakistan, Dr Shamshad Akhtar. The estimated cost for the project was 220 million rupees, where 160 million rupees were financed by a number of banks with offices on the road.
The project was supposed to be carried out in three phases. The first two phases included excavation and laying down of sewage and storm drainage pipe lines across the road. The third phase involved beautification of the road including broadening of pavements, installing street lights and cat eyes etc.
For several months, the road was dug up and closed to public transport. According to the City Nazim Mustafa Kamal, the underground pipe networks including water and sewerage lines in the area were laid half a century back and were therefore in a dilapidated state due to which sewage mixed with water and waste spilled on to roads. As the lines passed through the center of the road, each time there was a problem with sewage, the road had to be broken and fixed. The CDGK planned to install the sewage lines along the road instead of beneath it. Whenever it rained, heavy water accumulated on the road, and to quell this problem, a brand new storm drainage system was to be laid down, which aimed at not just speeding up drainage process, but also avoiding the traffic jams that ensue after a heavy spell of rain and the consequent flooding.
According to a very satisfied CDGK, "65 per cent" work on the road has been completed so far, 36 inch diameter drains have been provided on both the sides of the road, and the old drainage system being purged. The remainder of the work is promised to be completed by the end of September.
During the recent rain, however, citizens, while pushing broken down cars and literally swimming through knee high water, found all their hopes of a speedy drainage system made "on time," according to the government, being crushed.
"What was the point of wasting money on Chundrigar Road when the link roads were not going to be developed too?" asks a furious Muhammad Ahmed. He had found it quite a chore reaching his office on the road on August 21. "It took me half an hour just to cross the patch which is a five minute drive away from my workplace." The knee deep water that had collected on a side-road that serves as a link to I.I. Chundrigar Road resulted in a massive traffic jam outside his office. "What they did is commendable but they haven't done it properly. I can't understand why they have left patches undone? Why have they left debris on sidewalks and roads? If they were developing it they should have done it all the way," he says, frustrated.
Though they acknowledge the government's efforts, the people who work and commute on Chundrigar Road are disappointed by the problems they faced the day it rained, after the five months of massive gridlocks and general inconvenience caused by the ongoing development work.
Sana Mushtaq, who couldn't reach the bank she works at, which also happens to be among the leading stake holders in this project, says, "We were promised development after this project, but we have seen no development as we still have the traffic jams during rain and the sidewalks have become worse than ever after the rains." She complains that only a few of the pavements around her workplace were constructed after installing new sewage lines and the rest were left undone with heaps of garbage on them, "the water on the thoroughfares to Chundrigar, along with the broken sidewalks have made going to work an ordeal." Some of the pavements that were built recently have broken down again after rains.
"Water did accumulate in a few parts of I.I.Chundrigar," admits Saleem Bukhari, the project director, adding that, "it was not Chundrigar Road's own water but the water flowing in from adjacent roads." He says that the water that had collected on Chundrigar Road had drained out quickly but water from from Talpur, Altaf Hussain and Outrum Roads accumulated on I.I.Chundrigar Road, as they don't have a proper drainage system.
"Chundrigar Road is not a Nullah," Saleem Bukhari says in protest to the criticism the project has received, adding that the newly installed drainage system on I.I.Chundrigar Road is relieving a large area of rainwater but it can't drain the whole city.
"Let people say what they want to," he says irritatedly, "but one should understand that Chundrigar Road does not serve the whole city, it is a road with a drainage system of its own. The rest of the city should have its own drainage system instead," he states, justifying water accumulation.
Parveen Rehman, Director Orangi Pilot Project, however, has a far more rational and convincing explanation for the water accumulation on I.I.Chundrigar Road, "water will still accumulate on this road," she says, "even if you provide the road with sewage lines made of gold."
According to Parveen, the reason I.I.Chundrigar Road is always flooded is that the majority of the road's sewage flows naturally to the City Railway Station Drainage and the rest to the Soldier Bazaar one. "Both the drainage systems join at the point where now Mai Kolachi by-pass has been constructed," she tells Kolachi, adding that before the construction of the by-pass the sewage would end up in the Boating Basin, which, being a huge water basin, would easily accommodate this drainage water.
"With the construction of the Mai Kolachi by pass," says Parveen, "the natural outfall of the Soldier Bazar drainage has been blocked." She elaborates that the outfall for the other drainage systems too is blocked at the Boating Basin due to land reclamation.
"Right at the mouth of the second drainage system is reclamation by KPT housing and therefore this drainage too is blocked," she says, and adds that no matter what is done regarding pipelines, water will still accumulate on the road unless the blockade form the natural outfall is removed "The love of land is taking its toll," she says in dismay. Despite notifying the government several times, she says, this technicality was not taken into consideration prior to the project.
"Other than this," says Parveen, "the encroachments over the drainage system on I.I.Chundrigar Road too are creating problems," she adds that as the offices and parking lots of Shaheen Complex and Habib Bank Limited are built upon the drainage system and the columns that support the structure of the encroachments are built deep beneath the ground, the drainage is blocked as a consequence. "Unless these issues are resolved," she adds "Water will continue accumulating on the road."
Rainwater accumulating on roads or drainage spilled on the roads is a phenomenon that every Karachiite is accustomed to. Karachi is a city that has developed randomly, without ever being planned by the authorities. Unlike other big cities in the world that are pre-planned, Karachi remained a small village of fishermen and traders until it was annexed with Sindh during the British rule. The city's infrastructure improved during that period, and during the early years of Pakistan when it served as the Capital of the country.
Some rare, well-structured areas with well-planned streets and housing in the city (like Nazimabad) stand as a symbol of better times when Karachi managed to captivate the attention of authorities. The city enjoyed the bounties showered upon it, till all federal resources shifted to Islamabad, the new capital.
What happened to the beautiful city of fishermen in the aftermath of this is saddening. The city of lights was left to its own devices to tackle problems caused by a constantly increasing population, heavy traffic and the drab apartment buildings and un-planned housing schemes that have mushroomed in its every corner. Karachi is now crowded, noisy and polluted and whatever British-built-infrastructure is left, crumbles the moment it rains leaving Karachiites with loads of sewage, garbage and accumulated water.
The present government's commitment to develop the city's infrastructure after 60 years of Independence is a good omen, received with arms wide open by almost every faction of society. The government's commitment to the cause is unquestionable, but its efficiency in making its plans workable is dubious.
The effect the rains after the second phase of the I.I.Chundrigar Road project have had, has raised questions amongst those who have invested money, effort, or simply borne the difficulties the under-construction road caused, including their office buildings quaking because of the heavy machinery being used on the road, all for love of Karachi's very own 'Wall Street.'
Blame it on the plan
Though it did not rain as heavily last week as was predicted, and Hyderabadis weathered this storm bravely too, the best laid of plans by the local government are pointless unless they are executed immediately and efficiently. Kolachi examines a post-rain Hyderabad this week.
"I was totally stranded because the heavy rain made it unsafe to take cars out on the road," a Latifabad housewife tells Kolachi. She was visiting a friend on August 21, when it poured down unexpectedly in Hyderabad, Karachi and other parts of Sindh.
She is not the only one surprised by this sudden turn in weather in the province, which had thus far not been predicted by the Met Office. Phone calls and text messages expressing bewilderment at the sudden downpour deluged phones and cell phones as the rain did the city. Those out of their homes for work and running errands had no choice but to wade through ankle-high water to make it from once place to another.
The Hyderabad Electric Supply Company (Hesco), once again lived up to its reputation by breaking down power supply as it rained. Every locality in the city, from the posh to the decrepit ones, suffered equally due to inadequate arrangements to deal with yet another spell of rain by the Cantonment Board.
The suspension of power supply is being described as the basic reason of the authorities' negligible reaction to the situation, as without power supply the generators could not work for too long.
Though it only rained for an hour and not more than 60 millimeters, the reason citizens faced so many problems was not because plans had not been made to deal with monsoon rains. It is well understood that these rains will specially speed up during the first week of monsoons and August in Hyderabad, but all the plans are only executed after the rain has played havoc with the city and citizens.
Shabana, a resident of Nasim Nagar in Qasimabad, tells Kolachi that her parents have been stuck at her house since it started raining, as it became impossible to even step out of the house and get into their car.
Though the situation in Latifabad and Qasimabad was not out of control, it could not be described as satisfactory as the pumping stations could not work because power supply to these stations was suspended. Consequently, roads became severely inundated.
Water up to four feet accumulated in a few low lying areas of Latifabad, City and Qasimabad, but did not enter houses as the water disposal system started working soon after the restoration of power supply.
District Nazim Kanwar Naveed Jameel was constantly on the road after the rain to look after the arrangements and could not be reached on his cell phone or landline.
An operator at the Nazim house informed Kolachi that, "Sahab has been busy and on the road since it started raining and even his mobile phone's battery has died."
Talking to Kolachi after his visit, Kanwar Naveed said that along with the suspension of power supply, development works at some locations also resulted in inconvenience to citizens.
"There is no gravity for drainage of standing water; pumping machines and stations have to be made operational for disposal of water," said the District Nazim in response to a query as to why people suffered despite arrangements.
He further mentioned that the city received more rain in less time and maintained that there was no emergency-like situation as everything was under control and the district government had prepared for much higher rainfall.
The same claim by the Nazim, when it appeared on television, surprised citizens. Though the Nazim said that schools will still open on August 22, it was very obvious that because of the poor sewerage system, many students would still be unabale to attend school. A teacher at a local school tells Kolachi that the teachers had gone to their respective schools as instructed by the District Government, but there were very few students who attended the school on the day after the rain.
The District Government however, had a plan or two up its sleeve to lessen the adverse effects of the rain. Keeping in view last year's torrential rains and inundation of vast areas of the city, the short-term strategy to keep rain damage in check included enhancing the pumping stations' capacity to drain water up to 168 million gallon per day from 57 million gallon per day (MGD).
The District Government spent 464 million rupees for enhancement of dewatering capacity in Latifabad, Qasimabad and Hyderabad City Taluka from its own resources to prevent difficulties for citizens and damage to their properties.
The measures were taken in the wake of the forecast of the Met Department that predicted that Hyderabad is likely to receive 10 times more rainfall this year in comparison with last year.
The water discharge capacity in Latifabad was increased to 107MGD from last year's 38MGD and Qasimabad's disposal capacity was increased to 32MGD against the previous year's 8MGD.
The ongoing development work that has been in progress in Latifabad and other streets of the city also contributed to the traffic jams caused by the rain on August 21. Many injuries reported after the rainfall on Tuesday were because of the accidents due to dug up roads.
The citizens and motorist believes that the inconvenience caused to them was not because of the rainfall as they all feel rain is a real Godsend for Sindh, but blamed the inadequate preparations and questioned the District Nazim's earlier prophecy of this year's rain being a blessing
The Met Department considers above 137 millimeters of rainfall as normal but forecasted that above normal rains will lash parts of the country including Hyderabad this year.
A meteorologist at the Hyderabad Met Office, Tayyab Arain told Kolachi that last year Hyderabad received 172 millimeters of rain a in single day on September 7 and 8. This two-day rainfall will never be forgotten by the citizens of Hyderabad as they remained marooned in stagnant rainwater water for more than a week.
He says that the Islamabad and Karachi Met Offices issued advisories well before time to additional relief commissioners as well as the Chief Secretary of a province advising them to adopt precautionary measures but says that there is no liaison between local met offices and district governments.
"The Met Department can only do its job properly when the system develops closer ties," said Tayyab in response to a question about the possibility of rains in September but added that the monsoon period starts from July 1 and continues till September 30, so there is always chance of rainfall.
The timely measures of the District Government resulted in deflecting major problems for Hyderabadis, but they nonetheless want a system that starts working on its own soon after the rainfall. The water disposal system and stand by generators should be made operational in a manner that water should not be allowed to collect on the roads long enough to prove to be hassle for citizens.
The purpose of contingency plans as well as terms like emergency should be clarified for the public as they consider efforts after the worst is over of no use.
The rain on August 21 and 22 did not cause as much damage as it has previously, but this should not be used as an excuse for complacency. The local government needs to evolve a system that is capable of responding to natural adversities quickly, calmly, and effectively.
Outside looking in
By Zehra Abid
Karachi, the city of hope to millions around the country; the city that tries to capture all that it can hold in its embrace, giving opportunity to countless, seems to have become divided and disillusioned in the past few years. It seems as if it has lost its unanimity, its homogeneity. From a bird's eye view, it seems hard to decide on the nature of this city; its people, its lifestyle and entertainment, because most things fail to have a consensus anymore.
An hour long ride across the city leaves one baffled about its theme and structure. No connection can be made between the glamorous Zamzama restaurants and the katchi abadi that lies behind the Zamzama Park. Most metropolitan cities lack middle ground, but Karachi's situation is definitely worse than most. This is a strange city. People here commit suicide because of unemployment, die of malnutrition and suffer extreme illnesses on account of unclean water.
The age of employed children in Karachi is going down at a gun-shot pace, yet the same city is able to afford the Range Rover and Mercedes that roll down the dug-up roads of Defence. There is something quite extraordinarily wrong here. In a city which has money enough to house almost all expensive restaurants that try to pave their way in to our metropolis, it is definitely unexplainable how so many can sleep hungry.
Having lived in Turkey for the past two years, this realization hits me harder than it used to. Each time I come back, I find my city enveloped in a layer of superficiality thicker than the smog. Bigger cars and more brand names seem to be thriving in some parts of the city, while at the same time the harsh realities of living in our urbane town do not get any better for a majority of the population. The city, much like the buildings, bears weak foundations, but glitters on the surface. This is perhaps why the 'economic growth' of Pakistan has been talked to death in the past eight years while the living standard of the average family has increasingly worsened, and beggary has become more prevalent than ever before.
This is what I found startlingly different during my two years spent in Turkey. There I saw a country strong and solid at its very base and unconcerned with appearance. Their policies focus on the attainment of a socially beneficent structure which they have obtained to quite an extent.
None of the cafes in Ankara have the great interior or glamour in their restaurants that the local cafes in Zamzama do. Apart from the large number of tourist coming in, their four star hotels can not even be compared to the Karachi Sheraton and Marriott. But they have more important things, they have shelter for the poor, and aid for those who need it. Throughout Ramadan the Turkish government provides free iftar in downtown Ankara. During the same time, prices of essential food items rise in Pakistan.
The public education sector in Turkey is good enough to ensure admission of Turkish students in the best universities, most of which are once again public. Even at university level the Turkish government provides food, accommodation and scholarships to both local and foreign students on a purely need basis.
The best health care is easily accessible at the most subsidized rates. In fact from the day I enrolled in to university in Turkey, I was asked to get a medical book made at the university hospital, and thereafter, I pay only 10 per cent the price of any medicines that I purchase, a concession given to all students
Neither Ankara nor Istanbul has a multitude of flyovers, and the cars in Turkey are inexpensive ones; but once again they have more important things like an extremely efficient and cheap transport system. Karachi is being torn down day in and day out to resolve its traffic problems but the root problem is not being looked at. Absolutely nothing can turn over the transport issues unless Karachi gets better public transport. In fact, instead of things prospering they are in turn digressing. There was once an efficiently running circular railway and tram way that covered a large part of the town but now all that we are left with are their ruined tracks. And we continue to be awed by things that glitter but are not gold.
This is why I feel things are so extraordinarily wrong in Karachi and why the city has become an incongruous mix of extreme poverty and wealth, losing its middle ground. Priorities of social welfare cease to exist and we continue to define development by marvelling at the opening of the number of new foreign coffee shops.
Maybe this is because we genuinely don't realize the hollowness of our newly attained 'economic prosperity' or perhaps being part of the higher echelon of society, have become apathetic to things that don't directly affect us. Or perhaps, we have simply become myopic, failing to place ourselves, our city and our country in the grand scheme of things. Maybe an air of hopelessness surrounds us all and we only care about what is here and now; because the certainty of tomorrow fluctuates.
Whatever it may be, we need to take a U-turn .We need a new definition of progress. A definition that defines progress in terms of prosperity for almost everyone, instead of just a small group.
Turkey too is a developing country, which has some time to go before it can be truly called "developed." But no matter how fast or slow their development might be, at least its making its society progress as a whole. As far as our development is concerned, we don't know where exactly it's going and what kind of fruit it will bear.
It is time we start looking beyond the glazed surface which shines temporarily. Maybe then, when there is some hope of equality and a working social system I wont find myself unable to define the true essence of my city and a balance will be found between the lives and circumstances of Karachiites.
Tariq Mohammad is one of the many guards at Askari Apartments 1, in Clifton. He's been living in Karachi for three years and has been a guard for almost the same. He's a decent man and the residents of Askari 1 have taken to him well, enough to trust him with their belongings and lives. Kolachi decided to ask this man how life is sitting on the outside, watching and guarding people and their things; and is this how he had imagined it to turn out?
Kolachi: When did you come to Karachi?
TM: I came to Karachi three years ago in search of work.
Kolachi: Where did you live before coming to Karachi?
TM: I had lived in Kohat, Peshawar all my life.
Kolachi: Why did you become a watchman?
TM: It wasn't a choice I had. When a person comes from a small place like Kohat to Karachi, without education or money, there's only so much he can do. By the will of God, I got this job and I'm very thankful for that. Before working here, I was a gunman for Saima Builders.
Kolachi: Is there a difference in the amount you earn in Karachi compared to Kohat?
TM: In Kohat, no matter how hard you work, unskilled labour can only earn one a certain amount of money. I've been a labourer most of my life, and I wasn't earning very much. It's not as though I am rich in Karachi, but at least I can take care of my family.
Kolachi: Does your family live with you?
TM: No, not in Karachi. They still live in my village.
Kolachi: Do you plan on calling them here?
TM: No, not really. Since I'm a guard in these apartments, I get a free quarter to stay in. I share it with other guards. But, if I were to call my family, I would have to rent out some place which would at least cost me 2000 rupees a month which is almost half of my income. Then there are other expenses as well. So how would we eat? At least this way, I live here for free, and send most of my money to them.
Kolachi: How many people are in your family? Are you married?
TM: I have a father, one brother and two sisters. No, I'm not married.
Kolachi: Given the chance, what would you want to do?
TM: I don't have a lot of options. It's not like I can get an education at this point and do something else. We've all saved up money and have sent my brother to Kuwait. He's trying to get me a visa. He's also a labourer there. So if I get a visa, I might go there and see what options I have.
Kolachi: With the political conditions of the country, NWFP being a part of the Taliban sector, do you feel scared for your family living in Peshawar?
TM: Of course, there are doubts in my mind. But Kohat is not part of the Taliban area and we have no such activities there, so I pray to God that it remains that way.
Kolachi: Is it difficult living alone, with no family here?
TM: Yes, very. I miss them immensely. I've always wanted to live with them or at least nearby, but circumstances being what they are, I never got the chance to do so.
Kolachi: Do you have difficulty financially?
TM: Yes. Even in Karachi, there's only so much money I can make. And with prices rising everyday, it's even difficult to be able to afford basic food necessities. I hardly get to eat meat. The only time is the Bakra Eid, when the people in the apartments give us the qurbani meat.
Kolachi: Do you ever plan on going back?
TM: I don't know. I mean I want to go back, but work wise there aren't many options available. Compared to a big city like Karachi, there are still several employment opportunities, whereas in Kohat, there's not much a person can do.
Kolachi: Recently, with the climate change in Karachi, is it difficult to sit outside in the open air to guard?
TM: Yes. Initially when I came, it never used to be very cold. Even in the summers, when it would rain, it wasn't really a problem. But nowadays, when it rains, it almost seems endless. And it's not just that we get wet, it's also very windy and it's difficult to keep our eyes open without dust going inside. And in the winters, it used to be cool. I actually used to like that weather, neither too cold nor hot. But now it's really cold. And it's not as if when I don't want to, or if I'm feeling cold, I can stay back in my quarter. It's my job and I have to do it in any case. So in the winters, it gets really tough as I don't have too many sweaters and all I usually have to cover up with is a shawl. But the people of these apartments are nice, and generally in winters when people see us sitting outside in the cold, they give us some warm clothes.
Kolachi: Is the life and they way of living in Karachi different from that of Kohat?
TM: Yes. Life in Kohat is very slow paced. People know each other and stop to talk to and greet each other on the way. In Karachi, everyone is busy with their own lives. I have some friends here, some are drivers and some are guards. They tell me that, in some of the places where they work or have previously worked, people living in the same house don't even meet each other for two, three days. At least, that's one good thing about living in a small house; you can see your family everyday since the rooms are built close together.
Kolachi: You've been a guard in Askari for quite some time. A lot of people come to Askari, apart from residents, how do you know which people are trust worthy enough to be let in and have you ever made any error in judgement?
TM: Well anyone coming in who isn't a driver or a servant here, is asked by all the guards including me, where they are going and/or why? And if someone doesn't have a logical answer, then sometimes, we ask the residents whose house they are supposed to go to, just incase. Thankfully, in my work, I'm always careful and no accident has happened.
Living away from home, not always being aware of how his family is doing must be hard for Tariq Mohammed, but he assumes his duty of protecting other people and serves them well. Just as the city he has chosen to live in, Tariq looks out for people whom he has no bond stronger than that of simply sharing space. He embraces complete strangers, and takes responsibility for their safety and well-being, as is sometimes Karachi's character.