about fire check
case of unidentified bodies
One big dumping ground
Thirty housing societies along the canal are without proper sewers,
apparently for lack of funds
By Abida Ayub
The inability of
City District Government Lahore (CDGL) and Water and Sanitation Agency (Wasa)
to channel wastewater of over 30 housing societies as well as the
industrial units besides the Lahore Canal is taking the city towards a
There are 14 housing
societies and dozens of small and big industrial units including a water
park from BRB Canal to Harbanspura, and 15 housing societies from Thokar
Niaz Baig to Mohlanwal, where no proper sewerage system has been installed
by the CDGL and Wasa for the past many years and these societies are
directly discharging their wastewater into Lahore Canal and subsoil of the
The pollution level of
Lahore canal water is increasing day by day and the concerned authorities
responsible for tackling this issue are not paying any heed to it.
The Deputy Director EPA,
Naseem Shah said that it was the liability of the CDGL and Wasa for
arranging environmentally sound treatment techniques and disposal of
wastewater in the area. He said that the district officials of the
Environment Protection Department (EPD) had conducted survey of these
housing societies, industrial units and other entities discharging
untreated wastewater into Lahore Canal and subsoil in the area.
Wasa laid no main sewer
here, the reason why all these societies and industries are discharging
their wastewater directly into Lahore Canal and the subsoil of the area
causing water and soil pollution issues.
Deputy Director Naseem
says that majority of the housing societies had pits in their respective
societies resulting in the underground water pollution in the area. The
department had issued several EPOs (environment protection orders) to Wasa
officials to install the main trunk sewer line in these localities but to
no avail. A case has also been filed in Environment Tribunal by the EPD
against Town Municipal Authorities of CDGL and Wasa in this regard, he
Alam says that wastewater which is being injected directly into the
subsoil has adverse effects because it might take over hundred years to
purify the underground water of this area. He says that contamination of
drinking water causes waterborne diseases like cholera, gastroenteritis,
typhoid fever along with many other parasitic, bacterial and viral
infections. He urged the need to install a trunk sewer line in the said
locality on immediate basis because the after-effects of the pollution of
underground water would be irreparable.
The societies including
EME Housing Society, Eden Housing Society, Punjab Cooperative Housing
Society, Rizwan Garden, Lahore Medical Housing Society II, Hajvery
Society, Nazeer Garden, Khuban Housing Society, Mehtab Park, Gulistan
Colony, Rehmanpura, Asim Town, Tuls Pura, Nawabpura, Gujjar Colony, Nawan
Pind, Pearl Garden and others are discharging their wastewater directly
into Lahore canal and subsoil of the area.
Besides, Metro Shopping
Mall at Thokar, Sozo Water Park and dozens of small industrial units in
these areas are also polluting the canal water by discharging their
untreated wastewater into the canal.
A senior officer of CDGL,
on condition of anonymity, tells The News on Sunday that the basic reason
of delay in installation of sewer line is the conflict between the TMAs
and Wasa officials which has been continuing for the past many years.
submitted in a written statement to EPD that it is not the responsibility
of TMA to install the sewerage lines rather Wasa is the sole authority
responsible for it,” he says. While Wasa officials are of the view that
the said locality from BRB Canal to Harbanspura is not in their
jurisdiction the concerned TMAs are responsible for laying down the sewer
Wasa MD Abdul Rasheed
says that the department is already working on Thokar Niaz Baig trunk
sewer line project but unavailability of funds is the basic reason for the
delay in this project. The Wasa MD says that he had asked the Punjab
government for the required funds for this project and soon this project
would be initiated.
Division Jawad Rafique says it is the responsibility of CDGL and Wasa to
install proper sewage system beside the Lahore Canal but the TMAs
concerned have failed to do so. “The basic reason for the delay is
conflict between Wasa and TMA. The TMAs have been directed to coordinate
with Wasa to resolve this issue,” says the commissioner. On the other
hand, Wasa officials have been directed to provide all their expertise and
mechanisms to TMAs to lay down the main trunk sewer line in these
areas,” he adds. Jawad Rafique at the same time says that presently CDGL
does not have enough resources for both projects and the Punjab government
has been asked for the funds.
I’m sure it is
worth pointing out. An odd twenty minutes’ walk on one stretch of The
Mall that day, the day of the protests, has left lasting impressions on my
mind — both good and bad. Good because it was so serene, and calm, and
pollution-free at this otherwise busy hour of the day. There was no
traffic on either side of The Mall, except for an occasional government
vehicle zipping past in the line of duty. The guards on duty at the main
gates of the buildings were taking a stroll or listening to the radio on
this national holiday.
The security personnel
deployed at the checkposts looked strained, as if
in anticipation of a charged mob.
Unmindful of the coming
hours, the little birds on the big old trees seemed to chirp their usual
stuff more cheerfully, perhaps taking these moments as an extended part of
the morning. Pleasantly, the honking was few and far between and one could
hear and feel the fresh breeze of the early day.
This was enchanting! I
felt privileged being a journalist for being able to roam about in the
It could be the calm
before the storm as they say, I thought. The protesters having pulled up
their socks could be here any minute, blasting these silent and
out-of-this-world moments in a split second.
precious moments gave me ample time to reflect on what it was all about
— the jammed traffic, the chaos, the increasing levels of pollution, the
impatience and intolerance of the mob, the callousness of the city
planners, etc. etc. On any given day, we know it takes nerve-wrecking
driving skills to commute from one point of the city to the other. Why?
The questions that came
to my mind in those solitary moments were simple. Why have we not been
able to lay down rules and regulations for holding organised and peaceful
protests? Why the whole city has to be taken hostage to bring home one’s
point, resulting in violence and traffic mess? On other normal days also,
why does one have to get stuck in traffic on a daily basis, bump into
other cars, and take abnormally long to take a turn at a round about, only
because there’s a protest going on nearby?
City planners too come
in for criticism here. Are we only capable of planning mammoth projects
such as the Bus Rapid Transit Service (BRTS)? Are we aware of the problems
of an ordinary commuter? Holding a protest is the right of an individual
or a group of individuals and to organise it in such a way that minimises
the risk of violence and traffic congestion is the responsibility of
But there is another
issue here regarding traffic jams on the main arteries of the city. Even
if the government does show its ‘efficiency’ and sees widening of
roads as the only solution to traffic jams, it becomes a punching bag.
Those who claim to have
some knowledge of modern city management say streamlining traffic is more
important than widening the roads and that these are two different things.
While the two sides stick to their respective arguments, I was not ready
to spare any more time on the issue.
The chirping of the
birds artfully breaking the unusual silence at The Mall regained my
attention and I preferred bird-watching over losing myself into the
unending debate. But right behind the next bunch of lush green trees was
the next police checkpost. The police personnel were visibly tense.
*Exhibition at The
Drawing Art Gallery titled New Arrangements showcases the work of five
artists who explore different forms of image making in painting and
photography. Exhibition on from Oct 3-10.
*Lahore Music Forum’s
(LMF) monthly concert on Wednesday, Oct 3 at Alhamra, Hall 3, The Mall at
6:30pm. Artists: Chand Khan, Suraj Khan (vocal) and special guest Ustad
Ashraf Sharif Khan (sitar).
*Exhibition at Drawing
Studio titled Dimension One by three young visual artists by and large
working in lines, a basic element of a fine art form.
*Reading of Masnavi
Maulana Jalal-ud-Din Rumi by Ustad Ahmed Javed at Model Town Library on
Friday, Oct 5 from 5:15pm-6:30pm.
Many of the
congested plazas at Hall Road – one of the busiest electronics markets
of Lahore – are still without proper fire safety measures while
government seems quiet on the issue.
The last fire incident
in one plaza was reported a few days ago, during the widespread media
campaign of the city administration giving a week’s time to the building
owners to equip their shops and markets and factories with the necessary
fire safety measures to avert any untoward incident. The campaign started
after fire erupted from electricity generator in a small private factory
on Bund Road killing 21 workers who were besieged in a two-storey closed
building without any emergency exit and fire extinguishing equipment.
Around a dozen fire
incidents have taken place in the city since the Bund Road tragedy.
Traders have raised
demand for concerted efforts on the part of the government to adopt
adequate measures to avert such incidents. Most of the commercial and
residential buildings – such as shopping malls, hotels, trade centres,
housing societies and government installations – lack proper fire
Muhammad Siddique, a
trader demands from the government to take proper steps to implement its
policy. “Each one of us is responsible for such incidents because we are
not learning from the past,” he adds. He alleges that people do illegal
constructions and the local authorities keep their eyes closed or take
bribes to keep quiet. He demands that all city markets, factories and
industries should be re-visited properly by relevant authorities and all
security and safety measures should be ensured.
In Lahore, the Punjab
Emergency Service Rescue 1122 has asked the federal and provincial
governments to approve its proposal of introducing fire and community
safety legislation, besides establishing an impartial building control
authority, to prevent fire incidents, an official said requesting
A consolidated report of
fire emergencies reported in the past five years, prepared by Punjab
Emergency Service Rescue 1122 says there have been at least 11,049 cases
of fire incidents, mostly because of short circuiting, only in the
jurisdiction of Lahore till last month (August).
Out of these incidents,
5876 are because of short circuit, 280 because of gas leakage, 46 because
of LPG cylinder; 231 because of carelessness; 3,642 incidents occurred due
to unknown cause and 804 because of some other reasons. Among 254 victims
of fire in these incidents, 58 expire, while the estimated financial loss
due to these incidents is around Rs 8071.74 million.
Dr Rizwan Naseer,
director general Rescue 1122, talking to The News on Sunday, maintains
that there are multiple reasons of such incidents but the major are
non-implementation of existing laws and lack of a proper land use and
building control authority.
“There is a law that
binds factories to have fire exits and put fire extinguishing systems in
the factories and commercial buildings but this law is not implemented
fully,” he says, adding, “Furthermore, with the local government
system in 2001, we see that the town administrators/officers have the sole
authority to check such system.”
Dr Naseer says there are
many mafias in the system which is a hurdle in proper implementation of
the existing law. There should not have been deaths in the recent factory
fire incidents in Lahore and Karachi had there been fire exits. He says
substandard wiring system is the main cause of short circuiting.
According to the
management of the Rescue 1122, no casualty was reported in the worst fire
incidents like at the City Tower, Auriga Centre, Liberty and few shopping
malls in Lahore. These three markets have proper fire control equipment,
water hydrants, and exit control setup.
We would have to take
the first step but things cannot be corrected overnight. “We have
recommended the government(s) to make use of building control authority
and a proper check and balance system.” He says the first step should be
to ensure fire exits for life safety. A law, authority, enforcement and
accountability mechanism can take us to the way forward.
According to reports,
fire incidents kill as many as 16,500 people and leave 164,000 injured
almost every year across the country. This is because of lack of a
national fire safety policy to control the situation. The reports read the
amount of the property losses and insurance claims, on average, goes up to
Rs 400 billion per annum. The incidents, mostly, happen in big cities and
thick urban populations with big commercial buildings.
Prof Dr Muhammad Akram
Tahir, Chairman Department of Architectural Engineering and Design of
University of Engineering and Technology (UET), Lahore, says that the
architectural change in building is not an issue. There are all provisions
in the Lahore Development Authority (LDA) and other building by-laws. The
actual need is to ensure safety measures and implement those laws. “All
designs of commercial and residential buildings are approved by LDA. There
are inspectors to check the construction and keep inspecting even after
that,” he says, adding, primary concern is to save lives so the
construction and fire exits provision is an extremely important issue. He
states that the role of state and political will is extremely important to
ensure these safety measures. “We have to look at our land use, urban
planning, and encroachments as per international standards followed by
“The government should
be asked to implement a collective strategy for the prevention of such
fires in residential as well as commercial areas; punish irresponsible
people, issue fire equipment installation certificates to industrial units
and ensure fire control measures through a proper way,” he adds.
Rescue operation at Bund
Road. — Photo by Rahat Dar
whether Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan succeeds in
marching into Waziristan on October 7 or not, the momentum is building and
prospective participants from abroad are finally flying into the country.
Once here, they will use the time at their proposal to meet rights
activists, campaigners, research organisations, lawyers representing drone
victims, political figures and others to muster public support for the
While the organisers are
busy convincing the authorities to issue visas promptly to human rights
activists, media personnel etc, the lucky ones who have them by now are
here or aboard Pakistan-bound flights.
Toby Blome and Dianne
Budd, both anti-war activists and medical doctors from San Francisco, US,
are among the very first to arrive. They reached Lahore on Wednesday last
and attended several meetings, besides addressing a gathering at Lahore
University of Management Sciences (LUMS) and visiting Shaukat Khanum
Memorial Cancer Hospital (SKMCH).
Sitting in a small dingy
room of a low-budget inn at Regal Chowk, they talk to TNS on how the idea
developed and they decided to embark on a risky journey against
everybody’s advice. There was high security alert for foreigners inside
Pakistan due to anti-US protests going on everywhere.
For Toby, a physical
therapist from San Francisco Bay Area, Waziristan initiative will simply
be the change of turf as she is vehemently opposing drones since 2003. A
member of CODEPINK a women-initiated movement aimed at ending US funded
wars and occupations, her point is they are against killing of human
beings with robotic weapons controlled by people sitting thousands of mile
identify terrorists from the innocent and every one killed in a drone
attack is a terrorist until proven otherwise.”
Toby says drones are
everywhere; they are doing surveillance on US borders from above and
tracking movement of illegal immigrants, spying on protestors, watching
civilian movements and what not. “The drones that kill people are
predator drones and the worst of all. The smallest drone is the size of a
finger tip and has wings like those of a bee.” The biggest push to the
drone programme, she believes, comes for the corporate interests a proof
of which is that the US has so far sold drone technology to 76 countries.
She along with her
companion, Dianne Budd also a member of CODEPINK wants to meet drone
affectees in Waziristan, heirs of those killed in strikes and people in
general and share their true stories with the world. These stories she is
dead sure, will be highly touching and not easy to be brushed aside. The
problem with most US people, she believes, is that they do not exactly
know what harm these attacks are causing. They are fed news through a
corporatised and controlled media which hide facts and underreports human
deaths, she adds. Both of them have organised and joined several protests
at US drone bases such as those in Nevada, Marysville, California,
Alabama, Mexico etc.
In worst case scenario,
if the march is averted they hope to bring people from Waziristan to
Islamabad and make them talk to the international media.
For those who follow
news of anti-war movements, CODEPINK is a very well known. Formed in 2002,
the name CODEPINK plays on the colour-coded homeland security alerts
issued during Bush period. “There would be yellow, orange or red alerts
signalling different levels of terrorist threats. We proposed something
like “hot pink alert” but this domain was already a property of a porn
website. So we settled for codepinkalert.org,” says Dianne while talking
She wants to visit
Waziristan and, on the basis of what she sees and hears there, plans to
challenge US President Barak Obama who keeps on saying these machines kill
terrorists with precision.
Dianne terms drone
attacks a violation of human rights and a wrong way to tackle terrorism.
“The margin of error is too high.” She tells TNS an organisation with
the name of American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has sued the US
government for killing a US national Anwar Al-Awlaki, a radical cleric and
a native of New Mexico, while he was in Yemen. He was killed in a drone
strike earlier this year when ACLU was in talks with authorities to get
his name removed from the hit list. Some days later his 16-year-old son
was also killed in another drone strike inside Yemen. All this happened
inside the territory of Yemen which is not at war with the US.
Inclusion of his name in
the hit list was a contentious issue but nobody was ready to wait. Dianne
tells TNS that hardly any participant of the LUMS event, arranged by their
faculty of law and policy, knew about this episode which shows people take
drones issue lightly. The encouraging thing for her was that quite a few
girls from the audience came to her and expressed their desire to join
“We will sensitise the
world on the issue and show them the truth,” she concludes.
Dianne Budd and Toby
“There may be
so many people like me who might not have received dead bodies of their
lost loved ones, held their funerals or buried them. The reason for such
cases is that the authorities concerned don’t use modern and
sophisticated methods that are used in developed countries to identify a
dead body. I pray no one undergoes such torment I went through in search
of my lost father. I went to mortuaries, hospitals, Edhi centres, 1122
Rescue centres and everywhere people told me I should go to, to find my
70-year-old father, an Alzheimer’s patient who left his house on June
13, 2012 and did not return,” says Chaudhry Kamran son of Chaudhry Sher
“After 17 days after
my father went missing, I received a phone call from a man who told me
that he was speaking from Khokhar Pind, a village along Bund Road, and he
had just seen an advertisement in a newspaper about my missing father. He
further told me that he and other villagers on the instructions of the
police concerned buried my father two weeks ago after he was found dead
near a canal in the village. Though the news was shocking, it was also
relaxing for me and my family as it ended our mental torment we had been
suffering for 17 days in search of our father, otherwise God knows how
many more days we would have remained in such a terrible situation, had we
not received the news of his death,” Kamran shared with The News on
A resident of Sant Nagar,
Chaudhry Kamran, said his father had lost his memory and he could not tell
anybody his name and home address.
“In those days when he
left the house the weather was hot and he may have died of heat,” says
Kamran, adding the villagers told him that they insisted the police sends
the dead body to mortuary but the police neither bothered to send the body
to mortuary nor followed the legal procedure required before disposing of
“Police is bound to
send an unclaimed body to the dead-house and give an ad in a newspaper to
search its heirs. If no one comes to take the body from mortuary then
after thirty days the body is disposed of declaring it unclaimed. The
police did not follow this legal procedure in my father’s case,”
“Police and Rescue
1122 should use Nadra computerised system to identify a dead body. With
the help of thumb impression, a dead body can be identified. If police or
Rescue 1122 men find a body, they should take thumb impression of the dead
body on a paper before sending it to mortuary and send the thumb
impression to Nadra office. If the dead man had Nadra Computerised
National Identity Card (CNIC), his bio-data can be known with the help of
the thumb impression and the body can be identified and handed over to its
relatives,” he says.
The painful tale of
Chaudhry Kamran exposes many loopholes in the system through which the
government is supposed to find the relatives of dead bodies. The system
depends a lot on police, who don’t use computerised system to find the
relatives of an unclaimed body. They just send the body to mortuary where
it is disposed of after a month, declaring it an unclaimed body.
Talking to TNS, Abbot
Road Nadra Registration Centre In charge Zarrar says, “A dead body, if
it has CNIC, can be identified with the help of its thumb impression.”
Cantt Regional Nadra
Office Media Coordinator Saleem Mahmood says, “Nadra is not directly
involved in identifying dead bodies. It assists NGOs like Edhi to identify
dead bodies but this assistance is available in Karachi or one or two big
cities,” Saleem Mahmood adds.
Rice field needs lots of water that brings the worms on the surface.