A Civic Review of Karachi

by M. Wasim
Karachi , the city of light

Perhaps in terms of civic development and municipal amenities to its citizens, the 2016 has been one of the worst year for Karachi. Unplanned under-construction projects, road-side diggings and encroachments, mounts of garbage almost everywhere, severe water shortage and traffic mismanagements remained the hallmarks of the city this year, that ranks the city this year at 6th among the worst cities in Global Livability Ranking.
With the holding of local bodies elections in late 2015, it was hoped that with the arrival of elected councilors and mayor of Karachi many of the civic and municipal problems would be resolved sooner or later, but it took more than eight months for the new Mayor to take the charge of his authority. Although even before his taking of the charge, the condition of the city was as pathetic as it is today. Mayor Waseem Akhter complains for lacking of funds to adequately run his local government, though his excuse is not unjustified but still there are many fields where he is independent and equipped enough to deliver and facilitate people living here.     
There are many reasons for the current chaos of the city. If judiciously analyzed the two foremost are the people’ inaccessibility to the basic amenities and various unfinished under-construction projects where work is not in progress presently. In this scenario  unthinkable  start of new development projects have not only multiplied the local problems but  are adding health and social miseries with each passing day.
More importantly instead of operating and managing  all these developments projects under one civic body or corporation, various new departments like Karachi Infrastructure Development Company and Local government Project also  came into existence this year to execute the majority of new projects. Both are the new entrants in the megacity, where already other multiple civic bodies like Cantonment Boards, D.H.A., Pakistan Railways, Karachi Port Trust, Civil Aviation Authority and etc. are already functional with their own development schemes and civil services.
Naming a few incomplete projects in public sector is vital here. Specially the Malir 15 Bridge, the Nazimbabd Under pass and widening of Shafiq turn bridge are substantial construction schemes for Karachites, each required 24-hour work because they exist in dense residential areas and pivotal for smooth commutation. All three projects should have been completed year ago but not only work is stopped on them right now but roadside diggings and laying of construction materials alongside contributing adversaries in the civic life.  
The situation of public gardens and green belts of the city is equally pathetic. Major parks like Bagh Ibn e Qasim, Bagh e Jinnah and Beach park are in degrading state while hundreds of other locality parks badly lack routine maintenance  and staff for their survival. So are the situation of important green belts running alongside key roads like Shahra e Faisal, Shahra e Pakistan, University Road, etc, where grass is vanished from these belts while trees are crassly untrimmed. However, what was more scandalous is mass cutting of some 18,000 trees to pave way the Green Line Bus Project and another 12,000 during widening of the University Road.  Besides to establish cattle market for keeping  sacrificial animals for sale on Eidul Azha  nearly 540 fully grown Neem trees on Superhighway were chopped down.  All that  deforestation was done by public sector on the name of development
Mounds of  garbage and filthy material can be seen steadily piling up almost at every major locality and roadsides, creating hurdles for foot and vehicular traffic. There remained an tussle between KMC and Sindh government throughout the year over solid waste management. Neither the Sindh government transferred this subject to the newly formed Solid Waste Management Authority nor the KMC brought any improvement in this regard as it always kept complaining that the Corporation doesn’t have enough funds to pay salaries to sweepers and fuel’ money for garbage lifting vehicles. Finally on 29 December the provincial government has reportedly contracted a private Chinese firm to provide garbage clean-up and disposal services in Karachi.  
However, nothing was as serious and scarce among basic municipal amenities as the water supply in the city whole year. Shortage of water was persistent  because of frequent bursts of supply pipeline on numerous occasions and areas while absence of electricity at pumping stations were also the second other but routine cause which has forced the city residents to increase dependency on tanker mafia this year. However, the kick off of K4 worth Rs. 25.5 billion in March that will provide 650 million gallons of water daily to Karachi was welcome news for the citizens. Similarly the Karachi Sewage Treatment Project S3 worth Rs. 8 billion to treat 460 million gallon per day is the other prominent  achievement of the KWSB this year.
Major development projects that have been launched this year include the Green Line Bus Lane from North Karachi to Guru Mandir, Improvement of University Road and  Renovation of Tariq Road to name a few, besides a number of other development schemes launched under Local Government Project. However, works on these schemes at a time has  created a mess in the city creating severe traffic jam on daily basis and other environs’ issues, that are causing multiple health problems.   
Another laudable step that has been taken this year was in May when Supreme Court of Pakistan ordered the KMC, D.H.A., and all the Cantonments to remove all billboards and signboards across the city by June 30 as there is no law that permits installing outdoor adertising hoardings on “public property”. The order aimed to ensure the safety of public and to achieve city-wide uniformity for installation of Billboards. 
In other basic amenities like health, education and sports facilities, the contribution of the city and provincial governments remains unnoticeable. Overall the 2016 is not a year where Karachi is seen as a ideal metropolitan in terms of livability and prosperity. 

Editorial, Infocus

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