With the arrival of summer, Karachi, like always, is in the grip of scorching warm weather. A drastic increase in mercury levels turns the megacity into what experts call an ‘urban heat island’ with devastating consequences. Moreover due to the changing climate patterns, heatwave in Karachi have become a regular phenomenon, extremely warm weather make the life even harder and it lasts in the metropolitan till the end of the October.
Hardly anyone would deny that homeless and those living in irregular housing settlements are the most affected people when heatwave hits Karachi. A megacity of more than 25 million inhabitants, it is unfortunate nearly half of its population live in katchi abadis and irregular housing settlements where houses are often small and poorly ventilated and where electricity supply is unreliable. Therefore these people are at bigger risk in summer heatwave. In 2015 more than 2000 people reportedly died due to heatwave just because they were caught completely unprepared.
Recent Anti-Encroachment Drive
A few days ago when city administration was contemplating an anti-encroachment drive to remove settlements alongside Gujjar Nallah, Korangi Nullah and Mehmoodabad Nullah to widen the city storm water network, the mercury hit the 40 degree centigrade for the first time this year. It had been warned the heatwave would hit Karachi particularly hard with temperatures expected to rise to 39°C during the day and humidity levels reaching 64%.
It is good that an anti-encroachment tribunal recently directed the provincial and local authorities to maintain status quo in respect of residential constructions built over leased land likely to be demolished during the ongoing operation to clear encroachments along Gujjar Nullah.
Safety Measures against Heatwave
Notwithstanding, it is the worst thing to make people homeless. Architect and town planner Arif Hasan is of the opinion that these people living by the nullahs or storm-water drains are not doing so by choice. “It is because this is what they could afford. The places were also leased out to them.”
Now when the extremely warm weather has landed in the city and the holy month of Ramzan is also knocking the doors, certain precautions and preventive measures must be taken by civic authorities to save the life of those who are living in these poor settlements. First of all adequate supply of water must be managed for them in regular basis. Special medical relief camps should be installed near these settlements immediately where people can rest and hydrate themselves. Besides the authorities should also work with urban professionals to create more green spaces near these settlements to make the nearby atmosphere cool and livable.
These measures would hopefully minimize the damage as much as possible.