Islamabad Rain Flood; a Cloudburst or Environmental Civic Violation?

by M. Wasim

Heavy rains has kept life crippled in the federal capital of Pakistan with killing at least two people and destroying millions of rupees public properties and assets.  A series of videos on social media remained viral showing cars floating in the urban flood after the rainfall that lashed Islamabad and Rawalpindi for hours.  

Office of the Deputy Commissioner Islamabad said in a message that “Cloudburst in Islamabad has caused flooding I various areas”, but nearby residents have refuted this justification and claimed that the flood situation in Sector E-11 was created due to the encroachment by various unapproved Cooperative Housing Societies in E-11/2 and poor performance of their management.

A resident has opined on social media that it was a normal and scattered rainfall for Islamabad, but administration is hiding own failure (of ill urban planning and encroachment) by calling it a cloudburst. Another said “it rained for 8 hours and was 107 mm only, about half of what happened in Karachi last year,” but turned it into a disaster for all.

Altering Natural Drainage in Sector E-11

Satellite images taken in 2002 and now confirmed alternation on a natural drainage system in E-11 by the developers of the housing society. The natural drain starts from the Margalla Hills after crossing sector D-12 and E-12 before enters E-11. It exists at one end of the sector while the homes are built across the road.  In D-12 and E-12, the width of the drain is seemingly over 70 feet, but all of sudden, when it enters E-11, it squeezes down to 15 to 18 feet. Also, initially it was in zigzag shape but in 2012 its alignment was made straight by the society.

Sector E-11 is located in the heart of the city but dotted with unauthorized high-rise buildings and several illegal cooperative housing schemes. The natural drainage was also encroached upon by shopping plazas and homes in a ‘planned’ CDA designated area.  The waste was being dumped in the tributaries and when water levels rose, the clogged and encroached upon drainage system gave way.  People are sure that weak regulatory check on housing societies by the Islamabad Capital Authority and district administration was the cause of the tragic incident in E-11.

Capital Development Authority’ Failure

The Sector E-11 is a fairly new development and goes to show how poor our city planning really is. The area was actually allotted for land acquisition affectees of F-11 and F-12, but later on sold to private developers who built five housing schemes in the sectors. These are Medical Cooperative, Federation Cooperative, Federal Services Society, Police Foundation and Multi-Professional Housing Society. Among them the Medical, Federation and Services cooperative housing schemes did not have the approved layout plan and the CDA’s no objection certificate, as disclosed by sources in the civic agency. They said the layout plan of Medical Housing Scheme was approved, but due to violations it was cancelled many years ago.

Yet the CDA after cancelling the layout plan did not take any action to stop growth of the scheme, whereas office of registrar, Cooperative Housing Society of ICT also failed to take any action.

What’s Next ?

Federal Minister for Planning, Development and Special Initiatives Asad Umar, who is also a local MNA, has recently presided over a meeting to discuss all legal and illegal constructions on storm drains in E-11 besides other issues of housing societies and their solutions. According to a statement issued by the Planning Commission, the participants of the meeting were apprised that most residential societies in E-11 have constructed illegal encroachments on storm water drains which are causing obstructions in the flow of rainwater. These societies have also carried out illegal construction on green belts and play parks.

Directing the Islamabad Deputy Commissioner to identify legal and illegal constructions on all storm drains of E-11 and preparing a formal plan by next week to demolish the encroachments, the federal minister has remarked if the encroachments were not demolished, floods would occur in the rainy season every year and lives of the residents of the area would be in danger. 


Editorial, Infocus

(With thanks from Asif Javed for Satellite Images)

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