Published in 12 April 2021 14:58
Residents always insist that flooding is mainly caused by drains clogged with garbage.
KARACHI (Reuters) – Slum residents in the Pakistani city of Karachi have stopped demolition of thousands of homes by mapping flood risks from clogged waterways, offering viable solutions for other informal settlements facing the effects of climate change, urban experts say.
After unexpected torrential rains flooded much of Karachi last year, authorities said some slums would be relocated to allow the waterways to be widened, with hundreds of homes in the Manzoor Colony settlement to be demolished.
Residents who have maintained that flooding is mainly caused by drains clogged with garbage and mud, are working with a non-profit organization to map the drainage network.
“They produced their own evidence to reveal the reasons – ignored by the authorities – why the Karachi floods,” said Arif Hasan, an architect and planner who supported the mapping project.
“People believe that if these barriers are removed and waterways cleaned and maintained, flooding will not occur,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
About 12 million people out of Karachi’s 16 million inhabitants live in informal settlements, and are increasingly vulnerable as Pakistan’s largest city faces flooding that is getting worse as South Asia’s monsoon season brings extreme weather.
Karachi, Pakistan’s financial center, has a network of 550 rainwater channels that run through the city and empty into the Arabian Sea. Many are blocked by illegal construction and waste.
Authorities say they clean drains every year before the rainy season, except last year when the provincial government did not provide funds. Unusual torrential rains killed dozens of people, submerged main roads and inundated hundreds of homes.
To map the Manzoor Colony sewer, a team from the non-profit Technical Training Resource Center (TTRC) walked together with residents, photographing, tagging and mapping more than a dozen blockages.
Their map shows only about 40 houses that need to be moved to get clean water, said Mohammad Sirajuddin, head of the TTRC, who is leading the mapping project.
“The authorities say thousands of houses need to be demolished, but our map shows otherwise,” he said.
In November, residents managed to stop a planned demolition at the Manzoor Colony.
While it is not certain whether the authorities will use the community flood risk map in the future, residents now know where the choking spots are and how they can deal with the danger, Sirajuddin said.
Two other informal settlements in Karachi are being mapped, with residents – especially young people – being trained, he said, adding that the model could be replicated across the country.
These maps also generate important data on households, said Nausheen Anwar, director of the Karachi Urban Lab, a think tank.
“The maps provide a process by which consensus can be built and the involvement of all residents can be negotiated to prevent evictions and establish the basis for fair compensation and resettlement,” he said.
By 2030, more than half of Pakistan’s estimated 250 million people are expected to live in cities, compared with 36% now, according to the United Nations.
Prime Minister Imran Khan has pledged to build 5 million affordable homes within five years to address chronic shortages, with housing rights groups warning that the poorer population faces eviction as pressure on land increases.
“When youth in the settlements are trained on mapping, they better understand the risks they face,” said Sirajuddin of TTRC.
“They understand their rights, and can fight evictions.”