KARACHI: Initially it was the flood in the Malir River caused by rain and now the construction of the Malir Toll Road – there seems to be no end to the suffering of the poor in Samoo Goth.
Although unprecedented rains and urban flooding in August last year brought life to a halt everywhere in Karachi, Samoo Goth, a village situated near the Malir River, was among the city’s most affected areas.
Heavy rain caused the Malir River embankment (embankment) to burst, resulting in the Samoo Goth being flooded with four to five feet of water, along with other villages and neighborhoods located on the riverbank.
The residents were left with only the clothes on their bodies while everything in their homes was lost. They returned after spending two months or more in relief camps, but the government did not provide them with any rehabilitation or relief assistance. During a visit to Samoo Goth it was observed that the floods had destroyed all farms, land and gardens, destroying the residents’ only source of livelihood: farming and clearing crops.
Chaghi, a 58 year old widow, lives with her divorced daughter and a mentally ill son. He has lived in the village since childhood. “I don’t even remember when my parents came here during my childhood. I got married and spent my whole life here, ”he said.
He mourned his house and all of its contents were lost in the flood. “My goats, wood, crockery, and everything else was washed away by the flood waters. For the poor there is no justice here. Now I only seek rehabilitation and help from God. “
Amina Malah, a former member of the village council from the area, said the homes and livelihoods of 4,000 Samoo Goths were taken because of the flood. “Most of the families in the village lost their CNIC [computerised national identity cards] during the flood. “
Shaista Rashid, another resident, said when she recalled her suffering that her stone house was located by the river. “When the river floods, the walls come down and everything is taken up by the water.” he says.
She could only save her two children, and being two months pregnant at that time, it was difficult for her to run. She said her husband had gone looking for work, so other villagers helped her move to a safe place.
Shaista was also forced to stay in the relief camp for several weeks. “When we asked about rehabilitation, the authorities told us that we could take our tents home. That’s the only aid from the government, “he said. Her husband has now set up a tent in the village, and they have made it their permanent home.
Sami Memon, a journalist covering the rural area of Malir, said the dam on the river was damaged by the flood, affecting all nearby areas, villages, farms and land.
“The damage was not due to nature but due to mismanagement on the part of the government. No rehabilitation plans were developed for those affected by the floods. “
Saleem Baloch, MPA of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) from the region, admitted that the government has provided assistance to residents during floods.
“But people then come back home to get on with their own lives. We are still working to provide them with the compensation announced by the government after the flood. “
He said, to prevent future flooding, the government was taking several big steps. “First, we will remove all encroachment to clear the flow, because some people live in the Malir River, which affects its natural flow.”
But now the residents of Samoo Goth can’t sleep because of another problem: the construction of the Malir Toll Road, which PPP chief Bilawal Bhutto Zardari calls “the largest civilian infrastructure project ever undertaken by any provincial government in Pakistan under a public-private partnership”.
The Malir Expressway will be built as a 38.5-kilometer controllable high-speed expressway to connect central Karachi to the M-9, the highway between Karachi and Hyderabad.
However, residents of Samoo Goth and about a dozen other villages fear the toll road construction will displace thousands of families when their homes and land are demolished.
Memon said the construction of the Malir Toll Road could bring more bad news. He explained that the contents of the two main rainwater channels, Sukhan and Thado, fell into the Malir River which flows into the sea.
“If a toll road disrupts the natural flow of water in a river, it could cause more damage if another flood-like situation arises in the future.”
Zahid Farooq, co-director of the Urban Resource Center, claims that the environmental impact assessment of toll road projects, which is mandatory for every major project, has not been carried out.
“No designs are shared with the local community; no resettlement plan is shared with local people who will be affected, as 1,996 people will be affected by the Malir Toll Road project. “
As Lahore did with the Ravi River, conserving water in wells and serving the land by building walls every few kilometers, the same can be done with the Malir River, he advised.
Baloch said the Sindh government never intended to make people homeless or unemployed. “Throughout our history, we have never displaced people from their homes without proper compensation or we have not downsized the employment sector,” he claims.