Total lack of governance by the government that has released its responsibilities: Karachi needs an autonomous LB system to avoid becoming a ghetto
Rain inspires poets, enriches souls, brings life to a dead and dry earth, but clouds, thunder, and light bolts also bring levels of anxiety, discomfort, and scare many Karachi people because of urban floods that turn large parts of the city into a dumping ground giant waste and electric shock due to broken cables, reflecting the lack of governance and the government that has relinquished its responsibilities. This is primarily a failure of governance and institutions from which there is no leeway without a financially independent and independent government LB system and a modern KWSB framework.
In the case of Karachi, urban flooding and waist-high water are no longer confined to old town areas or only low-lying areas but include many luxury areas, newly built roads and underpasses were inaugurated with much fanfare that turned into water tunnels or canoe zones.
Many of these have turned into terrible death traps when people or cars drift into storm drains or fall victim to broken or unexplored poles. On Sunday, once again tragically four lives were lost after 78mm of rain. This has been the average rainfall in the city since the rainy season began, but the city’s waterways cannot handle it. People who fought with vehicles in waist-high waters and left vehicles that broke down on the side of the road have now become a painful place for years.
The city has more than 550 different classification channels, but 48 are the main ones, including Gujar Lyari, Orangi and Mehmoodabad nullahs. Thinking as if time is a static reality, years of neglect and neglect to replace damaged, rusty, and inadequate sewerage disposal lines to meet the needs of densely populated cities, add to the misery of the population in almost every rainy season, signaling a failure in the system governance and institutional failure.
Anticipatory action has never been a hallmark of our provincial government or the release of funds on time to stop a storm blockage, months before the rainy season arrives, which can provide leeway for city dwellers. But that did not happen despite a warning from the Met Dept that rain caused chaotic urban flooding – a phenomenon that must now be endured by the world as climate change turns violent, ferocious and unpredictable and intense every year. The failure to drain the rain ironically enough has smuggled Karachi into one of the most uninhabitable cities in the world, ranked 136th on the list – only succeeding better than Damascus in Syria, Lagos in Nigeria, Dhaka in Bangladesh and Tripoli in Libya. This has a very serious impact on foreign business, trade and investment to continue flowing into the city. Karachi is now at high risk of natural disasters and human activity and is one of the most disaster-prone districts in Pakistan. The city has an old, overloaded, and inadequate sewerage system that requires major investments in rehabilitation, network expansion, distribution networks and large pumping stations, sewerage projects, and revival of a larger sewage plan from Karachi, S III. It was revised and approved by ECNEC at Rs36, 11 billion in 2018 and includes the Lyari river region and the Malir river region.
But at the heart of it are certain tangible facts from the fractured local body system that remains literally under the thumb of the provincial government, the dysfunctional KWSB, and the KMC which has no control over the DMC, all within the greater PPP policy. a government that rejects the modification of the 18th Amendment but will reject the devolution of the Karachi LB system. As a result, the Sindh Solid Waste Management Board has not yet developed any decent ‘landfill’. KWSB and KMC and the City District Corporation (DMC) should manage the rainwater channel, but the performance is still much to be desired. They are financially dependent on the provincial government, which provides partisan assistance which is often delayed and is only sufficient for non-development expenses such as salary payments. After General Musharraf’s development in Karachi, the last time a large amount of money was forced out of the provincial treasury was that of CJP Saqib Nisar who took suo motu notifications to secure a budget to clear clogged drains, storm drains and eliminate encroachment from them. But it is an ad-hoc system. 2019 is another disaster because CJP Nisar has returned and now we are waiting for the next season’s spells with increasing anxiety.
The city needs a LB system that is highly evolved and autonomous and accountable. Radical improvements are needed in updating the Provincial Finance Commission and making it available to local governments. Likewise, the modernization of the Urban Immovable Property Tax system and its collection system needs to be utilized to help the city manage some of its basic problems.
Although this city needs a lot to be made livable and competitive in terms of megapolis, but to manage wastewater, KWSB must be left to become an autonomous entity that is managed professionally.
This should work to rehabilitate sewerage networks, large pumping stations, and the development of treatment plants. But nothing is effectively possible if it remains under the Sindh government, it must be allowed to operate independently such as national and global practices.
Without a financially autonomous city LB system, Karachi is likely to increasingly slip up in living standards and become the world’s largest urban ghetto.