The seventy-year-old Salamat Masih was struck by irony when he realized a few days ago that the same Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC) he had served his entire life as a sweeper would destroy everything he owned – his 60 square meters. house on the edge of the mighty city of Gujjar Nullah.
The corporation had been tasked with widen the rainwater channel to its original shape and width, along with the construction of a 30-foot-wide road on either side of the nullah, for which dozens of abadis had to be destroyed.
Gujjar Nullah is a natural channel in the city starting from New Karachi and ending at the Chuna Depot in the Haji Mureed Goth, where it falls into the Lyari River. The original length of the Prophet was 13 kilometers and 210 feet wide.
According to KMC’s senior anti-encroachment director Bashir Siddiqui, some 4,000 houses and commercial units will be demolished around the sewers, for which residents will be paid a two-year rent by the Sindh government.
However, still and other residents in the area knew nothing about the two years’ compensation. “We want houses like those affected by the Lyari Toll Road to be provided,” said Masih.
Poor Christian residents of the many slum settlements punctuated along natural channels hold special prayers on Sunday, February 14, for their livelihoods and shelter, as companies, as it has been for many years, approach to destroying their homes , again with renewed vigor.
The vice president of the minority wing of Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), Samuel Nazir, who also served as a member of the city council from 2001 to 2005, is a resident of Sadiq Nagar Tayyabad, who is the eternal katchi of the Christian community at bank nullah. On the other side of the nullah is the Kausar Niazi Colony.
Apart from these two settlements, Nazir shared with The News on Sunday, members of the Christian community around Gujjar Nullah were present at Godhra Camp, FC Area, Area C (Hassan Colony) and Nazimabad No.2.
In front of Darbar-e-Sultani in FB Area, a narrow but long alley leads to Sadiq Nagar Tayyabad. Panaflex of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and JI hanging from poles wishing the Christian community ‘Merry Christmas’. “Unfortunately no political party has come to help us,” complained Mashi’s wife, Khalida.
Green, red and blue markings, spray-painted, can be seen on the walls around the colony. In some homes, authorities have incised 16 percent, and in some others 50 percent, indicating how much of the structure will be demolished. Pointing at the signs, Nazir laughed sarcastically, “How much will be left to live if 16 or 50 percent of 60 square yards are destroyed?”
Further into the colony, the smell of sewage pouring into Gujjar Nullah enveloped the area. The houses were still decorated with stars, flags, banners and ropes as if it was Christmas yesterday. Children can be heard singing hymns to the beat of the dhol in church from a distance.
Raj Nadeem, 15, is engrossed in playing PUBG outside his home with his friends, apparently barely bothered by the impending demolition of the colony he lives in. She cares more about the Santa Claus graffiti she paints on her little border wall. houses, which were slightly erased by the mark of encroachment by corporations.
Right in front of Santa’s face, the officers had marked 100 percent, which meant his entire house would be torn down. “It took us four days to paint Santa,” he said.
A dangling sword
After every six months, several government agencies come to survey and mark the houses in the colony, Khalida said.
“Imagine how you would feel if the government team drew a red arrow on the border wall of your house and told you it had to be destroyed. We go through the same trials every few months. The sword is always hanging above our heads. “
Meanwhile, Still distributing lease documents issued by the City Government of Karachi Regency (CDGK) which reads ‘Leases Holding Rights through Unauthorized Ownership Regulations in Katchi Abadis Karachi’.
In 2005, said Nazir, through the resolution of the court hall, the settlement had already been regulated. “Now the authorities can’t call us encroachment.”
Efforts to clear Gujjar Nullah of all kinds of encroachment begin each year before the rainy season, compliant with a lot of fanfare, but end halfway due to lack of funds and sometimes indifference from the provincial government.
The PPP and Sindh leadership of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement and the local government in Karachi have been very interested in starting the project since 2007. Back in 2007, the city government announced that it would start the distribution of the 13.5 kilometer long Gujjar Nullah. after the elimination of encroachment. The then Karachi Nazim, Syed Mustafa Kamal, had approved the project at an estimated cost of Rs 2.7 billion.
Every year, numbers of new houses to be demolished around the waterways appear. Previously, in 2015, the government claimed that more than 30,000 houses had to be demolished and then the number was reduced to 10,000, and this year, around 4,000 houses have been marked.
In 2015, the Sindh government created the Gujjar Nullah Resettlement Project at a cost of Rs18 billion, the chief engineer of which was Asadullah Shah. The PC-1 project never seemed approved. Eighty percent of the project cost then goes to the resettlement of the people who will be affected.
The same activities were repeated halfheartedly in 2016 and 2017, and no resettlement could occur or encroachment could not be eliminated.
In 2018, former mayor Wasim Akhtar held a groundbreaking ceremony for a project called ‘Gujjar Nullah Revamp Including Service Roads’ at a cost of Rs12.5 billion. This project fell victim to underfunding and poor planning, as there were no plans to relocate settlements.
To date, the project’s inauguration stone, with the name Akhtar on it, stands on the Haji Mureed Goth, where the nullah meets the Lyari River. However, except for the foundation stone to claim credit and media statements to appease the masses, heaps of rubbish strewn at the scene, with stray dogs lying around basking in the sun, paint a picture beyond the government’s deep interest in the project. .
Without a union
The biggest problem with the settlements around Gujjar Nullah is the lack of unity.
According to the Secretary General of the Awami Labor Party, Khurram Ali Nayyar, because of the absence of unions and associations, such an administrative crisis has occurred in the city. “There are many minorities and Bengali communities around Gujjar Nullah, who are the most vulnerable,” he explained, adding that the government did not appear ready to protect their interests.
It is critical to ascertain the value of the land around the construction work taking place in the city, according to city planner and researcher Muhammad Tauheed, who is also associated with the Karachi City Lab at the Institute of Business Administration.
If roads are built on both sides of Gujjar Nullah and Manzoor Colony Nullah, the value of land, he said, will increase dramatically and the poor will slowly be eliminated.
When asked about compensation, Tauheed replied that people are not even aware that they are being paid. Nayyar said, until something is written, there is no legal value.
According to the Gujjar Nullah renovation plan, prepared by NED University, the canal will be widened to at least 60 feet, while at some points to 70 to 80 feet. Roads about 30 feet wide will also be constructed on both sides of the rainwater channels.
In the first phase of its ongoing anti-encroachment operation, KMC has eliminated all types of soft encroachment, which include iron grills, kiosks, teahouses, kiosks, wheelbarrows, cattle ranches, wood sheds and lapak. The second phase, in which the house has to be demolished, is expected to start this week.