Choked drains cast doubts over govt’s rain emergency measures in Karachi

KARACHI: While the Sindh and municipal administrations have claimed to have been taking emergency measures to meet any eventuality in view of the recent forecast of heavy rains and urban flooding, most of the city’s storm-water drains and sewers have literally become dustbins with tonnes of garbage dumped into them, it emerged on Tuesday.

The fresh Met Office rain forecast that may begin from Aug 9 and also cause urban flooding triggered panic among the people of Karachi who saw the city’s fragile municipal and civic infrastructure crumbling during the first spell of rains last week.

Sources in the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC) and city administration apprehended that the situation could be worse in case of heavy rains this time as the city was now generating more garbage due to upcoming Eidul Azha.

The Met Office issues forecast for rains, urban flooding from Friday

They said that the garbage had already played havoc with people in the city during the last spell of monsoon rains as the ponds and puddles of stagnant rainwater could be still seen in some parts of the city, especially in the low-lying areas.

The sources said that the rainwater choked almost all 38 storm-water drains and over 300 small drains in the last spell of rains, crippling the system that was supposed to take water away from the roads and streets.

SSWMB blamed for choked drains

City Mayor Wasim Akhtar blamed the Sindh Solid Waste Management Board (SSWMB) for choking of storm-water drains and sewers as it failed to efficiently manage the disposal of garbage, which was being chucked into the pathways meant to drain out rainwater and sewage.

He said that SSWMB miserably failed to ensure removal of garbage in a timely manner and the dumping of garbage in the storm-water drains and nullahs created havoc.

The mayor said that unfortunately only about 30 per cent of the solid waste generated daily in the city reached the designated landfills and remaining was thrown into the storm-water drains due to the absence of an appropriate mechanism by the SSWMB.

He said that the storm-water drains, which were or are being cleaned by the municipal government, had been filled with garbage due to continuous dumping of refuse in them.

The mayor said that all drains in Karachi were being used as sewerage drains and had no capacity to drain storm water.

SSWMB Managing Director A.D. Sanjani could not be reached despite repeated attempts. He did not furnish replies to the queries sent to him directly and through his media coordinator.

The city’s municipal solid waste management was extricated from the KMC by the provincial government in 2014 through the Sindh Solid Waste Management Board Act 2013, which was adopted by the Sindh Assembly.

The SSWMB had contracted out garbage collection, taking it to the landfills, as well as sweeping streets, to two Chinese companies for four of the six districts of Karachi for a period of seven years.

The garbage collection and disposal of districts Central and Korangi is being carried out by their respective district municipal corporations.

SSWMB officials claimed that of the nearly 15,000 tonnes of garbage thrown out daily by residents, nearly 70pc reaches two landfills of Karachi, while the rest remains strewn around the city.

They said that much of the garbage could be seen in dumps, alleyways, open spaces, roadsides, parks and grounds.

Unsatisfactory performance of Chinese firms

Insiders in SSWMB told Dawn that the Chinese firms did not perform as per standards set in their contract agreement as they failed to bring required machinery and gear for solid waste management.

They said that the door-to-door component of front-end collection of solid municipal waste was the core item of the contract with the Chinese firms which never performed the job.

The insiders said that the contracting firms were required to do extensive and unceasing operations to remove garbage from the doorsteps of people and sweeping of main roads, streets, lanes, footpaths and open spaces, and to bring the garbage to the dustbins for further disposal to the Jam Chakro landfill, some 30-35 kilometres from the city’s centre.

The sources said that the machinery, vehicles, equipment, containers and bins were far less than the agreement with the contractors.

They said that earlier the collection of garbage and its disposal to the landfill site was carried out by KMC through its staff and machinery.

The sources said that the KMC also awarded garbage collection and disposal contracts to private local contractors before the job was assigned to the SSWMB.

They said that the KMC used to pay Rs500 to Rs700 per tonne to the contractor for collecting and taking garbage to the landfill sites. The SSWMB is paying US$28 per tonne to the Chinese firms. The price also includes $11 for sweeping.

Besides, garbage was taken to the landfill sites directly from the dumps by local contractors, while the Chinese firm established a garbage station in the middle of each district where garbage is taken and dumped before being carried to the landfill sites.

Urban flooding forecast

According to the Met Office, a well-marked monsoon low pressure system formed over north Bay of Bengal and its adjoining areas, is likely to move westwards and may reach over Indian Gujarat region around morning of Aug 9.

It said that widespread rains/wind and thunderstorm was expected in Mirpurkhas, Thatta, Hyderabad, Karachi, Shaheed Benazirabad divisions under the influence of this system from Friday evening to Monday morning.

Scattered rains/wind and thunderstorm is also expected in Zhob, Kalat, Sibbi, Nasirabad, Makran, Sukkur and Larkana divisions during the period.

The Met office also noted that heavy falls might generate urban flooding in Karachi, Thatta and Hyderabad divisions on Friday night to Sunday, advising all authorities to remain alert and take precautionary measures during the forecast period.

 

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