A plan by 16 architects to revamp Clifton’s Nehr-e-Khayyam nullah into a recreational spot for Karachi has become one of the more recent but unlikely victims of ‘NAB’.
Leading architect Shahid Abdulla heads the People & Nature Initiative (PANI), which had wanted to give the “dirty sewer” a new look. But it has decided to discontinue the project due to what he said was a lack of interest from the Sindh government.
“I am completely fed up with the lethargic approach of the authorities,” said Abdulla. “Now I have decided to close down the plan.”
For his part, Local Government Minister Saeed Ghani confirmed that the provincial government has asked the NGO to stop working as in recent days every government officer is afraid of NAB inquiries, even if they do work in the larger interest of the people. He said, however, that they believed that the team of architects was thorough professionals. “We are on the project and will approve it through the Sindh Cabinet and then start working on it,” he said, adding that the chief minister has held several meetings.
Abdulla told Samaa Digital that for the last 20 years some well-known architects had wanted to make Nehr-e-Khayyam a waterway, as it was a gift of nature for Karachi. The channel was built during the Raj and was one of Clifton’s major lungs, as the late Ardeshir Cowasjee had described it.
The architects had decided in 2016 to work on restoring it and KMC Mayor Waseem Akhtar had assured support. The plan was to make 20-foot wide and 8-foot long box drains beside the nehr to inject fresh water into the channel. They wanted to run boats on it, build seating areas and greenery around it. The team had also planned to clean up the sewage by setting up septic tanks and reed beds to purify the supply entering through the box drains.
The one-kilometer long channel was divided into 15 to 16 sections roughly 250 to 300 feet each, with each section designed by one architect. It would have cost Rs1 billion and the investment would have come from PANI and the architects’ companies.
Since 2010 the nehr has been eyed as prime real estate. It is 150 feet wide, but encroachments have reduced it to 60 feet. Sewerage from Gizri and adjacent localities enter it. Plots were carved out of its banks illegally in connivance of the then officers of the Karachi/Sindh Building Control Authority and Karachi Development Authority. It got so bad that by 2018, the Supreme Court was ordering for a building constructed on its left bank to be torn down.
Abdulla says that all their efforts have gone in vain because of delays from the Sindh government and Karachi Water & Sewerage Board even though they were not even putting any money into the project. He added that millions of rupees and the valuable time of professional architects have gone to waste as the Sindh government has signaled they have to stop the ongoing restoration work.
PANI was set up by Jameel Yousuf, Amer Maqbool, Muhammad Rajpar, Maqsood Ismail, Akeel Bilgrami, Shahid Abdulla, Ali Akbar, Tariq Qaiser, Yawar Jilani, Mahboob Khan, Khadija-tul-Kubra, Moyena Niazi, Gibran Mir of Circuit, Yunas Sheikh, Rashid Usmani, Abid Bengali, Aref Cheval, Aziz Memon, Rukhsana Saleem and Khalid Mahmood. They had hoped to work on the 4,000mgd of raw, untreated sewage that is dumped into Karachi’s creeks, rivers and sea.