As rains lash across Sindh, Karachi has once again been thrown into disarray. Heaps of garbage continue to pile up on the streets, gutters are overflowing and people keep falling ill because of the abysmal hygiene situation.
“Karachi has been orphaned and abandoned. Once it was considered the cleanest city of Asia. Now it is the sixth most unlivable city in the world, a city that nobody is willing to own or take care of,” said Nargis Rahman, the chairperson of Pakistan Women’s Foundation for Peace, at a press conference at the Karachi Press Club on Friday.
Rahman, along with speakers from the medical and legal community, lamented the state of affairs in the city and urged people to take matters in their own hands. They condemned politicians using harsh terms and decried their “childish blame games”.
“This statement, ‘we have done our best’ is as nauseating as the smell that comes out of the trash and gutters of the city,” said Rahman, referring to the bickering among local, provincial and federal government officials over the administrative issues of the metropolis.
“Where is the Sindh Environmental Protection Agency?” asked Rahman.
SEPA was created after the Sindh Environmental Protection Act of 2014 to safeguard and promote the environment. It has so far not collaborated with any other agencies or stakeholders to fix the disastrous issues the monsoon season has unleashed. “We don’t have a rainwater harvesting system either which could mitigate the effects of urban flooding,” she said.
Rahman explained the Karachi Citizens Forum had been established in coordination with the Pakistan Medical Association, judges, advocates and people from Lyari, Baldia and North Nazimabad in light of the crisis in the city. She said that one-off programmes and contingency measures could not be relied on to yield long-lasting results.
“Work is needs to be done on a daily basis. What is also alarming is that we’ve asked for another loan from the World Bank,” said Rahman.
Other suggestions included drafting a Karachi charter to engage with all stakeholders.
“A Karachi charter should be established with three main stakeholders: the citizens, agencies and political parties. The commissioner should take an active role,” said Dr Minhaj Qidwai of the Sindh Healthcare Commission.
The worsening healthcare crisis was also highlighted.
“As many as 300,000 people have been infected by water-borne diseases. Of them, 120,000 are children under the age of five. 65% of the disease burden can be eliminated with clean water supply. Prevention is better than cure but no work has been done on prevention in Pakistan,” said Dr Qaisar Sajjad Secretary General, Pakistan Medical Association.
“There is no virology lab in Pakistan. High blood pressure and heart problems are increasing because of the issues of the city. My message to the public is to make systems in neighbourhoods, such as galli committees, to tackle issues.”
A former chief justice of the Sindh High Court, Justice (retd) Shaiq Usmani said the government will not work until they forced to by the law. “We’ve made a lot of JITs. Now it’s time for a Joint Action Team to be made that follows the orders of the Supreme Court. File a petition in the Supreme Court. I can help with that,” he said.