The video captured from an apartment window of a rocky hill collapsing on 50 cars in Gulistan-e-Jauhar shocked people in yet another disaster this monsoon in Karachi.
The disaster took place this August in Block 3 which is Scheme 36 of the Karachi Development Authority. The KDA planned it back in 1987 over an area consisting of vertical hills, which were allotted for houses and flats.
Professor (retd) Gulraiz Hamid of the University of Karachi’s Geological Department told SAMAA Digital that world over residential constructions is prohibited in such terrain. In Karachi’s case, the hilly part of Jauhar known as Murli Hills are made of soft rock, loose sand, silt and clay. It is dangerous to cut into them to build houses, especially as they are vertical.
The upper surface of the hilly area is fractured limestone so when it rains, water seeps into the surface, causing rock falls. This is exactly what happened at Javed Hill View apartments.
It does not help that blasting for the extraction of limestone was carried out by the National Cement Factory here in the mid-1970s, which made the surface weak and uneven for construction.
KDA had planned Scheme 36 in Gulistan-e-Jauhar in 1987 but updated its layout plan after 10 years. According to Master Plan Director Rafiq Ahmed, there were around 20 part plans made after 1997. A part plan is made by the Master Plan department on the recommendation and with the approval
of the authorities concerned.
The part plan involved creating plots on vacant space left over in the schemes. A KDA sub-engineer, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told SAMAA Digital that illegal carving on amenity plots, such as those for public buildings, parks and playgrounds, took place in Blocks 1, 2, 3 and 3A of Gulistan-e-Jauhar, Scheme 36 from 2003 to 2008.
These spots were converted into residential plots in the early and mid-2000s. He pointed out the locations of illegal carving of amenity plots in a layout plan of Block 3. See map. Four amenity plots are mentioned as public buildings 6, 6A and 6B which were illegally carved out for residential units. In Block 3, an ST/1 plot which was saved for a public park was also turned into a plot for residential units.
The KDA sub-engineer said all of this was done by a political party. He explained the background: The then KDA executive engineer Anwar Farooqui known as ‘Farooqui baba’ was in his position at Scheme 36’s site office for 20 years from 1997 to 2017.
“At that time, none of the KDA officers were allowed to take a stand against the illegal carving of plots, as they all knew the consequences if they said ‘no’,” he added. Farooqui retired in 2017 and was arrested in proceedings initiated by NAB in 2019 over a land scam and illegal cutting of plots in Gulistan-e-Jauhar.
The only time you can build on a vacant plot is after the Sindh Building Control Authority verifies ownership. The agency that owns the land has to be part of this decision and the layout plan has to be issued by the Master Plan department.
By this token, said SBCA Director Town Planner Ali Ghufran the residential construction at Katti Pahari is illegal and not based on any layout plan. “They do not even have approval from any land owing agency,” he added. Buying and selling land in this area continues without any legal documents.
For his part, Prof Hamid said that this is why there is a risk of disaster in the Benaras Hills or Katti Pahari as it is hilly but at a slope. In 2012, there was land sliding here in which two people were killed. He also recalled the case in which 13 people, including seven children, were killed in 2015 when rock sliding took place in Gulistan-e-Jauahar. They were unhoused families living in an open plot at the foot of the hills.
This will happen in Karachi every monsoon season, he warned. Prof Hamid recommended two precautionary measures. People should construct solid and proper retaining walls and fill the foundation with asphalt before starting construction so rain cannot enter the base of their houses. And no further houses be built in these hilly areas.