Architects and Sindh government disagree over nature of work
A plan to clean one of Karachi’s major stormwater channels, Nehr-e-Khayyam in Clifton, has stalled two years because the Sindh government and NGOs are accusing each other of delays.
Nehr-e-Khayyam is about 10 feet deep and one kilometer long and runs from the Clifton underpass to Boat Basin in a real estate hotspot. It is full of sewage and garbage from Gizri and adjacent areas even though its original job was to take rainwater into the sea.
It was 150 feet wide, but encroachments on its banks have reduced it to 60 feet. Plots were carved out of it and it took a Supreme Court order in 2018 to stop further destruction.
In 2019, PANI and the government signed an agreement to get it done in three years. The NGO was going to produce greenery on both sides of the water channel, develop a park and adopt it for thirty years.
The plan was to sink 20-feet-wide and eight-foot-long box drains which would be injected with fresh water. Reed beds would purify the water and septic tanks would be installed so that ultimately the water would be clean enough to turn the channel into a place for picnics and run a boat service.
PANI divided it into 15 sections and involved architects to design them.
Spearheading the project was architect Shahid Abdulla, who now says that the authorities did not want to execute the plan in reality and did not want anyone else to do it either.
“Aab phoonk, hawa nikal gai hay,” he said. Due to coronavirus and a delay, energy levels have gone down. “I feel Sindh CM Murad Ali Shah wants to develop Karachi and its recreational sites, but I think their hands are tied. How? I don’t know.”
The sticking point is the diversion of sewage. PANI says the Sindh government had to do it by constructing a culvert, according to their agreement. But the work has not started yet.
“I had a meeting in Ramazan with Advisor Murtaza Wahab and the KWSB MD over the matter of diverting sewage water away from the nehr,” he said. During the meeting, the MD whispered in the ears of Muratza Wahab about where they would get the money to do it. Wahab replied that they would discuss it with the CM. Abdulla never heard back.
And so, the project has been stalled for two years. There is also a fear that NAB will swoop in on anyone who spends money on helping get the work done. When Abdulla gathered together 15 Karachi architects and persuaded them to help revamp Nehr-e-Khayyam, they estimated it would take Rs1 billion. PANI lined up 20 companies who were ready to contribute Rs50million each over three years.
For its part, the Sindh government says it never stopped PANI from going ahead since the project is even approved by the Cabinet. It says that the Sindh government’s only job was to divert sewage, which would take Rs350 million. Local Government Minister Nasir Hussain Shah even said that they will set aside Rs500 million for Nehr-e-Khayyam in the next budget.
Shahid Abdulla says, however, that it is not possible for the architects to start work if the sewage is not stopped. It takes time to dry the land before you develop it. They can’t start work unless that happens.