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DHA residents demand Clifton cantt board CEO resign

Entire neighbourhood flooded due to lack of proper drains

SAMAA | and - Posted: Aug 31, 2020 | Last Updated: 5 months ago
SAMAA | and
Posted: Aug 31, 2020 | Last Updated: 5 months ago

Residents of DHA gathered inside the Cantonment Board Clifton office in Karachi to protest the lack of services, master planning, storm water drains that function and the authority’s response during the monsoon flooding crisis that destroyed property.

"We won't pay any more taxes," chant the protesters. "Get Ahmed Chinoy out!" This is the biggest protest this office has seen in years.

Ahmed Chinoy is not the CEO of the CBC, Saleem Hassan Wattoo is. He was appointed two weeks ago.

The CEO arrived at the CBC office at around 2:10pm but left without speaking. Three protesters have been asked to come inside the office to speak to the CEO. They allowed some women to enter the building but didn't let them attend the meeting.

One protester said the meeting was being attended by "DIGs". The South SSP and DIG are both attending the meeting.

Some protesters brought trash bags and began picking up litter.

Protesters passed around a mic with a speaker to the protesters so that they could share this story. One protester said that 500 people have gathered here yet nothing is being done. "We need at least 5,000 people here for our issues to be resolved."

A policemen standing next to him smirked and said “haan, haan sahe hai”. This angered another protester who said "you should be ashamed of making fun of our misery" and a near brawl-like situation arose. Other protesters tried to calm things done by reiterating “hum parhe likhe log hai. [we are educated people] They are trying to provoke us. We have to resist”.

They said that they were angry that the authority had not created or maintained a proper civic infrastructure for residents, despite collecting taxes. They want an audit of current and past accounts of the CBC and transparent disclosure to residents.

They also pressed for accountability on the money spent on “a totally non-functioning drainage system made in the middle of the roads”.

Armina Zaman, a resident of DHA Phase-I said she lives in a 1,000 square-yard plot but her area looks like a slum. " What do DHA and the army do?" she asked. She said they have gone seven days without electricity or water.
"We are paying Rs250,000 a year to CBC in terms of water tax, cleanliness tax, conservancy tax, property tax and sewerage tax. They should compare their performance with Lahore DHA," she said. "They are corrupt and the CBC is an epicentre of corruption. It is like an occupied territory where no one ready to listen the issues of residents."

Protester Shagufta Ashraf said DHA officers should be held accountable like politicians. "Our houses are sunk, who is responsible for this? What type of mafia is working in DHA and CBC?"

She said she pays Rs200,000 in tax every year on her 700 square-yard house.

Irfan Lakyari, a resident of Bukhari commercial, said he has been living in the area for the past 12 years. Collected rainwater has been stagnant in the area for the past five days.

"How has DHA made drains in the middle of the road? What type of town planning have they done? I am paying Rs75,000 per year in tax to the CBC for my 1,800 square-foot apartment."

He said the residents also paid for the construction of drains via tax to DHA. "How are DHA and CBC officers travelling in cars worth millions?" he questioned.

"They are collecting tax of Singapore-level services and giving the services of Lyari to residents," said Muhammad Yahya, a resident of Phase- IV.

"I am paying Rs200,000 in tax annually to the CBC in terms of water, sewerage, conservancy, sanitation and property tax. We have given refurbishment charges of Rs150,000 per house to the DHA in 2007 for laying down drainage system in the area," he added.

Shabbir Ahmed, a resident of Phase-VII, said he had been living here for the past 18 years. I was registering my complaint on the CBCare app during the rains five days ago regarding sewerage issue but the complaint is not resolved yet and they showed the status that it has been resolved, he said.

Sharfuddin Memon, president of the Defence Society Resident Association, said DHA and CBC are not utilising taxes on laying down proper infrastructure. There are 70,000 house in Defence altogether and they are all paying taxes to the CBC, he said.

They are paying property tax, water and sewerage tax and conservancy tax to CBC, but where has this money gone, he asked. There has been no maintenance or repairing of storm water drains till 2007, he added.

Even the Gizri SHO, Muhammad Perwaiz, who was standing at the CBC office to restrict protesters from entering, has water in his house. He lives in DHA Phase-I.

He says the basement of his house has been filled with rainwater for five days. "No CBC officials came to resolve the issue. I recently paid Rs46,000 to CBC in different taxes," he told SAMAA Digital.

A female protester said that Khayaban-e-Bukhari, Khayaban-e-Nishat, Khayaban-e-Muslim and Khayaban-e-Shaheen are in bad condition after the rain. No CBC or DHA team visited the areas to resolve the issues, she said, adding that the drainage system should be repaired.

"If we carry out any modification or renovation in our houses, the DHA officials reach and ask about the nature of construction and in this case they even did not pay a single visit to our area," she complained. They impose fines and penalties for violating building plans but who will take responsibility for this situation, she asked.

DHA’s storm water drains were designed in 2004-05 and constructed at a cost of Rs3 billion, by digging up a strip of the road and covering it with concrete slabs with slits. This solution was more like an afterthought for one of Karachi’s largest, most expensive real estate tracts. The concrete crumbles and create an uneven surface for vehicles. These drains are supposed to channel rain water to the sea, but their network is not extensive enough to handle a monsoon.

Muhammad Salman, another resident of DHA Phase V said the negligence by DHA and CBC was 20 years old.

"There is apathy for Karachi every where and from every department for the last several years," Salman said, adding that Karachi is weeping, but no one cares. Even the President of Pakistan is from this constituency, he said.

This is a higher tax payer constituency. "We all are paying water tax, property tax and other taxes on time, but in response we are purchasing water tankers of Rs500 each," he said.

Millions of rupees worth of belongings of the residents have been destroyed in the rains. "Who will be responsible for this loss?" he asked.

After DHA constructed these box drains, they were handed over for maintenance to the Cantonment Board Clifton in 2008. “The Rs3 billion was spend on proper channelization of 60% of storm water drains and the DHA administration decided to complete the remaining work at a later stage,” said an officer, who could not be named as they are not permitted to speak to the media.

The monsoon flooding led to devastation in DHA. The residents have demanded damages be awarded to those residents who have been affected by the clogged drains and gutter lines. They want the broken roads, drainage and sewerage lines to be immediately fixed and adequate water supplies to be provided.

In the meantime, DHA started tweeting. “DHA Storm Water Drain - Myth and Reality: DHA Storm water drain was constructed in 2007 with planning consideration of last 100 years precipitation record of Karachi (207 mm rain in 24 hrs 1977).”

It went on to add: “Much before the onset of ongoing monsoon season complete desilting and cleaning of drain was carried out. Perhaps nature had greater challenge for us, as against our sustenance capacity of 207 mm rain in 24 hrs the current spell was 235 mm in 12 hrs (more than double).”

However, environmentalist Saquib Ejaz Hussain pointed out: "The storm water drainage system was designed for 207mm rainfall in 24 hours whereas the August 27 rain was 235mm in 12 hours, more than double the design capacity. It is high time that our planners consider the extremes in weather patterns and implement climate resilient Infrastructure for Karachi."

Architect Arif Belgaumi additionally pointed out another point that DHA got wrong about desilting: "This is factually incorrect. The drains were not desilted in time. They were already full of water. In many cases the drains cannot discharge because the outfall drain has a higher level. That's what's happening now, we are waiting for the water level to go down."

Hotels such as the Avari Towers and Beach Luxury are full after the spell of rains. One resident of DHA told SAMAA Digital that he moved to the Pearl Continental because there was no gas, electricity or clean water at his house. Rainwater entered the water tank, contaminating the water.

CBC protest ends

The protest ended around 5:30. But with little to no conclusion. The CBC CEO made some promises, but refused to give any written assurances or sign any agreement over the CBC letterhead.

A lady in the delegation told SAMAA Digital the CBC CEO says it will take three days to drain out all accumulated rain water from houses and road.

"We have taken back our demand for the resignation of the CEO as he took charge two months ago," he said.

The CEO has agreed to de-watering and fumigation of houses and roads within three days. He has not, however, given any written assurance for anything.

The history of DHA

DHA started out as the Pakistan Defence Officers’ Cooperative Housing Society (PDOCHS). The PDOCHS started as a normal cooperative housing society that was registered under the 1860 Societies Act, and was part of the welfare received by retired army officers.

At the end of the 1970s development was slow and the society’s financial situation was deteriorating. In order to avert a crisis, the then military dictator Zia-ul-Haq, dissolved PDOCHS through an order and formed DHA as an autonomous new authority with extensive development rights. The Clifton Cantonment was also established as part of this process, with the express purpose and mandate of looking after and maintaining the DHA, according to a research paper by Arif Hasan, Noman Ahmed, Mansoor Raza, Asiya Sadiq, Saeed Ud Din Ahmed and Moizza B Sarwar for the IIED.

The city’s newest cantonment was established with very different objectives from those set up by the British, and has evolved from a civilian-controlled organisation to an army-controlled authority whose administration is headed by a serving brigadier. DHA has its own development plans, strategies and by-laws, and is not bound to follow decisions made by the city administration. Like other cantonments, it can share, consult with and receive advice from city government but is not bound to follow its advice.

DHA is one of the largest land stakeholders in Karachi, not only because it holds 5% of all the land in the city, but because this land is located in prime sites.

It recently acquired an additional 5,080 hectares to develop DHA City. Through the power of the army, the DHA and its affiliated cantonments have become major players in land politics, leading to land and property speculation for and by the elite, according to the paper.

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