Serious flaws in infrastructure, ineffective implementation of relevant laws and lack of awareness among people on Wednesday were cited for most of the 1,100 lives lost last year in road accidents in the city.
The data was shared by an official, who is running a key project to monitor different aspects of road accidents and advise measures to remove flaws, during an interactive discussion at the Urban Resource Centre.
It indicated a little drop in the number of fatal accidents in 2011 as compared to previous years after the authorities concerned took certain steps though there were several areas that still remained unaddressed.
‘There is a National Transport Safety Board in the United States,’ said Syed Ameer Hussain, the project manager of the Road Traffic Injury Research & Prevention Centre.
‘We need such a body here in our country to regulate the entire system that ultimately aims at accidents prevention, infrastructure maintenance and development.’
The federal health ministry had established the Road Traffic Injury Research and Prevention Centre at the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre in 2006. A related road injury surveillance projectwas devised and initiated in collaboration with the NED University of Engineering and Technology and supported by Indus Motors.
The centre has been involved in road traffic accident data collection and analysis since September 2007, suggesting every possible measure to the government bodies and people in general through different campaigns for removal of the flaws and to ensure minimum road accident vulnerability.
During his presentation, Mr Hussain gave the details of data his centre had been collecting for almost five years and how it had helped in different capacities to remove flaws in road and traffic system as well as creating awareness among people.
He referred to some key risk factors that increased the possibilities of the fatal road accidents manifold and also sounded cautioned on the total number of deaths due to road accidents recorded officially across the country.
`We have witnessed token system by private transport and non-implementation of bus stop rules also as reasons that caused road accidents.
Use of wrong ways, sharp curves on roads, little use of indicators by motorists and helmets by riders are a few other reasons that lead to fatalities,` he added.
Mr Hussain also shared a recent report of the Punjab government Rescue 1122 citing that road accidents claimed 40 per cent of the total 160,000 killings in Punjab.
`You can imagine the level of work, dedication and importance this area requires.
But, unfortunately, we don’t find the urge that is required to handle this problem. It suggests that we don’t consider deaths due to road accidents as dangerous as through other incidents,` he added.
According to the World Health Organisation, 1.3 million people died of road accidents every year in the world and the region, where Pakistan was situated, was on the top in terms of fatalities due to road accidents, he added.
`The WHO in collaboration with the United Nations has recently launched a programme called Decade of Action for Road Safety 20112020. And the fears are high that if we don’t move with the required pace and measures to address the road accidents menace, the global number of fatalities could jump up to five million,` he said, apprehending that in that case, we would be among the major losers.
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Powered by nature: Experts discuss feasibility of solar energy for shops
About 90 per cent of shopkeepers surveyed in Urdu Bazaar said they will opt for some form of solar energy, but are reluctant to do so because of a lack of confidence in the government, Karachi Electric Supply Company (KESC) and other companies offering solar technology.
The survey was conducted as part of a paper titled “Study into the Acceptability of Alternative Energy Sources for Urdu Bazaar in Karachi”. The authors of the paper, renowned architect and chairman of the Urban Resource Centre, Arif Hasan, and Mansoor Raza, talked about their findings at a presentation organised on Wednesday 30th May 2012.
They said that the shopkeepers feel that the government will impose a ‘solar tax’ if the usage of solar energy becomes widespread and that successive regimes would keep changing policies, leading to inconvenience. Many of them also if the solar companies subsequently vanish, they would be stranded with expensive equipment that cannot be used.
Solar energy has traditionally been considered – and actually was – an expensive form of renewable energy. But in recent times, the sales tax and duty for solar panels has been removed, leaving only income tax. This has reduced the price of solar energy by at least 20 per cent, said Hasan. “The use of solar energy for pumping water would help solve huge problems that the municipal authorities are facing,” he said. “Sometimes there is no electricity and everything stops for about five or six hours. This will not occur if solar energy is used.”
Hasan said that the survey was conducted as people have proposed the use of solar energy for homes and municipal authorities, but little has been done to find out how it can be utilised in markets. Nobody has even asked shopkeepers how they feel about it, he added.
“Generators are causing health problems for shopkeepers. They complain of headaches and breathing problems,” said, Mansoor Raza.“It also affects their businesses because generators are so noisy that people avoid stores which use them. It also becomes impossible for shopkeepers to talk to each other, hear customers or speak on the telephone,” he added.
Out of the 100 shopkeepers surveyed, the highest energy consumption reported was 250 watts. This includes one telephone charging point, four energy saver light bulbs and two fans. The cost of using solar panels to generate this energy would be around Rs115,000. Four panels would be utilised and a 10 by 12 inch space would be required. This package includes energy storage capacity as well as invertors. Without these items, the cost will drop down to about Rs64,000.
The capital costs of solar energy are higher than using a UPS, generator or the services of the KESC. However, the running costs are a lot lower for solar energy and the life of the equipment is also longer than a generator or a UPS. For instance, on average, the capital cost of a generator is Rs37,500 and the running costs are about Rs5,882. It also last for about 7.5 years. On the other hand, solar panels, (with storage capacity) cost about Rs78,000 and have a running cost of Rs608. These will last for about 20 years. If the KESC’s services are used, the average billing minimum is Rs1,800 a month with zero capital costs or equipment depreciation issues.
There are four packages, ranging from 50 watts to 250 watts, which the authors have developed for the owners of stores. About 50 per cent of the surveyed shopkeepers said they would switch to solar energy because it is economical, fourteen per cent said they would do so because it is durable and sixteen per cent felt it would provide them relief from power cuts.
Technical issues that have to be taken into account include the weather pattern of an area where solar panels are installed and the loss of power if energy is being transmitted to the ground floors from the roof of a tall building. Shopkeepers will have to come up with ways to share the energy as they have already split the costs incurred by the use of generators.
(By Shaheryar Mirza, The Express Tribune, 31/05/2012)
Students turn to seminaries for free meal and boarding
Enrolments at religious seminaries across Pakistan rose by 2.11 per cent in 2011 as compared to the previous year despite their frequent association with rising extremism in society.
Most children were drawn toward madressa education in the Balochistan province followed by the city of Bahawalpur in southern Punjab – the Seraiki region, where it is said actual Talibanisation is taking place.
These statistics were shared by Dr Syed Jaffer Ahmed, the head of Karachi University’s Pakistan Study Centre, at the Urban Resource Centre office on Thursday 18 Oct 2012.
He was lecturing a modest gathering of students and civil society members on the situation of education in Pakistan and its major challenges. Zahid Farooq, the programme director at Urban Resource Centre, was also present.
Pakistan, instead of becoming a social welfare state, had turned into a national security state where perceived notions of national interest were given precedence over citizen’s welfare, Dr Ahmed said. Referring to British political theorist Harold Laski, he said that what Laski said in 1930s about the emergence of British ruling class from a few elitist schools, becomes true for the current Pakistani society where bureaucracy and ruling elite both hail from institutions catering to the “privileged” cream of the society. “Common citizens find no other option but to look for so-called English medium schools, public schools or religious seminaries,” he added.
“Keeping in view the state of public schools, one finds it hard to even label them as schools,” said Dr Ahmed. “Education in public sector has symbolically been carried on by the state to restrain any outcries and protests in the society.”
More than 15,000 religious seminaries are providing the conveniences which both the public and private sectors have failed to give to the society, the Pakistan Study Centre director informed the audience. “They provide free boarding, meals and even clothes and thus fill in the vacuum left over by the state.”
While most seminaries do not advocate militancy, but all in some way restrict education to a curriculum of specific school of thought leading to actual divisions within the society, he added.
(Published in The Express Tribune, October 20th, 2012.)
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Govt policies are biased against poor people,
says town planner Arif Hasan
Every year, millions of rupees allocated to health and education budgets remain unutilised despite the desparate need for better schools and hospitals. People might not be able to wrap their heads around why this is happening but renowned town planner Arif Hasan has a simple answer.
“This is the result of a bias against the poor,” he said. “It shows itself everywhere from the construction of housing schemes to [building] roads and parks.”
At a seminar organised on Thursday 24th Jan 2013 at the Urban Resource Centre, he said that his years of experience of being involved in development schemes have brought him to this conclusion. The problem manifests itself clearly in the case of housing schemes for poor people – they are mostly built on the periphery of urban centres, he said.
“Pricey land in the cities is kept for other purposes,” said Hasan, adding that in Karachi, the administration has always maintained that there was not enough space whereas hundreds of acres belonging to Karachi Port Trust, Pakistan Railways and other organisations remain vacant. “When we go to poor localities and ask people why they refuse to move to the Northern Bypass, they complain of high travelling costs. Their entire income will be consumed just by the fare.”
Citing the hard lending conditions of the only state-run mortgager, the House Building Finance Corporation (HBFC), Hasan pointed out that policies are often made in a way that go against the least privileged. “For a loan, you need to be working in an office with a fixed income or have something to offer as collateral. The poor can’t meet any of these requirements.”
Similarly, there must be at least 200,000 hawkers in the city, yet there is no official policy to protect their rights, Hasan said. “They are pushed out of parks and moved away from roadsides without being offered any alternative.”
Even schemes to solve problem of traffic congestion reflect a preference for those who can make their voices heard in the right quarters, he said. “Millions of rupees have been spent on construction of flyovers and signal-free corridors for fast moving vehicles while little has been done to improve the condition of public transport. Poor people are cramped inside and on top of buses.”
Hasan felt that the bias persists because elected representatives and government bureaucrats fail to see the downside of their policies as they themselves are aloof from the suffering of the poor. “Maybe they are far away from the ground reality. They fail to understand the problems of the masses.”
It is true that poor neighbourhoods in even the developed countries are neglected, but the governments try to compensate for this by spending on basic necessities such as proper public transport, he said.
Hasan believes that the mindset needs to be changed and the government should start by inculcating a poor-sensitive approach in institutions where bureaucrats are trained.
(The Express Tribune, 25/01/ 2013)
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City planning betrays ‘anti-poor bias’, says architect
Money is not a problem, neither is manpower; successive governments in the country have had enough of these resources. But when it comes to the planning of the city for the benefit of the public, there is an anti-poor bias among the policymakers, which often results in the dismal functioning of public facilities.
This was stated by renowned architect Arif Hassan in a discussion forum held at the Urban Resource Centre here on Thursday 24th Jan 2013.
Dwelling on various civil issues faced by the people of Karachi, Hasan said the policymakers of the city, i.e. the civil servants and architects, who craft civic policies for the public, generally come from middle or upper class families. “They are totally unaware of the daily issues faced by the people on the streets of Karachi,” he said.
When it comes to providing housing for the poor, the policymakers push the poor out of the city, and this has been a constant, where the people become poorer, socially stressed, and their access to employment (especially for women), health facilities, education and recreation and entertainment is drastically curtailed, according to the speaker.
“It’s not that the city does not have land; there are thousands of acres lying barren, which the government gave to national institutions like Pakistan Railways, KPT and revenue department. The government can take the land back and build housing schemes for the poor, within the city.”
But such efforts were not made, because those who would directly benefit from such schemes were not a part of the policymaking process, he remarked.
Hassan said the same bias was reflected in the latest development of infrastructure in the metropolis. “We have seen that the government has made signal-free corridors for cars, but the needs of pedestrians were not taken into consideration,” which was one of the major causes for fatal accidents as per a recent survey, he added.
He said the same sort of neglect was seen at various bus stops. There was no facility of public toilets and the condition of bus stops showed that nothing was being done for its upkeep “when funds are allocated for their maintenance“, he said.
Hasan agreed that all the major cosmopolitan cities in the world, like New York and Shanghai, had their share of the poor who suffered some sort of discrimination, but
he argued that the poor people of those cities at least had the basics like transport, healthcare and housing options. “I understand their will be discrimination in development, but any human being deserves these basics amenities for living.”
The architect suggested that if the anti-poor mindset was to be changed, apart from working unitedly as a pressure group to make the government take notice of the various issues, the institutions shaping policymakers, like schools and universities, needed to instill in them the importance of developing the ability to be just to people, irrespective of their creed, ethnicity or economic background.
(The News, 25/01/2013)
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Researchers say Karachi’s tap water isn’t adequately filtered
Research conducted by the Pakistan Council of Research in Water Resources (PCRWR) has led experts to believe that in the city by the sea, there’s hardly any potable water.
As a part of the research, 28 samples of water were collected from different localities of Karachi. Of them, only two were fit for consumption. Rubina Jaffri, the general manager of Health and Nutrition Development Society (Hands), used this research as one of the many examples in her talk on the city’s water supply at Urban Resources Centre on Wednesday 12th June 2013.
She said that 86 percent of the water samples were contaminated with pathogens which cause diseases, such as cholera, typhoid, bacillary and hepatitis.
Jaffri added that approximately 640 MGD of water is being supplied to Karachi, out of which 440 MGD is being filtered at seven filtration plants. She added that 20 per cent of the water is lost because of leaking pipes while 15 per cent is siphoned off by water thieves .
She added that the water board doesn’t adequately filter the water, which is why its quality is compromised – according to Karachi Water and Sewerage Board (KWSB), 60 percent of bulk water supply is filtered while around 40 percent is chlorinated.
Jaffri told the audience that in Pakistan, the mortality rate for children under the age of five is 101 deaths per 1,000 and diarrhoea – one of the biggest killers – emerges from contaminated water and poor hygiene.
She added that in a survey conducted by Hands, 93 per cent of the respondents said they use tap water for household chores. Nine percent buy bottled water while around 80 per cent just drink tap water, added Jaffri.
She said that after consuming contaminated water, both adults and children commonly report symptoms such as stomach pains, vomiting, diarrhoea, headaches and sore throats. Hepatitis is another real danger of consuming water which hasn’t been treated. Some of the survey’s respondents stated that they used water without boiling or filtering it first. A portion of them said they boil water only when their children fall sick.
She told the audience that according to the UN Human Rights Policy, it is the government’s responsibility to provide people with an adequate amount of safe, filtered, potable water.
(The Express Tribune, 14/06/2013)
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Mass transit system vital to improve traffic, lower casualties
An efficient mass transit system is the only proper solution for the persistent traffic problems of the city and will prove particularly helpful in reducing the number of road accident injuries and deaths, former Sindh IGP Asad Jahangir stated during a conference held on Thursday 20th March 2014.
The discussion forum on ‘A Research Study on Road Accidents in Karachi – Causes and Impacts’ was organised by the Road Traffic Injury Research and Prevention Centre (RTIR&PC) and Urban Resource Centre (URC) at the latter’s office.
Comprehensive reports on the death and injury toll of road accidents in 2013 were shared, while experts also presented their findings and research related to traffic mishaps in Karachi. The panel comprised Prof Dr Rasheed Jooma, former director general of the Ministry of Health, and Prof Dr Mir Shabbar Ali, chairman of NED University’s Urban and Infrastructure Engineering department.
A city-wide road traffic injury research was carried out with the help of the provincial health ministry, the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre (JPMC), Aga Khan University Hospital and NED University.
Citing data collected from five major hospitals of the metropolis, the ex-IGP informed that around 33,310 road accident injuries were reported in 2013, while the figure stood at 35,671 in 2012.
The decrease in number of fatalities was considerably less as in comparison to 1,179 deaths in 2012, the number of victims in 2013 was 1,130. “At least 64 percent of the injured and 49 percent of those killed were motorcyclists, either the driver or the person riding pillion. Similarly, 20 percent of the injured were pedestrians, who also accounted for around 34 percent of the deaths,” said Jahangir, adding that pedestrians were the most threatened of road users.
He highlighted the fact that over 4,000 children, aged 15 or less, were involved in road crashes, with 12 percent of the dead belonging to the same age group.
The most number of injuries were reported on Sharea Faisal and Korangi Road, with over 400 trauma cases last year, while over six percent of pedestrian deaths also occurred on the former.
“The National Highway’s urban section and Korangi Industrial Area road were the most dangerous last year as over 50 lives were lost in vehicular accidents on these,” informed Jahangir.
Prof Dr Jooma cited advertisement billboards as a major reason for the increasing number of traffic accidents. “Over the past 15 years, there has been mushroom growth in the number of billboards. These boards are weapons of mass distraction that have had a profoundly negative effect on the concentration levels of drivers and motorcyclists,” he said.
“The use of mobile phones while driving also continues to factor in and was found to be another key factor in road accidents. The government needs to take immediate action for the removal of advertisement boards and forcefully implement legislation against the use of phones while driving,” he suggested.
Prof Dr Ali informed the audience that a proposal has been forwarded to the government for changes in regulations regarding the use of Qingni and other three-wheeler commercial vehicles, before they are accepted as a regular mode of transport.
(By Zeeshan Azmat, The News, 22/03/2014)
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Around 35,000 road deaths in 2013 mirror poor adherence to rules
Around 35,000 people lost their lives in road mishaps last year due to a lack of mass transit system, poor implementation of traffic laws, absence of signboards, use of cellphones and not wearing helmets.
These findings were shared by the speakers at a seminar, titled ‘Causes behind road accidents’, at the Urban Resource Centre on Thursday 20th March 2014 evening. Former IGP Asad Jahangir, Road Traffic Injuries Research and Prevention Centre head Dr Rasheed Juma, NED University Urban and Infrastructure Department chairperson Mir Shabbar Ali and senior police officials were also present on the occasion.
The former IG, Jahangir, said that due to lack of enforcement of traffic laws a number of youngsters lose their lives. There is a need to introduce a highway police system to overcome fatal traffic injuries, he suggested. Sharing data, he said that pillion-riding was behind 64 per cent road injuries and 49 per cent road fatalities, while 86 per cent of the injured riders were found to be not wearing helmets.
He pointed out that Sharae Faisal and Korangi Road have reported the highest number of injuries with over 400 trauma cases, while National Highway and Korangi Industrial Area were considered to be the most dangerous roads with 50 fatal incidents in 2013.
“People aged between 16 and 36 years are the main victims of fatal road accidents and, in most of the incidents, victims are found to have avoided wearing helmets,” he pointed out.
Karachi is the most dangerous city in terms of high rate of fatal road accidents. “Strict enforcement of rules aided with high technology could help overcome such accidents. The government must do something for the sake of our generation,” he said.
Dr Juma, who is also former health director-general, was of the view that billboards and signboards also distract drivers. “The civic bodies, including Defence Housing Authority, Cantonment Board Clifton and Karachi Metropolitan Corporation, have used public properties for commercial benefits,” he complained.
The use of cellphones during driving is also unsafe. “It is a common observation that drivers using mobile phones have only one hand free to navigate, which is a safety hazard,” he said.
(The Express Tribune, 22/03/2014)
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Mass transit plan: ‘Finish line close for the Karachi yellow line’
An entire generation has grown up hearing of the legend of the Karachi mass transit plan. They actually don’t really know what the words ‘mass transit’ mean, of course, because they travel in cars and on motorcycles. But if Rasheed Mughal is to be believed, work will start on one stretch of the plan in December. God willing, he says. Because by now we all think it’s going to take nothing short of divine intervention.
On Thursday, Mughal was invited by the Urban Resource Centre to talk about the Karachi Urban Transport Improvement Plan 2030, spearheaded by the Japanese who studied the city’s needs. Mughal is currently working as a consultant to get the plan off the ground with the Sindh government’s transport department — a tough gig but one he’s qualified for given that he was once the director-general of the city’s mass transit cell. He also held the post of EDO Works under mayor Mustafa Kamal whose ethos was ‘build, baby, build’ for flyovers.
So this is the update: “An ADB [Asian Development Bank] team is due next month,” Mughal said. “And within 15 days the draft law for the Sindh Mass Transit Authority should be presented in the Sindh Assembly.” The authority will be a regulator that will monitor the work which the government wants to be undertaken in public-private partnerships. It doesn’t intend to run the buses itself. The draft is being scrutinised by the law department. If all of this goes well, Mughal says work should start on the yellow line by December 2014.
The ADB team is going to be talking to the Sindh government about which line – the red or green – they will be funding with the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (Jica) and the UNDP or United Nations Development Programme. Sindh, will, of course, have to fork out a certain percentage as well. The question is which line is a priority after the yellow one. The work needs to get done by 2017 or costs will go up horrifyingly and the solutions envisioned by Jica will be less applicable as people and vehicular populations grow.
“There is pressure now,” said Mughal, answering a question on why he seems so optimistic the government and politicians will see at least the yellow line through now. Lahore’s BRTS had an impact on Sindh’s thinking.
Mughal spent two years priming finance minister Murad Ali Shah, himself an engineer, that getting around in Karachi will be impossible unless something is done. “If we do nothing then by 2030 the journey that takes us one hour now will take three,” he warned. As far as he’s concerned, it is his job to persuade Murad Ali Shah and the politician will have to convince everyone else.
The 2030 plan broadly includes upgrading road infrastructure, six dedicated bus BRTS lines and two mass rail or MRTS lines. It will cost Rs428 billion. The yellow line seems to be making the most progress. It runs 22km long from Dawood Chowrangi to Numaish Chowrangi and Lucky Star via the 8000-Road in Korangi and the Finance And Trade Centre. It will cost Rs13 billion and will need 70 buses and 26 stations. A consortia of consultants of KPMG for the finances, NESPAK for the technicalities and Mohsin Tayybaly for the legalities, is involved.
The Marwat Coach already runs 100 buses on the yellow line stretch, raising the question of what will happen to them. Mughal’s solution is that the existing buses will be given arterial routes so that they don’t suffer loss of income. He seems to understand that everyone needs to be on board for the yellow line to work.
The only problem is that we’ve been hearing about it since August 2012.
(By Mahim Meher, The Express Tribune, 19/04/2014)