Rain-hit Gujjar Nullah residents get no govt help in Karachi

KARACHI: As the city braces for another strong monsoon spell, the situation along the Gujjar nullah grows serious where in over the past two days a man drowned and an old woman died when part of her house’s roof caved.

Representatives of the affected communities said the 27-km-long channel dug up on both sides of the Gujjar nullah from Khamiso Goth in New Karachi up to Haji Mureed Goth in Liaquatabad had become a death trap as the water accumulated in this ditch was causing water to overflow into their houses, leading to landslides and had weakened the foundation of nearby houses.

“Today, a man in his 50s slipped and drowned into the nullah while he was draining out rainwater from his house lane. The residents had to act on a self-help basis as there was no response from the rescue service,” Sunila Anwar, a resident of Kausar Niazi Colony, located in the North Nazimabad area, told Dawn.

The residents were able to recover the man unconscious after more than an hour of search, and took him to nearby Ziauddin Hospital where he was declared dead.

He was identified as Boota Masih, a resident of Kausar Niazi Colony.

In another incident, a woman in her 60s died when part of her house roof fell. She resided in a settlement along the nullah passing through the F.B Area.

“We have been living here for decades, but the situation has never been so dangerous. The residents, most of whom the poorest of the poor, have no option, but to pray for their families’ safety,” said Dr Pervaiz Yaqub, a resident of Hasan Colony in Liaquatabad.

Rozina, a resident of the F.B. Area settlement recalled another incident from a few days back where a man suffered injuries when he slipped and hit an iron bar erected in the ditch.

The government had initiated an anti-encroachment operation along Gujjar nullah in 2020 and ever since the communities residing there have been raising serious concerns over the drive, including lack of documentation on the extent of possible damage to houses and long delay in the completion of construction work to build an embankment on both sides of the nullah.

They also complained that Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, as well as the chief minister, haven’t fulfilled their promises and provided homes to the people being affected by the operation. Besides, few families have received the monetary support the government had announced.

“Right now, we demand that the government pay Rs1 million to each family in compensation for a case of drowning, electrocution, house flooding or other damage caused by government failure to protect people for the devastating rain,” said Zahid Farooq of Urban Resource Centre.

About the illegal settlements along the Gujjar nullah, he said, no government had ever built a wall or notified “nullah’s jurisdiction”.

“No encroachment can take place without the cooperation of a local politician, the police and the staff in the commissioner office. It’s unfortunate to blame the poor who have had genuine reasons not to shift to other place despite government’s anti-encroachments drives over the years.”

The residents, he explained, had built social and religious contacts in these neighbourhoods which were located close to their workplace and children’s educational institutions.

“We are not saying that the government allows encroachments, but it should rather talk to the communities instead of forcing a so-called solution on them. It’s a humanitarian issue and requires humane approach.”

The government, resident demanded, should collect data on families through a field survey instead of drone survey that only helped collect information about physical infrastructure and not number of families living in one house.

Affected residents also stated that the government hadn’t spent the Rs2 billion allocated for their rehabilitation.

Published in Dawn, By Faiza Ilyas July 14th, 2022

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