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DHA Karachi and CBC disparaged wrongly

SAM SPECIAL-ENG-24-09-2020 (1)

The Pakistan Meteorological Department has confirmed that Karachi received the heaviest rain in a single day in 90 years when 231 mm fell in just 12 hours on August 27. The Hub Dam water level crossed 338.5 feet, the highest in 13 years. During August 2020 alone, Karachi received 484 mm (19 inches) rain. With rainwater and overflowed water from nullahs and drains flooding most of the main roads and streets in residential areas, people’s lives were highly disrupted. 

The inundated roads caused massive traffic jams on 27th August. Six out of 7 districts of Karachi were declared “Calamity-hit areas” by the Relief Commissioner of the Government of Sindh under Sindh National Calamities (P&R) Act 1958. Karachi East and Malir were most affected. Seventy percent of the areas were difficult to access due to damage to the roads or the presence of stagnant water; 0.3% of houses were completely or partially damaged and 27% of bridges and walkways were partially damaged. Electricity breakdown was reported in all areas for 10 to 34 hours.

Known for having done a wonderful job with regard to the development of land, the Defense Housing Authority Karachi (DHA) serves other DHAs and other housing societies countrywide as a model, earning respect in the eyes of the general public/investors/allottees for its fairness in the allotment/transfers/security of the plots. 

DHA Karachi has come under lot of criticism during the recent unprecedented rains. Electricity shutdown further added to the miseries of the households over a prolonged period for several days. 

DHA Karachi completes all technical and legal formalities upto the construction of the home. Once the house is constructed, the Cantonment Board Clifton (CBC) takes over the management of the infrastructure of this small city, providing/maintaining basic facilities. These include (a) maintenance of roads (b) provision of water (c) security (d) drainage of rainy water (e) hygiene and sanitation (f) plantation (g) cutting of shrubs and wild growth (h) collection and disposal of garbage (i) disposal of wild dogs (j) DDT spraying, etc.

At the most only 5% of DHA was affected by the massive rainfall, compared to the 70% areas affected in Karachi, 35% in dire straits. Shortfalls / inadequate services did take place in some DHA areas because of the torrential rains. The total area under CBC is 51 sq kms of which the area most affected was Phase-VI which is spread over 7.7 sq kms out of which only 1 sq km area was affected for 4/5 days while the remaining 50 sq kms was cleared within 48 hours by CBC. 

After the rainfall certain areas of DHA such as Phase-1, II, II Ext, IV, V, V Ext, Block-8 & 9, Bazar (Katchi Abadi) area and major portions of Phase-VI, VII & VII Ext were drained within 48 hours. Some areas of Phase-VI including Ittehad Commercial, Bukhari Commercial and Nishat Commercial where cloudbursts occurred were cleared in 4 to 5 days by bringing in extra machinery to cope with the non-availability of drainage infrastructure in these areas. 

Unfortunately, these were the areas of focus by the electronic and print media. One must also take into account that when the drainage infrastructure was laid it was meant for a sustainable capacity of 217 mm rainfall in 48 hours. The torrential rains on August 27, as per metrological data, was an unprecedented 130 mm in just 1hour and (as stated earlier)a devastating 230 mm in 4 hours. 

CBC /DHA areas fall in the southern part of Karachi (route / tail end of all storm water drains/nullahs), this ultimately caused an extra heavy load to dispel and was the reason why inundated areas took 4/5 days to clear. The unfortunate comparison that led to a wrong perception was because residents obviously expect better services and a quality life as compared to other localities in Karachi. Water distribution is the responsibility over CBC. 

DHA residents must understand that water lines were laid many decades years ago. With the Water Board supplying only4 MGD Water of the 9 MGD required, shortage of potable water persists. That is why the CBC is still using bowsers. While DHA residents face a constant problem from K-Electric relating to excessive billing, as is usual during the rainy season KE added to the miseries of residents through power shutdowns for extended periods, falling/severed power lines creating additional danger. 

Excellent work was done in DHA draining out flood water in 2007/2008by Brigadier Kamran Qazi, than Administrator DHA, to overcome the possibility of flooding during the monsoon. This helped a lot in getting rid of stagnant water on the roads when it rained. However, this now requires re-vamping. Due to blockages here and there in these drains, and at places due to poor maintenance, the residents of some areas had to suffer in the recent rains. 

The DHA and CBC together have been initiating contingency plans before the rains came i.e. de-silting of storm water drains was carried out from May to July 2020in Kh-e-Shamsher and Mujahid, Kh-e-Sehar and Muhafiz Commerical Avenue, E Street, B Street and Kh-e-Bahria, 5th Street and 12th Lane etc, while open nullahs were also de-silted, such as the drain along Korangi Road near Mehmoodabad Road, Jami Nullah, Transit Camp, the drain along old Sunset Boulevard and along Ch. Khaliquzzaman Road, Nehr-e-Khayyam, Mehmoodabad nullah, and many others. For this massive exercise, the CBC incurred an additional expenditure of Rs. 49.086 million, besides procuring additional resources i.e. machinery and equipment. 

The machinery & dewatering equipment employed: 150 vehicles and included 150 petrol engine pumps, 11 canal pumps, 8 mobile hydrants, 4 turbines with 10 HP motor. Additional resources that were employed included 6 peter pumps, 40 suction pumps, 10 suction pumps for grey water bowsers, 15000 Rft suction and delivery pipes and 45 suction bowsers. Three excavators and 6 dumpers were hired. 

The Armed Forces and Rangers came to the rescue of DHA residents to drain out the flood water as quickly as was possible. Most areas were cleared in 1-4 days. To ease the suffering of affected residents, the CBC had set up 10 relief camps and distributed more than 500 food packages. 

Residents protested angrily in front of the CBC office complaining of inefficiencies. While the demonstrators had every right to voice their grievances and protest peacefully, there was no need to take the law into their own hands and resort to rioting and violence. 

In order to address the pressing problems of DHA residents, the CBC has installed 44 water filtration and one RO plant. They have planned to establish (a) more sanitation and filtration plants to provide sufficient potable and drinking water (b) planning is on to revive the DHA COGEN Power and Desalination Plant so as to have their own powerhouse like Bahria Karachi (c) work is on hand to set in a system of underground cables to be made waterproof instead of having open wiring(d) existing drainage system is being improved on a high priority basis and underground water tanks are being built as done by Government of Punjab in Lahore. Those will be connected with sewerage lines to avoid flooding on the one side while using this water for plants instead of wasting it. (e) DHA and CBC along with K-Electric are revisiting their emergency plans in the light of what residents and their departments have experienced during the recent heavy rains. Setting up a desalination plant were announced some time ago.

In a candid talk with the CPNE Executive Committee, Brig Abid Askari, Station Commander Karachi and President CBC and Brig Asim Administrator DHA encouraged objective suggestions to enhance the residents’ comfort and security. It was encouraging to see that they were acting under the direct instructions of the Corps Commander 5 Corps Lt Gen Humayun Aziz. Incidentally, the Corps Commander must be lauded for taking a number of quick decisions which spared Karachi a greater disaster than that which unfolded.

The Bahria Housing Society was established 40 years later and therefore has an advantage over DHA with regard to the quality of life/services being provided. To keep up its name as a leader amongst the land developer/housing societies, DHA Karachi certainly has to improve its services beyond any doubt to win the hearts of its existing residents. 

However, why is it that prices of land and houses in DHA Karachi exceed that of Bahria multiple times? Disasters notwithstanding why does DHA Karachi still remain the object of buyer’s desire? 

(The writer is a defense and security analyst)