Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Boats Required in Karachi...

Monsoon in Karachi, by Doc Sadia

A youngster shifts his valuables to a safer place as floodwater enters Budhani area near Peshawar. PHOTO: APP/ FILE
This Saturday seemed like any other ordinary day to me and I continued my day as usual; the sky was not very clear, but I never anticipated the havoc that was to soon come my way.
The weather forecast stated that some areas in Karachi were in for heavy rainfall. Since I am a Pakistani, however, I conveniently chose to dismiss what I heard on the news and decided to manage my day just as any other; I drove out with my mother for her routine dialysis.
After almost four hours, I was welcomed by all that I was warned about early in the day; lightening, thunder, rain and water – everywhere! On my way back from Saddar and onto the main Clifton road, I was extremely stressed with the massive traffic jam and the rising flood of dirty stagnant water. At this point, I wondered to myself whether this was the same road I had crossed a couple of hours ago.
Decorated shopping malls were strewn in garbage gushing forth with the water and polished cars were seen floating about idly in the water. All I wanted in that almost suicidal slow pace that the traffic was moving at was a boat ride home.

Residents stand near a partially submerged vehicle as they evacuate a flooded area in Karachi on August 4, 2013. PHOTO: AFP
While I was consoling my mother who was beginning to get anxious seeing the chaos that surrounded us on the road, in the near distance I could hear a siren blaring continuously. There was an ambulance stuck in jam and it appeared that the only one bothered by the deafening sound of its siren and horn was me.
No one else seemed to be care to make way for it. Being an emergency doctor, I seemed to hear the siren louder than anyone else, perhaps because I hear it every day and understand the alarming nature of such a call. My mind wandered to the patient inside the ambulance and how critical the situation may have been for him. After raking my mind continuously as to how I could help him, I found no way and ended up saying a prayer for whoever the person was.

View of a flooded street in Peshawar. PHOTO: @haroonbadshah94
As a health manager, I had also equipped my emergency room with supplies to combat viral fever, protozoan’s, nematodes, blood flukes, malaria and stomach flu. These were all the effects of water logging and stagnation which we were to inadvertently face after the downpour.
I smiled to myself sarcastically when I thought of the number of Dettol and Safeguards hand washing advertisements that are so popular; no matter how much training we conduct in the community for health safety and hygiene, if the sanitation and drainage systems are not adequate, no outcomes will be seen.
What I narrated to you right now is not the story of a dingy, dirty, unequipped slum in the city; I was not in Ibrahim Goth or Machar Colony. I was in the well developed ‘posh’ area of Defence Phase IV.

Men push their bicycles through flood waters on the outskirts of Karachi August 4, 2013. PHOTO: REUTERS
I was bitter as I stared at the muddy slush around me. What bothered me to no end was the fact that ever since I can remember, I have seen my parents footing their taxes religiously and on time for the ‘able’ authorities to manage. This tax includes, water tax, property tax, drainage tax, electricity tax and so on.
As tax-paying residents of the country, I want to know where our money has been going if the local government can’t even handle one day of rain.
The monsoons have always been a cause of chaos, disease and many other problems for Pakistan. Yet, this season comes every single year and every single year we go through the same mess.
The situation of Saadi Town and people in the surrounding areas affected by the torrential rains desperately awaiting some form of help or aid shows the intensity of our pathetic situation. The rains impacted the city so critically that even today, on Monday, the aftermath is still being seen. The severe flooding in Korangi not only rendered many people homeless, but will also cost the city a tremendous amount in infrastructure rebuilding. Main roads were blocked causing chaotic traffic jams and this time around, only God knows how many ambulances must have gotten stuck and how many people must have died as a result of this hardship.

Ghareebabad Underpass 4-8-2013 after heavy rainfall. PHOTO: Muhammad Hassaan
It is a moment of shame that all the authorities, ministries and politicians should reflect upon. These people make myopic policies that may have been made with good intentions, but are just not strong enough to face emergency situations like floods. The WatSan (Water Sanitation) sector of Pakistan needs to become proactive and make sanitation its top priority. This is necessary not only to improve the quality of life of the people of the city but to ensure that there will be no outbreaks of water related diseases.
We need to learn how to prepare beforehand or else we will always be part of the ‘modern slum’ in the world.
Look at what just a day of rain has down to the metropolis of Karachi.
Shame on the authorities in charge.

Floods hit PHA Housing in Block 10 Gulistan-e-Jauhar, Karachi. PHOTO: Asad Anjum

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