The horrors of life in Clifton

Schools that litter, corrupt officials and co-eds that treat my backyard like a trash can. Life in Clifton is a pain!

Omar Quraishi November 13, 2010
What is with elitist schools and colleges? Some like Karachi Grammar School (my alma mater and where my son now studies), get all the flak for not being good neighbours, for being elitist (the school’s fees are generally lower than most of its more recent upstart-ish ‘competitors’) and for bringing forth a whole new generation of brats (these people have obviously never met students or alums of L’ecole or Bayview).

Now, to the point, for which this is being written. I happen to live close to a venerated Karachi education institution – the Convent of Jesus and Mary. In fact, my flat in Clifton is quite literally a one-minute walk from the school’s senior section. The back of my flat faces this small lane which is now barricaded on both sides.

Come every morning and afternoon there is a mad rush in this neighbourhood, thanks to the school’s students, and their drivers and parents who come by and drop and pick them up. In the morning it is bearable since the cars just come and drop them and because the CJM administration has a few domestic staff who act as stand-in traffic regulators. However, the afternoon is literally mayhem, with people double and even triple parking – and this on a road which is no wider than a lane in any of Clifton’s various neighbourhoods. On several occasions I have seen a female parent park the car in the middle of the road, get off and walk to the school gate which is about fifty metres away from this side of the barricaded road. This is not an exaggeration. These women just park the car in the middle of the road, with dozens of other cars behind them, and merrily walk away, key in hand, and if you ask them what in the world are they doing blocking everyone’s path, they say:
‘Mein apnee bachee ko school say uthanay jaa rahee hoon’.

Surely, this isn’t the kind of civil behaviour and good sense the CJM nuns would want their students to learn – but quite regrettably its on display everyday for anyone who wishes to see a display of just about the worst kind of civic sense imaginable. I have tried to talk to the CJM staff deployed their during the mornings but they obviously don’t seem to be able to do much about it.

I also asked them about why the school and its cleaning staff dump all the kachra right at the end of the lane, and bang opposite our gate? Can the school not instruct its cleaning staff to transport the garbage to a kachra kundi a little further away? Wait, let me guess, I bet the CJM teaches its students that throwing litter is bad and the work of the Devil. How nice!

This isn’t all.

Cleaning up the neighbourhood

I live in an apartment complex that has 24 flats. It’s supposed to be in a reputable neighbourhood with many consulates nearby --- what good is that for me, I wonder though. The head of my apartments association tells me that a private contractor has been awarded a contract by the local town administration (Saddar Town, I think) to pick up garbage and solid waste from the kachra kundi behind the apartment building. However, he came once to the complex and told its residents that if they wanted the garbage picked up every day it could be arranged – provided they paid him Rs2,000 a month. He was told by the residents that they pay municipal charges to the local town administration every month. He laughed and said that if they didn’t pay up then their road and the gali outside would never see its garbage removed.

And then the water issue. All of a sudden, the water in our building has dried up. One of the residents managed to speak to someone at the Karachi Water and Sewerage Board (KWSB) who told him that there was a shortage in the city (when is there not?) and that the water valve – right opposite the Caltex petrol pump at Do Talwar) was opened for only 20 minutes every day. "Why only 20 minutes?", he was asked. Because that is how long it took for enough water to reach the Indonesian Consulate – which is a few hundred metres before the road ends, Park Towers to the right. Apparently, the KWSB would also like their palms to be greased, though the official hasn’t said so.

What I’m surprised at is how this “citywide shortage” doesn’t deter a whole organised mafia from stealing water by siphoning it from the very pump next to Do Talwar, right under the noses of several police personnel posted nearby. I guess, everyone's getting a cut of this. This water theft started over 10 years ago and I wrote a small story on it when I was working as a reporter but nothing really became of it. Now, those involved in it have graduated from using horse-drawn carts to using Suzuki vans and mechanized pumps and nifty hoses to steal the water.

This isn’t all.

The giant trash can that is my city

Speaking of venerable institutions, there is another one – SZABIST — situated right next to the CJM senior section, on the same barricaded road. Turns out that the barricades were put up also because this institution felt the need – it also has metal detectors now installed for entry to its premises. The venerable institution has several domestic staff who clean the road outside its premises – they do this every morning or so and then dump the kachra right at the far end of the barricaded street – bang opposite our gate and our building in general. It seems that the cleaners cannot see that there is a garbage dump just across the small road, not more than 20-30 metres away.

The students of SZABIST  (I hear it ranks right up there just behind IBA and what not) also tend to loiter around, and this is usually right behind our building. They talk loudly – at least some of them do – and they litter (clearly they didn’t go to schools like CJM) and one day I found an empty Murree Brewery Cossack Vodka bottle in a small stretch of garden behind our wall which we are trying to grow as some much-needed green space. The students, many of whom loiter around at times as late as 10 pm – apparently they have ‘evening classes’ – also smoke like chimneys. They throw their cigarette butts – and chips packets and coke bottles and what not – on the road as if it’s their own giant personal trash can, and by the looks of it every morning - it is.

SZABIST is even worse compared to CJM when it comes to parking, for the simple reason that while the latter has only two times during the day when its students come and leave, this institution has students coming and going all day – and till 10 pm at night. As a result, the lanes around it are one gigantic – unregulated parking lot. No concern of any kind is shown towards the local residents – but then why would it since they don’t have to be fee-paying students.

Other than all this, of course, Clifton is a great place to live in Karachi.
WRITTEN BY:
Omar Quraishi
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.

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COMMENTS (69)

goonga | 9 years ago | Reply | Recommend Omar, You omit mentioning that ensuring proper parking is primarily the responsibility of the traffic police. People display civic responsibilities when rules are in place and are fairly enforced. Laws are actualized in their enforcement. Otherwise, they are not laws, mere words. As in Pakistan (Karachi), rules and laws are not fairly enforced, the citizen follow social practices, often created and maintained by people with power and privilege. One such practice emerging from the sense of entitlement of the privileged group is disregard for the laws of the country. The absence of real laws leads to anarchy, an example of which is the practice of parking in the middle of the road.
suzan kassam | 9 years ago | Reply | Recommend There has been a gross violation of rules and regulations in the bid to renovate and reconstruct the Clifton sewage pumping station which was destroyed in the November 11 CID centre bomb blast. The News has learnt that the Karachi Water and Sewerage Board (KWSB) has awarded a multi-million rupee contract for the provision of pumps to a relatively unknown company. Sources informed this correspondent that Rs 30 million were awarded in advance to a local pumps manufacturing firm for four motor pumps to make the facility operational again. According to sources, the pumps that have been procured are not worth more than Rs 5.5 million. The pumping station was badly damaged in the blast and it had stopped pumping sewage from important areas like Saddar, Clifton, Urdu Bazar, II Chundrigar Road, Bath Island and red-zone areas like the Governor House, Chief Minster House, Sindh Assembly, Sindh Secretariat, Pakistan Secretariat, several five star hotels and the State Guest House. Within a day of the blast, many VIP areas of the centre of Karachi were flooded with sewage. The pumping station had the capacity to treat 20 to 21 million gallons per day (MGD) of sewage. It had six motors which could handle sewage at the speed of 10,000 gallon per minute (GPM). After processing the sewage, the treated waste was transferred to Treatment Plant (TP)-2 which is situated in Mehmoodabad. The bomb blast caused massive damage to the pumps, its lines and also destroyed the KESC supply line to the pumping station. Keeping in view its importance, the Government of Sindh, on the request of the KWSB Managing Director, released Rs 30 million to the water utility to reconstruct the facility on an emergency basis. While exercising Para 58, the management of KWSB, without seeking tenders from other pump manufacturing companies, awarded the contract for the provision of pumps to Mehraj Limited, located in the Korangi Industrial Area. Under the emergency clause of the Sindh Public Procurement Authority Rules, 2010, the organization was bound to invite quotations from three pump manufacturing companies for the provision of pumps. However, instead of asking other companies, the KWSB management obliged just a single company and paid an amount of Rs30 million to it in advance. According to sources, a 100 per cent advance payment to any manufacturer is also in violation of rules and regulations. The company provided three pumps of six-inch diameter and one pump of 12 inches diameter (suction and disposal lines temporary PVC made) to KWSB. According to sources, the company which is basically known for manufacturing water bowsers, fire fighting equipment, fire tenders, snorkels etc used Cummins China engines for the manufacture of the pumps. The well-known Cummins engines company is actually UK-based and its products are also available in Pakistan. The Chinese company, on the other hand, started manufacturing just a year ago. The destroyed sewage pumping station was set up more than three decades ago by the Karachi Development Authority (KDA) at a cost of Rs1 billion which was loaned by the Asian Development Bank (ADB). The station was part of the Greater Karachi Sewerage Scheme No2, which is commonly known as S-2. After developing the pumping station, the KDA handed it over to the defunct Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC). It was handed over to KWSB in 1982, after its emergence as a utility. This correspondent made numerous attempts to contact the MD KWSB to get his version of the story but he was inaccessible.
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