The great divide: Floodwater outside, no drinking water inside

Murree Brewery slum still awaits access to clean water, and a wall to stave off floodwater.

Children residents stand outside their houses in the slum. PHOTO: MARIAM SHAFQAT/EXPRESS

RAWALPINDI: Just across Rawalpindi’s well-developed Chaklala Scheme-III is a katchi abadi, which reflects the two faces of the city.

Residents of shanty settlement, — called the Murree Brewery slum because of its proximity to the brewery — say that every time Nullah Leh gets flooded, the water tears down a room or two of their fragile shacks.

“It began happening more frequently after cantonment board authorities built a cement embankment across [the slum]. Now floodwater hits us with even more force every time,” said slum resident Arshad Mehmood.

Mehmood, in his early fifties, says he has lived in this area his whole life. He told The Express Tribune that “the issue is persistent. Politicians visit us during election season and promise to build a cement embankment on our side of the Leh as well, but those promises have proven hollow.”

He then showed a flood-damaged side of his home.

Mehmood says he lacks the means to rebuilt his house, and even if he could, it would get damaged in the next flood.

“We had local elections here some six months ago, but it is clear that they made no difference to us,” he added.

The unavailability of clean drinking water is another issue that residents of the slum must live with.

Another resident of the area, Shabana Rani, said she had not seen any waste management, water or health department officials visit the slum.

“We try to meet our needs through public water purifiers installed in Chaklala Scheme III, depending on if we are allowed to or not,” Rani said.

“I used to go to the brewery to get drinking water, but they eventually stopped letting us in. Now I go to a nearby mosque,” she added.

Rani said there were a few tubewells installed in the area, but even they work erratically.

According to Mushtaq Sheikh, who contested for a member’s seat of the cantonment board, said the issue also came up in the Senate, and Hanif Abbasi, a prominent local politician from the ruling PML-N, visited the area and promised to address some of their issues.

“Some engineers visit the area to take measurements. Hopefully this time some positive developments will be seen,” Sheikh said.

According to Cantonment Board Member Khalid Mehmood Butt, a PC-1 for Rs60 million was prepared last month and is now awaiting approval.

“If approved, it will take three months to build a cement embankment on the other side of the Leh,” Butt told The Express Tribune.

He said a PC-1 was also prepared and approved to address water issues. Under the proposal, a 200,000 gallon water tank will be built to serve Gulistan Colony and the brewery slum.

He added that the plan also involved building two tubewells in the area, tender for allotment of contract of work was underway.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 8th, 2015.


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