KARACHI: Once upon a time there was a district in Karachi, which was very different from the other five districts of the city. It had proper infrastructure, a working municipal system and the largest population of all Karachi's districts. The district comprised Federal B Area, North Nazimabad, Nazimabad, New Karachi, North Karachi, Buffer Zone, Surjani Town and Liaquatabad.
It was ruled by the mighty Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) from its headquarters Nine Zero.
Now the district is in a state of disrepair. Its roads have dilapidated and no one seems to care. The district is caught in between a tug of war between the local and provincial governments.
Residents claim that the district, which has a population of nearly three million, was better off when the MQM was in power. The area around Nine Zero and its founder Altaf Hussain's residence was maintained at least.
Now piles of garbage engulf the district's parks, playgrounds and other open spaces.
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The District Central deputy commissioner may have launched a 'three-day mega campaign' last week, but according to residents, not a single trash pile was shifted.
Muhammad Waseem, a resident of Buffer Zone, said they are tired of false promises. "The truth is that none of us have any hope left that the authorities will do anything. We know they are here to fill their pockets with our taxes while we suffer when it rains and have to live with dilapidated and inundated roads and broken sewerage lines," he lamented.
"It's shameful that a city like Karachi, the revenue engine of the country, had to call in the military to drain rainwater while the municipal departments and government were busy blaming each other," said Waseem.
In most areas the situation surrounding the government offices is usually better but in District Central the roads leading to the deputy commissioner's office is a mess. The roads coming from the Water Pump intersection to People's Chowrangi and from Ziauddin Hospital to Karimabad are broken as well as inundated with sewage and garbage.
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The district has a large storm water drain, large enough to sustain heavy rainfall, but it has been filled with garbage, explaining why the area experienced urban flooding during the recent spells of rainfall.
Another resident, Jawad Raza, who lives in North Nazimabad shared that he has been living here for the past 30 years. North Nazimabad was once considered one of the most well planned towns, with its wide roads and a network of open storm water drains, however, now it looks like we are living in a rural area, he lamented.
He added that for the past few years, residents have been suffering due to the construction of the Green Line Bus Rapid Transport System. They do not believe it will be completed any time soon, said Raza, adding that traffic in the area has suffered greatly due to the construction. The recent rain was also shocking for him, as he has seen much heavier rain in the past but the situation never became this dire.
The authorities defended themselves by reiterating the same song and dance.
District Central Deputy Commissioner Fariduddin Mustufa said garbage collection and sanitation is the responsibility of the district municipal corporation (DMC), which has failed to perform their duty. He said the mega cleanliness drive that failed to impress the residents of the area was simply a post-Eidul Azha cleanliness drive to support the DMC's regular operation. The responsibility, of course, lies with the DMC.
He said soon the responsibility for garbage collection in the area will be given to the Sindh Solid Waste Management Board, which he believes can do a better job than the DMC.
DMC Central Chairman Rehan Hashmi said his district is one of the largest in Pakistan and the funds he receives from the provincial government, around Rs200 million, is only enough to pay the salaries of 13,000 employees.
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He said when he took over the office there were only 75 pieces of machinery available including a dumper, shovel, arm roller and bobcats, whereas hundreds of machines were in the warehouse and not usable. We have now repaired at least 75 machines, he said.
Hashmi said at least a thousand units of such machinery are required at minimum to cope with the issues in DMC Central. Give me just 5% of the funds that were given to the district in Musharraf's era and see how I handle things, he vowed.