KARACHI: A teenager was killed on Thursday when the roof of a recently partially-demolished structure fell on him in Korangi. The 14-year-old boy, identified as Hassamuddin, son of Abdullah, was reportedly trying to pull out a metal rod protruding out of the rubble when the roof collapsed on top of him.
According to residents of the area, the shop was one of dozens that had recently been demolished in Korangi No. 6 by the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation's (KMC) Anti-Encroachment Cell several days earlier. The authorities, had, however, made no effort to clear the debris in the wake of the exercise.
The site had become a frequent stop for groups of Afghan and Bengali children, who would forage the area for recyclable items to sell in the market. Metal is one of the most prized commodities in the business.
On Thursday, Hassamuddin and two of his friends were scavenging at the site for metal rods when the roof collapsed, killing him instantly. His friends managed to escape unhurt from the incident.
Hassamuddin was an Afghan immigrant and was currently residing with his family in Iliyas Goth, Korangi. According to the victim's family, the teenager had gone to the madrassa with the other children from the neighbourhood and then had gone to scavenge for recyclables, when the incident took place. The victim has two sisters and four brothers and his father had passed away some time ago.
On the one hand, the city administration and the KMC have accelerated the campaign to raze illegal constructions that had defaced the city, while on the other, there has been little effort to clear the rubble left in its wake. This has caused a number of accidents and is a constant source of nuisance to commuters and pedestrians alike.
On top of this, traders, who had earlier been conducting their businesses in shops built on drains and footpaths, have now set up make-shift stalls placed on main roads. This has become another source of nuisance for vehicular traffic.
It seems the anti-encroachment operation carried out by KMC and other civic agencies has failed to achieve its aim. Rather, it has made the situation worse — both for the shopkeepers and for pedestrians and commuters.
Shops have been demolished and stalls removed in the surroundings of Empress Market and yet there is an abundance of stalls in Saddar, making it impossible to walk on footpaths in the area. Encroachments are present on Burnes Road despite the operation and it has become impossible to navigate in that area during hours of commercial activity.
Karachi Commissioner told The Express Tribune that these encroachments were "ordinary" and would be removed very soon. However, major encroachments have already been removed, he said. The commissioner did not seem to be worried about the encroachments that were left in the city. "It is not that big an issue," he brushed off.
When the Karachi mayor was questioned about the encroachments that have started creeping up again, he said that fines will be imposed on those who are found encroaching from now on.
For citizens approached by The Express Tribune, neither has the flow of traffic improved nor have pedestrians received any benefit from the city-wide encroachment operation. Instead, thousands of people were affected as a result. They had to let go of their businesses and homes.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 11th, 2019.