KARACHI : Young children on their way to school balance themselves on strategically strewn-about bricks as they trudge through the narrow, unpaved lanes of Lyari’s Phool Patti Lane.
Ever so often, a child slips off a brick, falling flat in the filthy gutter water that floods the streets. Like several others in the vicinity, an elderly woman is frequently seen struggling to keep toxic water out of her home.
Having lost her two sons when guns and gangs ruled Lyari, she battles against the disgustingly unwelcome guest in her neighbourhood quite alone.
At least one member, if not more, of every household in the area, has been affected by the stagnating filth, says Akram Baloch, a local resident. Diseases like malaria and typhoid have become commonplace as contaminated water functions as a breeding ground for mosquitos and other sinister bugs and insects, he explains.
For the past couple of months, Phool Patti Lane has neither smelt like flowers nor been graced by petals. On the contrary, the foul stench of sewage water, which has collected in all six lanes of the neighbourhood in the past couple of months, has entrenched itself stubbornly in the area. The pungent smell hits your nose sharply as soon you enter Phool Patti Lane.
Choked sewage lines and the faltering drainage system have resulted in toxic water also seeping into homes that are built in the area. Brewing in the filth, are the likes of mosquitos and other bugs bringing with them the promise of a looming epidemic. Locals have complained about the barely habitable conditions of the neighbourhood to relevant authorities but to no avail.
Lax government response
The residents are of the view that the deteriorating conditions are a consequence of Lyari’s recent shift in political allegiance.
Historically, Lyari had been a stronghold of Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), but the general elections of 2018 saw Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf MNA Shakoor Shad and Tehreek-e-Labbaik MPA Muhammad Younus Soomro come into power in the constituency.
Residents complain that the elected officials have only been giving flimsy excuses for their failure to act while former representatives from PPP appear to be disgruntled at the outcome of the elections and are reluctant to help.
Local Government Minister Saeed Ghani visited Lyari two days ago but refrained from going inside Phool Patti Lane. Residents are of the view that PPP-led Sindh government is deliberately neglectful of the area as the residents voted other parties into power.
Meanwhile, the woes of the residents increase steadily as the sewage water entrenches itself with increasing stubbornness as time passes.
Faisal Raj, who has lived in Phool Patti Lane for decades, claims that the toxic water is now mixing itself with line water.
People are forced to take painstaking efforts to make the water potable, he said, adding that most residents, who already live either at or below the poverty line, are unable to afford clean drinking water from filtration plants.
Local women told The Express Tribune that they have been considering shifting in the homes of their relatives and friends. However, they say, they cannot expect to live off the hospitality of others for too long as their hosts also struggle to accommodate them.
The women maintained that it was a struggle to prepare food from the water which is contaminated by sewage and often children and breadwinners left homes on empty stomachs. The aggrieved residents find their homes unbearable now that their locality has been subsumed in filth.
Many claim that they had been promised Paris in the name of change but instead their hopes in their elected representatives have been crushed horribly.