As tragic as they are, accidents happen. They happen on the roads and happen in our homes. They happen in the air. It is human to look for and to demand answers. That is how we make sense of the world and come to terms with its fleetingness. Even so, when it comes to air crashes, it is best not to rush to judgment. Aviation is a highly technical field and until a proper inquiry concludes, it is pointless to engage in conjecture. Negligence, mistake or a technical fault — investigation into the hows and whys of the PIA plane crash continues.
That said the Friday’s plane crash in Karachi that claimed the lives of at least 97 people does point to another issue. One that has developed right under our noses even though our authorities should have known better. As the aircraft came down, it crashed into Karachi’s Model Colony, which is located in vicinity of the city’s Jinnah International Airport. The impact and subsequent fire caused significant damage in the densely populated residential area and reportedly destroyed several houses.
There is a reason why many countries have opted to build airports — particularly ones that are especially busy — away from residential areas. The authorities in these countries strictly enforce safety regulations and guidelines to ensure that at least a few kilometres around the airport remain vacant. No one can predict how or when an accident will take place and everyone hopes they never do, but one can always take precautions.
Initially at least, the same was true for Karachi’s airport. But as the city rapidly expanded due to increasing demand, our authorities, it seems, threw all caution to the wind and allowed developments they shouldn’t have. This is true not just of Model Colony but all of the city’s densely-packed localities. Air accidents may be rare, but the lack of planning and checks on construction and expansion in Karachi means that many of its residents are vulnerable to other serious hazards.
If only the ones responsible were to take their jobs seriously before it is too late again.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 24th, 2020.
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