Nehr-e-Khayyam stews in filth as plan to overhaul hits snags

NGO, govt shift blame with former saying sewage diversion awaited

Sameer Mandhro June 05, 2021


Nehr-e-Khayyam stews in filth and garbage while those living in its vicinity await the much-touted plan to revamp the site and develop a recreational spot to be implemented.

In October 2019, the Sindh cabinet approved a plan to beautify, modernise and develop Nehr-e-Khayam as a recreational point in collaboration with the People and Nature Initiative (PANI), a non-governmental organisation.

It was to be a "gift for the people of Karachi" but like many promises made to the metropolis, this one to appears to be merely on paper.

"A few trucks started taking garbage last year," said a resident, Mohamamd Sabir, speaking to The Express Tribune. "I heard the area is being cleaned and beautified as one of the most amazing spots in the city," he added, quoting the plan he read about in a newspaper two years ago.

"It was just a promise nothing else," lamented Sabir. "It's [still] just sewerage water flowing into the sea. It smells bad when it rains here." People continue to throw garbage on either side of the water channel, he added.

A sore sight Nehr-e-Khayam is roughly 10-feet-deep and one kilometer long.

It runs from the Gizri crossing, beside Ocean Mall, Clifton and runs into the sea.

It is filled with garbage and sewage even though it was originally meant for drainage of rainwater into the sea.

In fact, water travels both ways in Nehr-e-Khayam - during low tide, from the ground to the sea and during high tide, from the sea to the ground. Currently, it is a sore sight apart from a few nurseries dotting one of its banks.

The plan

After the cabinet gave the go-ahead in 2019, an agreement was inked within months, between PANI and the Sindh government, under which the former was to plant greenery on both sides of Nehr-e-Khayam, develop a park and adopt it for thirty years.

The recreational space was to be built within three years of the agreement. Besides, to segregate and ensure the smooth flow of sewerage, which continues to flow through the water channel, a separate conduit was to be constructed by the provincial government in the portion proposed for the park's development.

The snag

When The Express Tribune contacted both the signatories of the agreement, neither of them were willing to accept responsibility for the delay.

Instead, they passed the buck onto each other but did not wish to be named while doing so.

"It is the government's responsibility to divert the sewage water," one of the 16 PANI architects told The Express Tribune. "The government's contribution in the project is not more than five percent," countered a top Sindh government official, privy to the matter.

"We need the entire area dry and it won't cost more," said the architect. He insisted that PANI could not build upon its plan until the foundation has been made by clearing off the sewage and garbage. This, said the architect, is the responsibility of the government.

"[But] What has been done on the outskirts," cried out the official. He pointed out that about 60 trees were planted soon after the agreement was inked.

"Go and check if they are being maintained," he said, shifting blame onto the NGO.

'A communication gap'

And yet, it appeared that both parties were also sympathetic towards each other and both claimed to want to start the project but there was a communication gap between the two. "I feel the architects, who are very professional people, do not understand the way bureaucrats behave," said another PANI architect.

This one claimed to be the mediator between both sides and took a softer approach to the matter. He said that the architects working on the project are sincere but shy people. It can be difficult for them to interact with government offices and misunderstandings occur, he maintained.

Despite blaming each other for the 'unknown' delay, both sides also appeared optimistic regarding the development work.

"I think the delay [from the government side] is due to Covid-19 and the lockdown," said another PANI member.

He felt that the work would begin soon when the pandemic situation normalises. "Both sides are responsible," said the government official, toning down the blame.

"We need to sit again to make it possible within the stipulated time."