Civic malfeasance

Responsibility for ensuring safety of public infrastructure lies with relevant authorities and utility companies

May 21, 2024


A string of recent deaths attributed to missing manhole covers has brought new attention to the abject failure of civic authorities to keep roads and footpaths safe. It is unacceptable that such a preventable and senseless tragedy continues to occur in our communities. The lack of maintenance and proper safety measures regarding manhole covers is a failure that puts innocent lives at risk.

The responsibility for ensuring the safety of public infrastructure lies with the relevant authorities and utility companies. It is imperative that regular inspections and maintenance of manhole covers are carried out to prevent such incidents from happening. Furthermore, there needs to be strict enforcement of safety regulations to hold accountable those responsible for neglecting the maintenance of these vital components of our urban infrastructure.

News reports from Karachi had official estimates that over 20,000 manholes in the country’s commercial capital were without covers. Many were damaged, some due to normal wear and tear, while others were of low quality. However, a worryingly large number were just “stolen by drug addicts” to sell for scrap and pay for their next hit. Secure manholes, which come with keys or combination locks, do not cost much more than standard ones and would make theft almost impossible, yet they rarely come up during discussions among the responsible parties.

The recent decision by a sessions court to order action against the directors of Malir Development Authority over the death of a child is an appropriate move that will hopefully wake up other civic managers in other cities and towns before more people fall victim to entirely avoidable incidents. In addition to the authorities’ actions, the public must be vigilant and report any damaged or missing manhole covers they encounter. Heightened awareness and proactive reporting can contribute to preventing accidents and saving lives. We cannot afford to overlook the seriousness of this issue.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 21st, 2024.

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