LAHORE: The Water and Sanitation Agency (Wasa) Friday night launched yet another unsuccessful attempt to remove encroachments from the Sattukatla drain – which disposes of rain water from the southern part of the city and has been reduced to half of its original width due to illegal constructions.
The drain has been encroached upon at several points by residential buildings, markets and seven pedestrian bridges. These bridges have been built on the patch between Fruit and Vegetables’ market in Model Town up to Babu Sabu and have reduced the width from 30-feet to 15-feet.
In a bid to demolish the bridges, the Wasa officials offered to replace them with wider bridges so that the drain’s original breadth could be restored but a large crowd of people who had turned up to oppose the move, turned a deaf ear.Protestors stood on the bridges and warned the Wasa officials that they could only move on with the demolition over their dead bodies. Some of them pushed one of the contractors, Usman, into the drain. He was rescued by the Wasa team. Sajjad Ahmed Bhutta, the district coordination officer (DCO), held negotiations with the protestors for about two-hours but could not persuade them to change their mind.
Muhammad Farooq, who lives in a house beside one of the bridges marked for demolition, told The Express Tribune that his house walls were connected to the bridge. “I don’t care about the bridge. They can do what they like if it will not damage my house.”
Zahida Bibi, another beneficiary from encroachments, said that she had been living with her two daughters in a two-marla house on the drain. “If an alternative is provided I’m ready to vacate the place,” she remarked.
Javed Iqbal, the Wasa managing director, said that the people had to sacrifice ‘something’ if they wanted to avoid the flooding that follows every monsoon rain. He added that it was impossible for the Wasa to clear rain water without citizens’ cooperate. “They should either stop complaining and suffer silently or get ready for a few sacrifices,” he remarked.
Iftikharud Din Naeem, the Wasa director drainage, said that the operation was launched on directions of the Khawaja Imran Raza, the personal staff officer of the chief minister. He said that Raza told them in a meeting held on Friday at the Wasa headquarters to remove more than 2,000 encroachments on the nine main drains of the city on an urgent basis.
The drains include Sattukatla Drain, Iqbal Town Drain, Central Drain, Cantt Drain, Shalimar Escape Channel drain (Sukh Nehr Drain), Gulberg Drain, Shadman Drain and Lower Chhota Ravi Drain.
The Wasa had earlier demolished three pedestrian bridges (7-feet, 10-feet and 12-feet wide) on Sattukatla Drain on June 5.
Iqtidar Shah, the Wasa deputy managing director (Operation and Maintenance), said that the operation has been underway since June 16. “We’ve been facing an outcry against the operation, but there is no other way to end the flooding during the monsoons.”
Published in The Express Tribune, July 25th, 2010.
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