With the municipal authorities fighting over jurisdiction, the youth have stepped up to make sure the city is clean.
For years, residents of Shah Rasul Colony had been dumping garbage on a Defence Housing Authority (DHA) open ground - the size of a hockey field - in the absence of any municipality-installed containers for household refuse. Though the DHA claims ownership of the ground, the slum area falls within the jurisdiction of the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation’s (KMC). Given this confusion, DHA’s municipal authority - the Cantonment Board Clifton - refused to help the residents.
The KMC finally woke up from slumber when a team of youngsters, affiliated with the non-government initiative for environmental rehabilitation - Go Green, approached the Karachi Commissioner, Shoaib Ahmed Siddiqui, with a proposal last month.
“I found his [Siddiqui’s] speech on ‘green initiatives’ for the metropolis at an awards ceremony for eco-friendly companies very encouraging,” recalled Go Green president Faisal Mustafa while talking to The Express Tribune. The commissioner asked for public-private partnership schemes for the city’s betterment. “Since speeches often carry platitudes, I was sceptical about any positive and practical response.”
The reaction was, however, surprising and abrupt for Mustafa who was far from being a novice in social activism. He had served as the Karachi front-man for the “Project Cleanup for Peace” last year in September when young volunteers from Islamabad, Karachi and Lahore launched a campaign to nurse streets back to normality, which were burnt down during violent protests against an anti-Islam movie.
The commissioner called up the youngsters to his office and asked additional commissioner, Rubina Asif, to coordinate for a sustainable plan, said Arsalan Ali, the Go Green vice-president.
For the activists who wanted to achieve something substantial, 26-year-old Mohammad Jibran Nasir, came to the rescue. Nasir, who contested the NA-250 seat as an independent candidate in May’s elections, has been busy resolving citizen’s issues within the constituency. “I had surveyed this area as well as other slums adjoining DHA and Clifton during my election campaign, so I am pretty much aware of the local issues,” he told The Express Tribune. “When I got to know about the initiative, I helped hooked them up with the locals.”
On Friday afternoon, the KMC personnel along with half a dozen loaders and dumpers reached Shah Rasul Colony along with KMC South administrator Mohammad Raisi - who failed to explain why the authorities overlooked this issue for so long. “We are merely a call away if there is any cleanliness issue in your locality,” he insisted.
As part of the cleanliness drive, KMC will move tons of garbage from the site in the first phase, following which the DHA will be asked to stretch a boundary wall around the property, said Raisi. In the second phase, containers for household refuse will be placed in the neighbourhood and KMC dumpers will replace them every day, he promised.
Mustafa said that, if DHA allows, the ‘Go Green’ team intends to develop the vacant site into a family park with the help of sponsors. The green space will serve the locality until the DHA decides to utilise the plot for any other purpose.
Nasir too has a proposal for multinationals, which spend billions on large-scale advertising campaigns, to organise workshops and sensitisation campaigns for the slums, such as Shah Rasul Colony. “When municipal authorities do not pay attention to their responsibilities, the residents develop bad habits over the period,” he said. “For instance, now when the dumping site oozes to its capacity, residents of Shah Rasul Colony throw their garbage in front of their houses.”
Published in The Express Tribune, August 3rd, 2013.