Driving for cleanliness: KMC brings back mechanical sweepers to Karachi

Two of the 16 vehicles have started cleaning the roads from Thursday night.

Oonib Azam July 11, 2015
Two of the 16 vehicles have started cleaning the roads from Thursday night. PHOTO: FILE

KARACHI: The Karachi Metropolitan Corporation's (KMC) road-cleaning machines worth millions of rupees, which had been rotting away for the last several years, are finally being brought back onto the roads. The first two of these machines were used to clean one of the major roads of Karachi late Thursday night.

The cleaning process kicked off from Shaheed-e-Millat Expressway, when Commissioner Shoaib Siddiqui, who has been given the additional charge of the KMC administrator, inaugurated the resumption of the cleaning work. Initially three major traffic arteries - Sharae Faisal, Rashid Minhas Road and Shaheed-e-Millat Expressway will be cleaned with the help of these machines.

Addressing the media personnel present on the occasion, Siddiqui said that the cleanliness work will be carried out only during the night. "The temperature remains moderate during the night and the flow of traffic is usually thin, which makes it easier to operate this machine," he explained.

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According to Siddiqui, only two of the vehicles will be used for the time being. "When the rest of the machines are repaired, all the 29 major roads of the city falling under the jurisdiction of the KMC will be cleaned by these machines daily in the early hours of the morning," he promised.

Meanwhile, KMC's senior municipal director Masood Alam told The Express Tribune that the department has a total of 16 machines, of which two have been repaired on an emergency basis.

When asked why and since when these machines had been dumped, he said they had not been used since 2010. "One after another, these machines developed faults and the department did not have the money to repair them," he explained, adding that each sweeper was purchased at a cost of Rs10 million. "Their maintenance cost is even higher as they have two engines; one to clean the road and the other to propel the vehicle."

According to Alam, the KMC needs around Rs10 million to bring the remaining machines onto the roads, which the municipal body would arrange from its own resources. "Since these machines have not been used for the last five years, their engines need to be repaired and they all need new and heavy batteries."

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The problems will not end with the repairs though. "The two larger vehicles require around 250 litres of diesel per day while the smaller ones need 120 litres. This is one of the major reasons why we were not able to continue their usage," he said, adding that the machine runs on a speed of 10 kilometer per hour. "The main roads have four lanes and it cleans one lane at a time," he explained. "The 10km road thus turns into 40 kilometres for this machine."

According to Alam, the machine also sprinkles water on the road, due to which the cloud of dust is not formed, which is usually there when the road is swept manually.

A member of NGO Shehri-Citizens for a Better Environment, Ronald deSouza, seemed to be skeptical about the use of this machine on the roads of Karachi. He told The Express Tribune that the process of street cleaning was very common and effective in the West. "They have proper timings to clean the streets, and in those timings, the citizens are bound not to park or bring their cars in the area being cleaned," he said. "But in Karachi it would be quite difficult to use these machines."

According to him, most of the main arteries of the city are usually clogged with parked vehicles even late at night, which is the biggest hurdle in the movement of this machine.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 12th, 2015.

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