Pakistan Meteorological Department has confirmed that Karachi received the heaviest rain in a single day ever in its history when 231 mm rain fell in just 12 hours, the highest rainfall record over the last 90 years. Hub Dam water level crossed 338.5 feet, the highest level in 13 years. During August 2020 only, Karachi received 484 mm (19 inches) rain. With rainwater and overflowed water from nullahs and drains flooding most of the main roads and streets in residential locations, many residential areas including urban slums and villages in peri-urban areas gravely disrupted the people’s lives. The inundated roads caused massive traffic jams on 27th August 2020, 6 out of 7 districts of Karachi were declared as “Calamity hit areas” by the Relief Commissioner – Government Sindh under Sindh National Calamities (P&R) Act 1958. Karachi East and Malir being most affected. Fully 70% of areas were difficult to access due to damages to the road/ streets or the presence of stagnant water, 0.3% of houses were completely or partially damaged. 27% of bridges and walkways are partially damaged. Electricity breakdown reported in all areas for 10 – 34 hours.
Known for having done a wonderful job with regards to development of land, Defence Housing Authority Karachi (DHA) serves other DHAs and other housing societies countrywide as a model, earning respect in the eyes of general public/investors/allottees for its fairness in the allotment / transfers / security of the plots. Recently DHA Karachi has come under lot of criticism during recent unprecedented rains (the largest rainfall in 90 years). Flood waters entered many houses in a low lying sector comprising less than 5% of the Authority. Electricity shutdown further added to the miseries of the household over a prolonged period of several days, this was covered live by almost all TV channels.
DHA Karachi completes all technical and legal formalities upto the construction of the home. Once the house is constructed, Cantonment Board Clifton(CBC) takes over the management the infrastructure of this small city, providing / maintaining basic facilities. These include (a) maintenance of roads (b) provision of water (c) security (d) drainage of rainy water (e) hygiene and sanitation (f) plantation (g) cutting of shrubs and wild growth (h) collection and disposal of garbage (i) disposal of wild dogs (j) DDT spraying, etc.
Spread over 3780 sq kms of DHA Karachi occupies over 35 sq kms ie less than 1%. At the very most 5% of DHA was affected by the massive rainfull. Compared to the 70% areas affected in Karachi, 35% in dire straits, that of DHA comprised only 0.5%. Shortfalls / inadequate services did take place in some DHA areas because of the torrential rains. The total area under CBC is 51 sq kms of which the area most affected was Phase-VI which is spread over 7.7 sq kms out of which only 1 sq km area remained affected for 4/5 days while the remaining 50 sq kms was cleared within 48 hours by CBC. After the rainfall certain areas of DHA such as Phase-1, II, II Ext, IV, V, V Ext, Block-8 & 9, Bazar (Katchi Abadi) area and major portions of Phase-VI, VII & VII Ext were de-watered within 48 hours. Some areas of Phase-VI including Ittehad Commercial, Bukhari Commercial and Nishat Commercial where cloudburst occurred were cleared in 4 to 5 days by bringing in extra machinery to cope with the non-availability of drainage infrastructure in these areas. Unfortunately these were the areas of focus by electronic and print media.
One must also take into account that when the drainage infrastructure was laid it was meant for a sustainable capacity of 217 mm rainfall in 48 hours. The torrential rains on Aug 27, as per metrological data was an unprecedented 130 mm in just 1 hour and (as stated earlier) a devastating 230 mm in 4 hours, this caused urban flooding. CBC /DHA areas fall in the southern part of Karachi (route / tail end of all storm water drains / nullahs), this ultimately caused an extra heavy load to dispel and was the reason why inundated areas took 4/5 days to clear. The unfortunate comparison that led to a wrong perception was because residents obviously expect better services and a quality life as compared to other localities in Karachi. Water distribution is the responsibility over CBC. DHA residents must understand that water lines were laid about many decades years ago. With the Water Board supplying only 4 MGD Water of the 9 MGD required, shortage of potable water persists. That is why CBC is still using bowsers. While DHA residents face a constant problem from K-Electric relating to excessive billing, as is usual during the rainy season KE added of the miseries of residents by power shutdowns for extended periods, falling/severed power lines creating additional danger.
Excellent work was done in DHA for draining out of flood water in 2007/2008 by Brigadier Kamran Qazi, than Administrator DHA, to overcome possibility of flooding during the monsoon. This helped a lot in getting rid of stagnant water on the roads when it rained. However this now requires re-vamping. Due to blockages here and there in these drains, and at places due to poor maintenance, the residents of some areas had to suffer in the recent rains, the intensity of which incidentally was not seen for 90 years. DHA and CBC together have been initiating its contingency plans before the rains came i.e. desilting of storm water drains was carried out during May to July 2020 in Kh-e-Shamsher and Mujahid, Kh-e-Sehar and Muhafiz Commerical Avenue, E Street, B Street and Kh-e-Bahria, 5th Street and 12th Lane etc, while open nullahs were also desilted such as the drain along Korangi Road near Mehmoodabad Road, Jami Nullah, Transit Camp, the drain along old Sunset Boulevard and along Ch. Khaliquzzaman Road, Nehr-e-Khayyam, Mehmoodabad nullah, and many others. For this massive exercise CBC incurred additional expenditure of Rs. 49.086 million on the desilting process besides also procuring additional resources i.e. machinery and equipment. The machinery & dewatering equipment employed: 150 vehicles and included 150 petrol engine pumps, 11 canal pumps, 8 mobile hydrants, 4 turbines with 10 HP motor. Additional resources that were employed included 6 peter pumps, 40 suction pumps, 10 suction pumps for grey water bowzers, 15000 Rft suction and delivery pipes and 45 suction bowzers. Three excavators and 6 dumpers were hired.
The Armed Forces and Rangers came to their rescue of DHA residents to drain out the flood water as quickly as was possible. Whenever the average in other areas of Karachi was 9-10 days, most area were cleared in 1-4 days. To ease the suffering of affected residents CBC had set up 10 relief camps and distributed more than 500 food packages amongst affected families during rescue operations. Residents protested angrily in front of the CBC office, mainly because of two problem areas, viz (a) inability to quickly clear off accumulated rain water and (b) provision of insufficient water and While the demonstrators had every right to voice their grievances and protest, peacefully, there was no need to take the law into their own hands and resort to rioting and violence.
In order to address the pressing problems of DHA residents, CBC has installed 44 water filtration and one RO plant, they have planned to establish (a) more sanitation and filtration plant to provide sufficient potable and drinking water (b) planning is in the work-to revive the DHA COGEN Power and Desalination Plant so as to have their own power house like Bahria Karachi (c) work is in hand to set in a system of underground cables to be made water proof instead of having open wiring (d) Existing drainage system is being improved on a high priority basis and underground water tanks are being made as done by Government of Punjab in Lahore. Those will be connected with sewerage lines to avoid flooding on one side while using this water for the plants instead of wasting DHA supplied water (e) DHA and CBC alongwith K-Electric are revisiting their emergency plans in light of what residents and their departments have experienced during the recent heavy rains. Setting up a desalination plant were announced sometime ago.
In a candid talk with the CPNE Executive Committee, Brig Abid Askari, Station Commander Karachi and President CBC and Brig Asim Administrator DHA encouraged objective suggestions to enhance the residents comfort and security it was encouraging to see that their mandate for being actively progressive were on the direct instructions of the Corps Commander 5 Corps Lt Gen Humayun Aziz. Incidentally the Corps Comd must be lauded for taking a number of quick decisions which spared Karachi a greater disaster than that which unfolded.
Bahria Housing Society was established 40 years later and therefore has an advantage over DHA with regards to quality of life / services being provided. To keep up its name as a leader amongst the land developer / housing societies, DHA Karachi certainly has to improve services beyond any doubt to win the hearts of its existing residents. However why is it that prices of land and houses in DHA Karachi exceed that of Bahria multiple times. The acid test of quality is whether a potential home owner or investor, puts his/her money in. Disasters notwithstanding why does DHA Karachi still remain the object of buyer’s desire?
The writer is a Defence and Security Analyst.