Citizens have repeatedly highlighted the Safora Goth to University road as a problem that needs to be urgently solved. Alamgir Khan’s infamous #FixIt campaign drew stencils of Qaim Ali Shah, the former CM Sindh to seal the gutters with manholes and remove heaps of garbage. His campaign eventually was killed. Recently Mubashir Ali Zaidi, an Urdu writer and journalist dedicated a satirical column to this problem, asking what this says of the people in government when a road leading to a university is in such a state of disarray. In spite of all this, little attention has been paid by the city and the provincial governments to address the security, infrastructural and waste management concerns this area.
Safora Goth was in the news when on the 13th of May 2015 a bus carrying 45 people from the Ismaili community were massacred on the road in broad daylight. The nation grieved, PM Sharif observed a day of mourning, Members of the National Assembly passed a resolution expressing grief, and MQM chief Altaf Hussein appealed for a suspension of business activities, all of which have become the expected reactions when it comes to addressing such events.
This however, should have been followed by steps to secure this area and improve access by reducing congestion, repairing the roads, installing traffic signals, clearing garbage heaps, and the maintenance of sewerage lines. This incident was not a solitary one but similar incidents have preceded and also followed it throughout the last year. For example, the killing of a professor of Dow Medical College, Dr. Rubina Khalid, the attack on a bus carrying Youm ul Qudos passengers, etc. These measures are necessary not just for the prevention of such incidents but they also facilitate accessibility in providing medical assistance post-incident.
The area from Safora Goth to University road is densely populated and an area of constant activity. Packed with flats and residential projects, this area is also a commercial center for sanitary ware, tyre shops and paint stores. The footpaths are covered in the morning by laborers who wait for their day’s wage. The area is lined with dhabas that prepare breakfast, then lunch and dinner alongside the busy road for the bus drivers and laborers who often depend on these hotels for their food and a bed at night. There is a Nadra office almost hidden between the chain of dhabbas reaffirming the presence of the state within the chaos. Builders such as Saima Group and Kings Builders have erected high rise apartments whose construction activities pollute the environment. This is also an area where small pockets of bakra mandis start appearing two months before Eid-ul- Azha. It gets uglier when it rains and sewerage pipes begin to overflow and flood the road.
The longest sidewalk covered with trash is right across the gate of the O.R.C.H. Society. “It’s the trash of everyone living in this area that is piled up on the other side of the road. But we don’t go and throw the trash there personally. Sweepers employed by the city government do that.” said, Saadia Mehmood, a resident of O.R.C.H.S.
The situation poses a serious health problem for its residents who do not see any way out. “The trash is not just a bad site to see but its smell is within the air that we breathe in.”, says Rukhsana Zahid who works at the head office of Fahim’s Schooling System. “There used to be a civic amenity site where trash was thrown from where the city government truck would collect trash to take it away. But 4 years back it was taken apart and never replaced. People though continued to throw trash there.”
Within this debacle, are 10 religious spaces (masjids and madrassahs), 15 educational institutes, 3 medical centers that share the polluted environment.
The only persons picking trash from there are the scavenger children. A study conducted by Applied Economics Research Centre involved the researcher to interview 149 boys who scavenged on the trash to separate recyclable material. The boys who scavenged on the trash had a collective understanding that they felt they were doing a “favor to those who created the mess and throw outside their premises without any heed to their moral and legal responsibilities.”
Farhan Anwar, Executive Director of Sustainable Initiatives says. In Karachi, only 39 per cent of the land is under city government and instead of the devolution of power to the local bodies, Sindh Solid Waste Management Board was created to withhold power at provincial level putting KMC further out of use. It was in February 2015, when Sindh Government announced its plans of launching public private partnerships in November 2015 that would take care of waste collection, transportation, treatment and disposal of solid waste. However, the inhabitants of this area continue to suffer.
The constant negation of maintenance many of its kind raises important questions regarding the priorities of the government.