Karachi is Suffering in the Heat

Posted on June 24, 2007
Filed Under >Bilal Zuberi, Disasters, Society
Total Views: 39951

Bilal Zuberi

Imagine 42 degrees celsius (107 degrees Farenheit) weather, no electricity, no fans, high humidity, no drinking water, and knee deep water on streets. Now imagine living through that for more than 24 hours. Terrible!

That is precisely what most Karachiites have been going through for more the past 2 days. A huge monsoonal storm hit the city yesterday, followed by torrential rains. And then the infrastructure of the city that had already suffered several major blows in the past 2 months simply came crashing down. The city now sits in a giant puddle, surrounded by fallen trees, billboards, traffic lights, and rooftops.

Due to the severity of the storm, several trees were pulled out of the ground and are now left stretched across streets, many large bill boards fell on top of passing cars and people, electricity wires were found dangling from the poles leading to several people dying of electrocution, roofs of poorly constructed homes fell killing the residents, rain-related traffic accidents led to further deaths, and now people are suffering without electricity and proper transportation in the maddening heat. Reports are indicating that more than 50 people have died and more than 200 have been injured in Karachi already in the aftermath of the storm. Even those who have lived in the city and watched many monsoons go by are claiming this storm to be among the worst they have weathered. It seems the first wave of the storm has passed by but the city is still struggling to play catch up from all the destruction that it caused.

Karachi has suffered every year in the summer – but this summer has truly been an exception. Loadshedding, whereas practiced for at most a few hours a day in other parts of the country, has been extended to over 10-12 hours each day in Karachi. At least in one part of Karachi, Gulshan Iqbal, residents have had electricity for barely 3-4 hours in the past 48 hours. They have run out of clean water and people are borrowing water from their neighbors who have electricity generators to operate their underground pumps. If one was to take a chopper and fly above those areas at night, one would see most rooftops dotted with chaarpaais. People are routinely taking to the roofs at night to find some air to sleep in.

It is no surprise that there are agitated demonstrations on the streets in almost all parts of the city, resulting in burning of maintenance vehicles, other cars, and of KFC franchise stores. Those with job i n the morning are barely getting a few hours of sleep each night, those living in tall flats and apartments have no roofs to go to, the sick and the elderly are suffering, and food/milk is rotting in their refrigerators. Even those with some influence are suffering. Portable electricity generators have given up in this heat. Others simply can’t afford one that can power major equipment, or can’t afford the fuel to run them 10 hours a day. Given the generator usage in the past month or so in Karachi, I would certainly want our environmental monitoring stations to report the increase in carbon monoxide, ozone and particulate emissions in the city.

Where is the administration amidst all of this mess? There have been pronouncements on TV (it is strange that due to the electricity shortage, I am able to have better access to news on Pakistan TV stations while living in the US than my own family that lives in Pakistan) that the City Nazim has established an emergency cell in his office, but results are yet to be seen. When residents of one area drove to the nearby KESC office to at least learn when to expect the electricity back, they found a big lock outside the door. Fearing their lives, and having no real plan of action, many KESC workers have fled the offices.

Here is what Dawn had to report on the electricity situation:

According to sources, fire broke out in Orangi grid station neutralising seven other grid stations that plunged major part of the city into darkness. Gulshan-i-Iqbal, Gulistan-i-Jauhar, Federal B Area, North Karachi, Orangi and the adjoining areas remained without power for several hours. This was in addition to sniping of wires and uprooting of electric poles in many localities.

In addition, KESC faced generation shortage as its flagship Bin Qasim was generating only 595MW by sunset and Korangi Thermal Power Plant along with Tapal were off. Supply from Hubco was also interrupted due to tripping in Valika. Owing to this the KESC was only receiving 270MW from WAPDA from Jamshoro Circuit instead of 700MW. The KESC Director Operations claimed that grid stations and feeders had been closed to protect the system from rains.

With the first drop of rain the KESC shut down its 35 grid stations and more than 400 feeders, 30 per cent of the feeders were closed due to tripping while the rest were closed as a precautionary measure. The KESC Director Operations claimed that except for 10 grid stations all were reactivated. But the areas served by the reactivated grids were still in darkness. “This could be due to local faults,� he claimed, however, he had no answer as to who would rectify those faults.

While uprooted poles, broken electric wires were lying on roads, the KESC was still unable to identify them and take measures to secure the area.

Is is shameful that in the largest metropolitan city of the country, people are having to live in these conditions. Everyone that I speak to is on the verge of giving up hope for the city. It appears the administrative system has collapsed, or has been rendered unable to do much in terms of providing relief. The nature and cause of the massive electricity shortage is a topic of another post all by itself, but right now there is a great need for emergency efforts to make sure the elderly, the children, and the ill are provided care in these difficult times. The weather is playing havoc, and the lack of basic amenities is multiplying the suffering.

34 responses to “Karachi is Suffering in the Heat”

  1. Mega development is another mean of corruption which cannot be nabbed by the corrupted NAB.

    Any one passing through these mega project can see the condition which is detoriating due substandard material and haste.

    Just pass through newly developed corridor and ask yourself how much money has been pilferaged from the total amount spent on this project?

    A good way to earn % or commision or party fund instead of going for mass scale bhatta:)

  2. faraz says:

    One intersting thing which most of Karachi and Pakistan should know. After May 11 event, ANP threaten all out retaliation against MQM. You know how they negotaited the deal?

    Governer gave extension to Rikshaw owners to keep their old rikshaw for few more years which are emiting “carbo-mono-oxide”. These ANP supported don’t understand that their families and childrens will breath same air. What about MQM. How easily they compromised on environment?

    These all mega contrsuction projects are making Karachi more polluted. Without clean air ppl will get cancer, heart attack much sooner then they should get. I am not against Karachi water front etc but they should also build mega parks and mega scheme of trees otherwise Karachi will become another Bombay.

  3. zamanov says:

    @ ShahidS

    I believe that issues that affect the health and future of the city and in fact the entire country should not be muddled with partisan politics.
    The current administration of CDGK is being led by MQM and is complaining that there are impediments to their governance of this city. I find no merit in that argument. MQM is a coalition partner with the central government, with their own Governor and several federal ministers, and is fully supported by General Musharraf who as COAS is lord over all Cantonment Boards and the Corps Commanders. Hence they can not use the argument that they cannot govern the whole city. What then is the problem with Hyderabad? Is it a shining example of MQM administration as well? If they are so powerless/helpless in this coalition then why don’t they just quit it?

    My earlier post above was pointed at all current government officials and not just the MQM government of Karachi. The Punjab government is doing all it can to destroy the environment of Lahore and other cities in Punjab. It took the suo moto notice from the Supreme Court to halt the razing of Murree hills and other major public spaces in Lahore. There are several other examples from the other provincial and city governments that signify clearly that there is absolutely no priority being given to the environmental sustainability of our cities or the basic issues of the people (clean water, power, security, transportation, etc.).

    The reason these rulers dangle these ridiculous schemes of mega island development, 1947 ft. high towers, beach front resorts, and condos in the mountains, in front of the public, is to drown out the voices of dissent and hide the real issues this country faces. What these rulers are trying to say is just shut up and let us rule because we are the best and only we know what is best for all of you. The louder they bray the more incoherent they sound!

  4. ShahidS says:

    I am a little skeptical about all the MQM bashing going on.Are they really incompetant or there are hurdles in their way created by their opponents.Last time I was in karachi and I drove on this nice bridge ,which I was told constructed under MQMs supervision.Again I am still not a big fan of MQM because of what they call themselves is dividing people not uniting.One other thing about electicity shortage explanation. With no offense who cares for megawatts and kiosk details.Electricity or no electricity that would be in the common persons mind.

  5. zamanov says:

    For all the “devalapmint” freaks who are supporting the incompetent rulers of Karachi and other big cities in Pakistan, please read the linked article in the current issue of Time magazine. The latest research has confirmed that the lack of trees (or killing of existing ones) has contributed to the prevalent weather and environmental condition of our cities. Nature is being destroyed in our name and given the frenzied pace of further destruction, there will be no future left for our children to live in a healthy environment in these cities.

    “…Every tree that’s subtracted from a city’s ecosystem means some particulate pollution that should have been filtered out remains. Simply replanting does not suffice because small, young trees require decades to grow to full size. … The crown of a large tree is also a freestanding antiflood reservoir, in some cases intercepting so much rainfall that more than 1,500 gal. a year evaporates instead of hitting the ground. Chop down the tree, and you increase the volume of storm water a city must manage–something that affects older cities with aging drainage systems especially severely.
    But it’s the thermometer that most noticeably reflects the loss of trees. A high canopy prevents sunlight and heat from ever reaching the ground; by contrast, unshaded asphalt soaks up thermal energy and radiates it back, creating what is known as heat islands…”
    (http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171, 1635842,00.html)

    While most cities are realizing the damage already done to their environments and doing something about it (Seoul, Bogota, even Los Angeles planting 11 million trees over the next 30 years, etc.) the lords of Karachi and other major urban centers in Pakistan are hell bent on destroying what’s left in order to sell their pseudo-development mantra to the unsuspecting and ill-educated population.

    Lack of power, lack of water, lack of sewerage, lack of trees, lack of clean air…when and where will this madness stop?
    Please think before you fall for every word that these incompetent and self-serving rulers are trying to feed you in the guise of government and development.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *