Environment? What Environment?

This last Wednesday I had the opportunity to travel to a part of Karachi that many people, including perhaps, my self, like to live in oblivion to. Banaras Chowk and the adjoining areas of Orangi Township, recently named the largest slum of Asia, are famous for their brand of Banarsi shops, but less famous, or rather infamous, is the pains you have to take to get there. Roads, half dig up for construction work, half littered with trash and abundant potholes, are not an uncommon sight in any part of this great city of ours, but the extent to which you see these kind of things in Orangi, home to much of Karachi’s working labour class, was nevertheless shocking.

At one point, the crests and troughs you had to drive through were so exaggerated, the only we way could pass our five passenger (over-loaded) car through it, was by everyone except the driver him self getting out of the car, and with some of those passengers pushing the car from behind. But more worryingly the air outside was so thick with dust, it made my earlier experiences of traveling through Korangi SITE area (where too construction for an umpteen number of flyovers is going on for God knows how long and has has rendered its usual grotesque effects on the enviorment) seem pleasant in comparison.

Having this nightmarish personal experience of the heavily polluted environment in the area just behind me, you can well imagine how seeing this report in the newspaper the very next day would have made me feel. Dynamites were being used, the report said, despite the city being in a seismic zone, to clear up a section of the Manghopir-North Nazimabad Hills, as a part of the construction work surrounding the Qasba-North Nazimabad Bypass.

This bypass -which would, amongst other things, offer an alternate route to the congested Bananas Chowk area I had visited only yesterday and found its environment to be the worst of any area of the city I had seen- was being constructed without an Environment Impact Assessment, or EIA, which according to the Pakistan Environment Protection Act (PEPA) is mandatory before any such project is initiated.

But the project director Rauf Akhtar Farooqui declared the EIA a seemingly useless “time-consuming exercise” which was superfluous when the aim was merely “rapid development”. Given the recent attempts of the powers to be of this city to fast-forward the construction of the much vaunted Elevated Expressway without due attention given to very real and valid concerns raised by experts about its environment friendliness (to put it really mildly that is), this level of indifference and apathy from a man in public position towards an escalating and serious problem was neither new nor surprising, but disheartening all the same.

Ardeshir Cowasjee, ever the blunt man that he is, cared enough to shed some more light on the background of Mr. Environment is Useless Rauf Farooqui in in his Dawn column this weekend:

The city government’s project director of the KEE is Canadian citizen Rauf Akhtar Farooqui, an OSD (officer on special duty), a great favourite of the Pir of London and his appointed Karachi City Nazim, young Mustafa Kamal who has a Malaysian connection. According to Project Director Farooqui, while discoursing on another ‘development’ project, there is no need for such “time-consuming exercises” as environmental impact assessments, when the aim is “rapid development.” This says it all. Long may we live, healthily – breathing polluted air.

And all this when our city has just been named the most air polluted city in the entire world. Is there really so little hope?

14 Comments so far

  1. Salauddeen (unregistered) on June 10th, 2007 @ 5:32 pm

    You could start wearing a niqab which filters out the dust and other pollutants!

    A marketing opportunity for makers of niqabs!


  2. TURAB (unregistered) on June 10th, 2007 @ 5:37 pm

    i think this is worth mentioning esp since a few brave fire fighters of our cty have lost lives in the last couple fo years….

    http://dawn.com/2007/06/10/local9.htm


  3. MB (unregistered) on June 10th, 2007 @ 5:40 pm

    When we were shouting that the so called development projects have more motives then the development & that with time we shall come to know their standard, who was listening.

    Ahhh!!!
    relax, its jut the begining.


  4. pkhan (unregistered) on June 10th, 2007 @ 5:57 pm

    They are right who cares ‘Environmental studies’those are the thing for the Western countries, we in karachi have t go a LOOOOOOOOONG way to get these ES done , for now lets try to get only clean drinking water?then Electricity then may be clean AIR?


  5. axiomatic (unregistered) on June 10th, 2007 @ 10:55 pm

    I saw this report in Dawn. I congratulate the CDGK and all citizens of Karachi for achieving this international recognition and claiming dual distinction of being the dirtiest city of the world (air pollution) and hving the largest slum in the world!

    While everyone has contributed his bit towards this extraordinary achievement, this greatness could not have been achieved without help of our civic agncies mainly CDGK and KBCA.

    I would encourage the authorities to not only maintain this distinction, but also venture on other environmental disasters like sale of beach and KEE so that noone in coming 1000 years should be able to break our record of pollution.

    I also thank the federal government for such extraordinary governance.

    Bravo Karachi!


  6. Salman A. (unregistered) on June 10th, 2007 @ 11:44 pm

    @Axiomatic,
    very well said, my friend.. good job, it is definitley a “well-deserved & earned” slap in the face of everyone.. i also repeat my 1+1 cents i put earlier in one of my posts:

    Karachi topping the list in air pollution? Shame on both Karachiites and its policy makers…… Need long term planning for the cure of this cancer…

    1- media should focus on environment issues instead of these useless and bullshit talk shows and 3rd class quality entertainment..

    2- all vehicles should be smoke tested and a permit should be issued to each car and motorcycle on a PASS / FAIL basis..

    3- stop cutting trees in case there are left any, everywhere, including the cemeteries..

    4- govt. should give incentives e.g. tax break to homeowners for planting trees in their yards..


  7. KhiTorPitt (unregistered) on June 11th, 2007 @ 3:33 am

    @Zainub, Can you plz post the pict. of the city along with your post in future if possible, I would be glad to see them, as I have never been to Orangi or Korangi, and many places in Khi, being away from Khi, we miss it too much. I dont know how those places looks like.


  8. Faraz (unregistered) on June 11th, 2007 @ 6:54 am

    Zainub, I see your point about the project going forward without the blessing of EIA. But what does the pollution and terrible road conditions you saw at Banaras chowk have to do with the construction of an alternate route?


  9. Zainub (unregistered) on June 11th, 2007 @ 12:21 pm

    What does the pollution and terrible road conditions at Banaras Chowk have to do with that alternate route? Well, there isn’t a directly link per se, but the conditions in Banaras, in my opinion at least, were a direct consequence of unplanned, un-synchronized so-called “development” projects, taken ahead, once again, without any consideration for a)the environment, b)the headaches it would bring on the locals during the time of the construction (needless to point out no alternative routes were visible in the area where one half of two way road was being re-made, leaving commuters to fend for them self in half a road with double the amount of traffic that normally is on it), or c)anything at all apart from the on-the-face cover of “rapid development”.

    My gripe, is not with development projects them selves, it with with how they are planned, and what the intention is behind them. As MB points out, it does not seem the real development of the people is the intention of many of these projects, but rather that they serve a large purpose of acting as a showcase of the government’s achievements. And since these projects become part of that showcase relatively quickly, or at least more rapidly then other projects would become, if they were designed based on the real problems of this city, they are always a favorite with our “leaders”. Mr. Farooqi couldn’t really have put it better, their aim is only and only, “rapid development”. If the already pathetic state of our environment is being severely compromised during this “rapid development” or that citizens are suffering daily as a consequence of it, both in terms of time, money and peace of mind, who really cares…so long as its rapid and appears superficially to be development, who really cares what else is compromised for it, even if isn’t really serving to develop any one else except the government superficial profile, all this is basically useless “time-consuming” exercises. Who cares about ordinary citizens of Orangi or indeed any other part of this city anyway…they’re only important when you need to bribe them to vote for you, not otherwise. I should just learn to live with that.


  10. MB (unregistered) on June 11th, 2007 @ 2:39 pm

    @Zainub
    Thank you for putting it out all from my side. My valuable calories were saved.

    My next post hopefully will try to cover the latest signs of deterioration on a flyover. Lets see if i get some pics or not.


  11. Concerned (unregistered) on June 11th, 2007 @ 7:57 pm

    To be fair to the govt they did try moving slums into flats, the slum dwellers didnt trust the govt (and I dont blame them either), so they didnt show any interest. Does any one know wht happened to that story?


  12. Concerned (unregistered) on June 12th, 2007 @ 9:15 pm

    @axiomatic

    Just wanted to draw you attention to the following:

    “One graph which showed the slum populations is not available online, but was in the print copy and showed Pakistan as having the fifth largest slum population, way behind China and India in numbers.”

    source: http://www.dawn.com/weekly/cowas/cowas.htm

    This is to refute your claim that Khi has the largest slum in the world.


  13. axiomatic (unregistered) on June 13th, 2007 @ 7:27 pm

    @concerned

    Thanx for the correction, mistake regretted. Orangi Town is the biggest slum in Asia and not (probably) in the world.

    Moreover, I would reproduce the following here from the same article for our readers.

    “One graph which showed the slum populations is not available online, but was in the print copy and showed Pakistan as having the fifth largest slum population, way behind China and India in numbers. But it also showed that 74 per pent of urban dwellers in Pakistan live in slums (as opposed to 56 per cent in India and 38 per cent in China).”


  14. Concerned (unregistered) on June 13th, 2007 @ 8:30 pm

    Dude,

    China and India are in Asia.



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