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Did the government know or even care how catastrophic Karachi’s floods would get?

Did the government know or even care how catastrophic Karachi’s floods would get?

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Karachi continues to sink beneath a torrential wave of storms and rainwater. The city has been in turmoil since before the monsoon, what with sewage overflowing onto main roads as well as distressingly long power outages. All of these factors have culminated to bring about absolute chaos in a metropolis that is by nature a fast-paced, bustling urban giant now forced to a standstill.

What is so difficult to comprehend is that Karachi’s government knew just how dire the situation could get but failed to take action. To many, this critique sounds like a broken record now: people are tired of whaling on the government. Despite early warnings from the Pakistan Meteorological Department (PMD), no precautionary efforts were made to secure the city. But the fact of the matter is, it is not just the government’s failings that have led to this catastrophe.

Illegal settlements alongside storm drains are one reason why the city’s drainage system has failed. These buildings have resulted in a narrowing of the drains, with mounds of garbage choking the channels exacerbating the problem.

Residents of Karachi who did not know any better have contributed towards setting the stage for disaster. However, it is easily arguable that the government could have taken notice of this and razed those settlements. But then where would the people go? Would the government be able or willing to accommodate them?

Waseem Akhtar, Karachi’s mayor, has said that last year Sindh’s government failed to provide funds to clear out blocked drains as per customary procedure every year.

But who really is heading Sindh’s government? There are too many players involved in this convoluted political landscape. The PMD’s role seems restricted to issuing warnings. Mayor Wasim Akhtar is cognizant of the issues but claims that Sindh’s government – with Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah at the helm – is hindering efforts to fix the situation.

In a video statement released yesterday, the Chief Minister seemed to be unaware of just how catastrophic the situation has become. He believes that while low-lying villages have been hit considerably, cities remain relatively protected from floods, and even that the situation is apparently better than it was last year. Whether or not his statements are correct, this seems to be an extremely lax attitude towards a situation that is worsening by the hour.

Clearly, the disconnect between provincial authorities and city officials has the involved individuals feeling as if their hands are tied. The unfortunate conclusion to be drawn is that only an external body such as the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) may be capable of achieving anything noteworthy. Reportedly, the NDMA was responsible for clearing “42 choke points” and “removing 31,000 tons of sludge” across the city.

PTI’s Asad Umar – Minister for Planning, Development, and Special Initiatives – said in a recent tweet that he had approved a plan by the NDMA which should solve the issue within a year. In the comments section, some people rightfully pointed out that it seemed as if he was only putting off the problem and postponing its solution just like previous politicians have done.