Community Mapping

Whenever Karachi floods the government announces the widening of its nalas that carry the floodwater to the sea. The decision of the extent of widening is taken in an ad hoc manner. As a result of recent decisions __ number of houses along Gujjar Nala, __ along Mehmoodabad Nala, and ___ along Manzoor Colony Nala are to be demolished. The affectees are not being allocated land or funds for rehabilitating themselves and are becoming homeless, having been declared encroachers by the judiciary in Pakistan.

Affected communities argue that their encroachments are just one of the reasons why Karachi floods. Other reasons are that the nalas are choked and as such cannot function to capacity, inevitably flooding the areas through which they pass. Communities also claim that they have paid corrupt government officials for the land they sit on and in addition have paid billions of rupees for electricity, gas, and municipal connection and taxes over the last 50 years. Non-government planners are also of the view that another reason for flooding is that three of the major outfalls to the sea at Gizri Creek in Defence Society, Chinna Creek backwaters around Mai Kolachi, and the Kalri Nala at Machhar Colony are blocked and even if the nalas are widened flooding will still take place.

At a meeting of civil society organizations in September 2020, when demolitions were supposed to take place along the Manzoor Colony Nala, it was decided that the community should undertake its own mapping. Arch. Fazal Noor was given the responsibility of arranging this process. Sirajuddin, Head of Technical Training Resource Center, an NGO trained in community mapping by the OPP, was giving the responsibility of surveying and mapping the Manzoor Colony natural drainage system with community involvement. The Urban Resource Center (URC) was appointed as advisor.

The findings of the community mapping show that the Mehmoodabad Nala drains into the Manzoor Colony Nala and that a network of nalas passing through 34 settlements (which include Muhammad Ali Society and PECHS Blocks 2 and 6) drains into the Mehmoodabad Nala. The depth of the Manzoor Colony Nala is about seven feet of which three to four feet are filled with sewage sludge and silt reducing its effective depth. At 21 points in this drainage network the nalas are blocked with garbage, debris, and parts of collapsed infrastructure. All this has been mapped with photographs.

The communities are of the opinion that if these obstructions are removed and the nalas are cleaned and subsequently maintained, flooding will not take place as the capacity of the nalas will be increased by well over 100%. However, government planners point out that for cleaning the nalas heavy machinery will be required and for that a minimum clear space of 20ft is required on either side of the nala. This can be provided in the case of the Manzoor Colony Nala by the removal of 39 houses which can be accommodated within the existing settlement.

But there is another problem. The Manzoor Colony Nala drains into the Defence Society drain in Phase 7 to which the sewage and floodwaters of Phase 2 and 7 of DHA are added. During heavy rains this drain floods Defence Society and at high tide there is a backwash which makes it difficult for the Manzoor Colony network to drain into the sea. The reason for this flooding is that the Defence Society has encroached upon the one kilometer-wide estuary of the Gizri Creek and reduced its width to a 60ft nala. Heavy pumping will be required to deal with this situation or alternatively restoring the estuary which would mean the demolition of a large number of posh houses that have been built on it. This is seldom pointed out.

The building of a 20ft. road will keep the settlement as it is. However, a 60ft. road, which has been planned, will invite developers and slowly coerce the inhabitants out of the settlement. Thus a low-income settlement will be lost to the city center leading to a densification of other katchi abadis or the creation of new ones. It is claimed that such a road will help in the circulation of traffic. However, without a city-level traffic management plan this will be a disaster as we will be creating new congestion nodes just as the construction of signal-free roads have done.

It is suggested that mapping, decision-making, and future management should be done with the involvement of communities and local expertise and on the basis of a vision to promote equity and justice and not on an ad hoc, anti-poor basis. If this is not done it is feared that apart from adding to the ranks of the homeless, the planned upgrading process will result in failure, as it has done so many times in the past.


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