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Saturday, January 28, 2023
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EditorialAbandoned city

Abandoned city

The incident of gas explosion in Karachi’s Sher Shah area on Saturday is a brutal reminder of decades of neglect the metropolis faced with people pro­tected just by luck. At least 17 people, including the father of PTI MNA Alamgir Khan, lost their lives in the blast that occurred in a bank branch illegally built on a sewerage line. According to initial reports, the cause of the explosion was absence of a gas exit in a sewerage drain that resulted in a massive blast, claiming over a dozen lives. Lives that could have been saved had the city’s administration done the job it is established to do.

But an FIR has been lodged in the case and the suspects face charges of ‘doing an act with the knowledge that they were likely to hurt people by their actions’.

The question, however, remains who really are the suspects. A two-story concrete building was illegally erected on a drainage line; the sewer line that caused toxic gases to mix, resulting into an explosion, wasn’t cleaned for years; and the officials of the district office had no knowledge regarding any legal or illegal status of the affected building. But the building stood there for over 50 years only to come down falling on people, who simply ran out of luck surviving in the city.

For years, Karachi has been marred with lack of municipal resources and civic irregularities. Just last month, a fire erupted first in Zainab Market and then in a chemical factory in the city’s SITE area. There are only 22 fire stations in a metropolis that houses around 15 billion, while international standards require for at least 149 – one per 100,000 people. With hundreds of illegal structures built on encroached lands atop drains or river streams without any safety protocols, asking for urban planning to be considered seems like asking for too much. On top of this, the friction between the Sindh and Centre adds to the abandonment the city faces.

Saturday’s incident or many before it could have been avoided had someone taken ownership of the city than use ‘fixing’ drains and roads as a photo opportunity to post on social media. The ruling parties must rise above petty politics and work together to fix Karachi’s many woes, starting with devising a new masterplan for the city.

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