Residents of DHA and Cantonment Board Clifton office gathered at its offices in Karachi to protest against the lack of services, master planning, storm water drains that function and the authority’s response during the monsoon flooding crisis that destroyed property.
“We won’t pay any more taxes,” chant the protesters. “Get Ahmed Chinoy out!” This is the biggest protest this office has seen in years.
Ahmed Chinoy is not the CEO of the CBC, Saleem Hassan Wattoo is. He was appointed two weeks ago.
The CEO arrived at the CBC office at around 2:10pm but left without speaking. Three protesters have been asked to come inside the office to speak to the CEO.
They said that they were angry that the authority had not created or maintained a proper civic infrastructure for residents, despite collecting taxes. They want an audit of current and past accounts of the CBC and transparent disclosure to residents. They also pressed for accountability on the money spent on “a totally non-functioning drainage system made in the middle of the roads”.
DHA’s storm water drains were designed in 2004-05 and constructed at a cost of Rs3 billion, by digging up a strip of the road and covering it with concrete slabs with slits. This solution was more like an afterthought for one of Karachi’s largest, most expensive real estate tracts. The concrete crumbles and create an uneven surface for vehicles. These drains are supposed to channel rain water to the sea, but their network is not extensive enough to handle a monsoon.
After DHA constructed these box drains, they were handed over for maintenance to the Cantonment Board Clifton in 2008. “The Rs3 billion was spend on proper channelization of 60% of storm water drains and the DHA administration decided to complete the remaining work at a later stage,” said an officer, who could not be named as they are not permitted to speak to the media.
The monsoon flooding led to devastation in DHA. The residents have demanded damages be awarded to those residents who have been affected by the clogged drains and gutter lines. They want the broken roads, drainage and sewerage lines to be immediately fixed and adequate water supplies to be provided.
In the meantime, DHA started tweeting. “DHA Storm Water Drain – Myth and Reality: DHA Storm water drain was constructed in 2007 with planning consideration of last 100 years precipitation record of Karachi (207 mm rain in 24 hrs 1977).”
It went on to add: “Much before the onset of ongoing monsoon season complete desilting and cleaning of drain was carried out. Perhaps nature had greater challenge for us, as against our sustenance capacity of 207 mm rain in 24 hrs the current spell was 235 mm in 12 hrs (more than double).”
However, environmentalist Saquib Ejaz Hussain pointed out: “The storm water drainage system was designed for 207mm rainfall in 24 hours whereas the August 27 rain was 235mm in 12 hours, more than double the design capacity. It is high time that our planners consider the extremes in weather patterns and implement climate resilient Infrastructure for Karachi.”
Architect Arif Belgaumi additionally pointed out another point that DHA got wrong about desilting: “This is factually incorrect. The drains were not desilted in time. They were already full of water. In many cases the drains cannot discharge because the outfall drain has a higher level. That’s what’s happening now, we are waiting for the water level to go down.”
Hotels such as the Avari Towers and Beach Luxury are full after the spell of rains. One resident of DHA told SAMAA Digital that he moved to the Pearl Continental because there was no gas, electricity or clean water at his house. Rainwater entered the water tank, contaminating the water.
The history of DHA
DHA started out as the Pakistan Defence Officers’ Cooperative Housing Society (PDOCHS). The PDOCHS started as a normal cooperative housing society that was registered under the 1860 Societies Act, and was part of the welfare received by retired army officers.
At the end of the 1970s development was slow and the society’s financial situation was deteriorating. In order to avert a crisis, the then military dictator Zia-ul-Haq, dissolved PDOCHS through an order and formed DHA as an autonomous new authority with extensive development rights. The Clifton Cantonment was also established as part of this process, with the express purpose and mandate of looking after and maintaining the DHA, according to a research paper by Arif Hasan, Noman Ahmed, Mansoor Raza, Asiya Sadiq, Saeed Ud Din Ahmed and Moizza B Sarwar for the IIED.
The city’s newest cantonment was established with very different objectives from those set up by the British, and has evolved from a civilian-controlled organisation to an army-controlled authority whose administration is headed by a serving brigadier. DHA has its own development plans, strategies and by-laws, and is not bound to follow decisions made by the city administration. Like other cantonments, it can share, consult with and receive advice from city government but is not bound to follow its advice.
DHA is one of the largest land stakeholders in Karachi, not only because it holds 5% of all the land in the city, but because this land is located in prime sites.
It recently acquired an additional 5,080 hectares to develop DHA City. Through the power of the army, the DHA and its affiliated cantonments have become major players in land politics, leading to land and property speculation for and by the elite, according to the paper.