Monsoon rains in Karachi: Forget your cars, bring out the boats

Published: August 5, 2013

A youngster shifts his valuables to a safer place as floodwater enters Budhani area near Peshawar. PHOTO: APP/ FILE

This Saturday seemed like any other ordinary day to me and I continued my day as usual; the sky was not very clear, but I never anticipated the havoc that was to soon come my way.

The weather forecast stated that some areas in Karachi were in for heavy rainfall. Since I am a Pakistani, however, I conveniently chose to dismiss what I heard on the news and decided to manage my day just as any other; I drove out with my mother for her routine dialysis.

After almost four hours, I was welcomed by all that I was warned about early in the day; lightening, thunder, rain and water – everywhere! On my way back from Saddar and onto the main Clifton road, I was extremely stressed with the massive traffic jam and the rising flood of dirty stagnant water. At this point, I wondered to myself whether this was the same road I had crossed a couple of hours ago.

Decorated shopping malls were strewn in garbage gushing forth with the water and polished cars were seen floating about idly in the water. All I wanted in that almost suicidal slow pace that the traffic was moving at was a boat ride home.

Residents stand near a partially submerged vehicle as they evacuate a flooded area in Karachi on August 4, 2013. PHOTO: AFP

While I was consoling my mother who was beginning to get anxious seeing the chaos that surrounded us on the road, in the near distance I could hear a siren blaring continuously. There was an ambulance stuck in jam and it appeared that the only one bothered by the deafening sound of its siren and horn was me.

No one else seemed to be care to make way for it. Being an emergency doctor, I seemed to hear the siren louder than anyone else, perhaps because I hear it every day and understand the alarming nature of such a call. My mind wandered to the patient inside the ambulance and how critical the situation may have been for him. After raking my mind continuously as to how I could help him, I found no way and ended up saying a prayer for whoever the person was.

View of a flooded street in Peshawar. PHOTO: @haroonbadshah94

As a health manager, I had also equipped my emergency room with supplies to combat viral fever, protozoan’s, nematodes, blood flukes, malaria and stomach flu. These were all the effects of water logging and stagnation which we were to inadvertently face after the downpour.

I smiled to myself sarcastically when I thought of the number of Dettol and Safeguards hand washing advertisements that are so popular; no matter how much training we conduct in the community for health safety and hygiene, if the sanitation and drainage systems are not adequate, no outcomes will be seen.

What I narrated to you right now is not the story of a dingy, dirty, unequipped slum in the city; I was not in Ibrahim Goth or Machar Colony. I was in the well developed ‘posh’ area of Defence Phase IV.

Men push their bicycles through flood waters on the outskirts of Karachi August 4, 2013. PHOTO: REUTERS

I was bitter as I stared at the muddy slush around me. What bothered me to no end was the fact that ever since I can remember, I have seen my parents footing their taxes religiously and on time for the ‘able’ authorities to manage. This tax includes, water tax, property tax, drainage tax, electricity tax and so on.

As tax-paying residents of the country, I want to know where our money has been going if the local government can’t even handle one day of rain.

The monsoons have always been a cause of chaos, disease and many other problems for Pakistan. Yet, this season comes every single year and every single year we go through the same mess.

The situation of Saadi Town and people in the surrounding areas affected by the torrential rains desperately awaiting some form of help or aid shows the intensity of our pathetic situation. The rains impacted the city so critically that even today, on Monday, the aftermath is still being seen. The severe flooding in Korangi not only rendered many people homeless, but will also cost the city a tremendous amount in infrastructure rebuilding. Main roads were blocked causing chaotic traffic jams and this time around, only God knows how many ambulances must have gotten stuck and how many people must have died as a result of this hardship.

Ghareebabad Underpass 4-8-2013 after heavy rainfall. PHOTO: Muhammad Hassaan

It is a moment of shame that all the authorities, ministries and politicians should reflect upon. These people make myopic policies that may have been made with good intentions, but are just not strong enough to face emergency situations like floods. The WatSan (Water Sanitation) sector of Pakistan needs to become proactive and make sanitation its top priority. This is necessary not only to improve the quality of life of the people of the city but to ensure that there will be no outbreaks of water related diseases.

We need to learn how to prepare beforehand or else we will always be part of the ‘modern slum’ in the world.

Look at what just a day of rain has down to the metropolis of Karachi.

Shame on the authorities in charge.

Floods hit PHA Housing in Block 10 Gulistan-e-Jauhar, Karachi. PHOTO: Asad Anjum

Dr Schumyla A Khan

Dr Schumyla A Khan

A doctor who graduated from Baqai Medical University and is currently working at the emergency department at South City Hospital. She has been in clinical practice since the past 6 years and is also completing her MBA (HEALTH) from the Institute of Business Management in Karachi.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Khurram Awan

    Forget your cars, bring out the boats and make Karachi the new Venice of Pakistan…..Recommend

  • Parvez

    I agree with you completely.
    The media does a massive disservice when they scream about the heavy, unprecedented rain and focus on the heavy rain fall ( which in fact is normal rain fall )……while the focus should be on the years and years of corrupt, inefficient, disgraceful governance, resulting in a complete breakdown of facilities.Recommend

  • OMG

    Article on Karachi, picture of peshawar! why?Recommend

  • http://nazarbaaz.blogspot.com Kashif Ajmal Malik

    I think you are unaware of the fact how may typhoons hit Philippines a year… almost 4 on the average. How about other countries.. and lets talk about Japan.. BB Natural disaster has nothing to do with government But somehow it is also related to the competent authorities and town planners as well but what to do the whole system needs overhaul. Regardless, we have to look for more things than just abusing government for its inability including our personal deeds. By the way who did you vote for last time? Recommend

  • Reza

    This is only gonna get worse….if u nt gonna sit together as a country nd figure out a better disaster managment. Somehow u hve to find a way to invest in infrastructure that can withstand heavy storms. Ther’s no one person to blame nd the admin dont live in parallel universe thy mst be living in a same zipcode jst need to interact nd find solutions.Recommend

  • Purvaiz

    Keen observation. The media, government, the public and you call the monsoon rains an emergency situation??? It happens every year. This is normal situation,and as such the authorities should incorporate, as part of their normal budget, measures for ensuring sudden surges of monsoon waters to drain efficiently, and also to provide for the poor who have no option but to live in what you would call a “flood plain”.Recommend

  • fahad hussain

    I totally agreed with you. And congratulation
    For such a nice article :)Recommend

  • M A Chaudhry

    The problem is with the planning authorities like KDA & KBCA. Approving plans without the consideration of the consequences.Recommend

  • Muhammad Ishfaq

    @Kashif Ajmal Malik:
    This was no typhoon dear,, a down pour of about 150mm and our City of Lights was drowned.
    Natural disasters have nothing to do with govt. I agree but governments foresee and plan for these natural disasters… again it was no disaster, it TURNED OUT to be a disaster due to inability or indifference of our successive governments.
    @ Pervez
    Completely agree with you, the media made a normal or slightly above average rainfall look like something like Tsunami.
    @ Dr. Schumyla A Khan..
    you are right but you see our options here in Islamic Republic of Pakistan are quite limited….
    Curse or Pray.. or do bothRecommend

  • Behram Agha

    @Kashif Ajmal Malik:
    I agree Natural Disasters have nothing to do with the government, but that dose not mean the GOVT should not be prepared for any disaster. Speaking of Japan they deal with natural disasters a lot. and they have a department for dealing with natural disasters. USA has FEMA. etc etc.
    Pakistan is loaded with natural resources , Pakistani Government personal have more money in the Swiss account,. point is we have the sources and resources to deal with any disasters but everyone cares about there own well being. By the way where do u reside?Recommend

  • Behram Agha

    Kashif Ajmal Malik:
    I agree Natural Disasters have nothing to do with the government, but that dose not mean the GOVT should not be prepared for any disaster. Speaking of Japan they deal with natural disasters a lot. and they have a department for dealing with natural disasters. USA has FEMA. etc etc.
    Pakistan is loaded with natural resources , Pakistani Government personal have more money in the Swiss account,. point is we have the sources and resources to deal with any disasters but everyone cares about there own well being. By the way where do u reside?Recommend

  • Behram Agha

    gutter sahi naheen kiya toh kiya hoa atom bomb toh bana diya

    Govt Priorities are a little messed up.Recommend

  • Tuba Khan

    I agree with you as a tax payer its a government responsibilties to make plan to deal with emergency situations… Sadly they are just there only after media highlights… Its not about who you vote in this election or japan… just go n visit korangi to get a snap shot how traffic is diverted because two roads connecting korangi with other areas of karachi are blocked luckily there is a third road but what if it was never built we will be disconnected with korangi … people saying blaiming the government cannot be a solution then i ask them to go n build a proper water drainage system for saadi town provide electricity to them….can you do it ???Recommend

  • http://nazarbaaz.blogspot.com Kashif Ajmal Malik

    @OMG: haha sarcastic and little bit arrogant to hilariously hit the helpless with complete ridiculous tone, just read through…Recommend

  • http://nazarbaaz.blogspot.com Kashif Ajmal Malik

    Additionally, with apologies, those were our leaders from Karachi who protested the most for Dams development, remember? So this is the outcome, lets really bring the boats out nowRecommend

  • Max

    A good article for a seemingly manageable problem which like all others is totally mismanaged in our country. Welcome to ET doc.Recommend

  • http://www.sagacious.com.pk Fawwad Afridi

    very well articulated. its a serious point of concern, specially when it comes to DHA- DHA so called posh area is worst than Sadi Town. People in DHA with no light, no security, no drainage and importantly no one can dare to question DHA Authorities!!!!!Recommend

  • http://karachi javed

    All comments seem to be comming out of loose thoughts. The real problem of karachi like sulch disasters is the absence of local government system. During 2003 to 2007 when City local government with Mustafa Kamal as Nazim were in power in Karachi, there were not such diasasters despite heavy rains of more than 250 mm. 20.0 million people of karachi are at the mercy of management and rulers all 90% from the outsiders of Karachi. Please give government powers to the elected representatives of karachi, Recommend

  • Raisani

    ET: do u have any problem with my comments? if u can publish these type of useless articles then why u guys have problem with user’s fair n ethical comments? Recommend

  • http://nazarbaaz.blogspot.com Kashif Ajmal Malik

    @Muhammad Ishfaq Sir you know its nothing new and the question remains the same, about our vote for incompetent people. Lets change the trend. I can give a solution but it will not be published I know.
    @Behram Agha:
    You are right about the natural resources. I would suggest its the problem of our system By the way even in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, sometimes the roads seem flooded because of unpreparedness for storm water treatment even they have infrastructure and pipelines for strom water but still many human errors are in place. In Saudi Arabia’s Makkah and other places recent floods have killed more than 11 people. Governments primarily focus on basic needs for people then at the end comes disaster recovery or preparedness for such disasters. I would love to discuss solutions rather criticizing the political governments which can never resolve our problems, already evident. I am in Abu Dhabi, UAE and you? Thanks. Recommend

  • Raisani

    Peshawar’s photo for raising Karachi problem is same like when someone has found something written in Peshawar like this “Karachi ki mashoor Peshawari Icecream yahan dastiyaab hai” that Karachi’s famous Peshawari ice-cream is available here, and one more thing the article’s title is “Forget your cars, bring out the boats” . So, mam if someone neither has a car nor the bot? so what does he bring out? A Ship? . Seems like the author wrote this article right from the hospital’s emergency department where she works that is why the article is lacking sense at many ends. Recommend

  • Behram Agha

    @Kashif Ajmal Malik:
    Sir I am residing in USA. And I see Ur point
    @Raisani:
    Are you a teacher? Pointing out a picture as a flaw and lack of sense. This issue is nation wide. Either be Peshawar or Karachi or any city, my Pakistan is suffering. Pakistan does not have a government it’s a mixture leeches. Like Mr. Kashif said “solutions”. We need to think of solutions as 1 nation. And I am pretty sure u like Peshawari Ice cream. Lol lets meet up help ppl and will go for ice cream. Recommend

  • http://nazarbaaz.blogspot.com Kashif Ajmal Malik

    @Behram Agha: We really have to leave the government now and work on ourselves and take on the issues personally. Recommend

  • abida asim

    i totally agree with u…unfortunately this is happening every year n the concerned authorities keep on boasting that they r taking measures but what we see eventually is what we are seeing now.on one hand,people are shown doing shopping for eid while on the other,we see this.i cancelled my shopping that day coz i didnt have the courage to ignore them.but how many of us are even botherd to pay heeed to such issues? it has become a routine for us now n we prefer to change channel when thers something tragic coming up.atleast we can do our bit by letting the ambulance go first,as perhaps that person in there needs to reach first.May Allah bless all o those who lost their lives n their dear ones.ameenRecommend

  • Raisani

    @Behram Agha:
    Agha i’m not the teacher but look at the title of the article which is purely about Karachi and the very first picture is of Peshawar, even stated in the pic. So it doesn’t make sense, its same like i gave the example that u find written in some shop at Peshawar that Karachi’s famous Peshawari ice-cream is available here in Peshawar, So i hope u got my point this time. First you agree with my point of view only then we can go for an ice-cream, or else no way :). lol Recommend

  • M. Emad

    Before 1971, West Paskistasnis made joke about East Pakistan flood and boat.Recommend