Text and Photos by Amar Guriro
KARACHI – An old lady tries to make fire with cow dung cakes to cook her breakfast, as a flock of crows and kites soars over the colony in search for food. The colony that is devoid of brick pavements and metallic roads has open water supply pipes, but water does not flow through them.
Many families sit outside their houses on customary charpais placed in zigzag streets, and established outside the houses on small platforms are shops that sell everything under the sun.
It is normal for the locals to awaken every morning to clamouring street vendors who flock into the colony and create an uproar to hawk their wares.
These scenes could be perfect to write about for a poet, but there is no one in the city to write the famous refrain ‘Let none despise the merry, merry cries’ – from ‘The Cries of London’ – about this colony.
The historical Bazarta Line – British Army barracks in the colonial era – is suffering from acute water shortage and improper sanitation system.
Residents of a small portion of the colony, the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre (JPMC) Staff Quarters, are forced to consume water that is being polluted with hospital waste due to broken pipes.
The pipes extend out of the JPMC – one of Pakistan’s biggest hospitals – and dumped near the colony are heaps of hospital wastes that mix with water flowing through antiquated pipes.
Located behind the Aisha Bawany School, between the JPMC and Christian cemetery Gora Qabristan, Bazarta Line is a slum without basic facilities, such as a sanitation system and water supply.
The locality comes under the administrative control of the Karachi Cantonment Board, which has installed a few water purification plants that regularly supply water through tanks, but it is not sufficient for the colony dwellers.
Therefore, the residents are compelled to fetch water from Gora Qabristan’s only tap, which is normally used to water the flowers grown in the cemetery.
Most residents are poor and unable to buy water, so they -mostly women and children – have to fetch water for their families.
This scribe visited the colony to share the pain of the colony’s residents who said that every household is forced to keep extra buckets, plastic cans and pushcarts for fetching water.
“If not me, then who else will bring water for my family? I wake up early in the morning every day to fetch water before leaving for school,” said 14-year-old Kami.
The residents of the JMPC Staff Quarters said that their locality is situated just in the rear of the JPMC, and the water pipeline runs through the hospital and under the heaps of garbage, contaminating the water with hospital waste. “Almost every one in the colony is suffering from abdominal diseases and many are afflicted with hepatitis,” said JPMC employee Ashfaq Gondal.
Slums are illegal settlements and government departments do not provide them with basic facilities, such as water, sanitation and infrastructure.
A study reveals that Pakistan incurs losses of Rs 112 billion due to inadequate water supply, and improper sanitation system and hygiene condition.