Here comes the rain again

The amount of havoc wreaked in Karachi by the weather over the last few days has been insane.

Flooding.jpg With 51mm of rainfall in the last 24 hours (whatever that technically means, all I know is that my mother spent most of her day scurrying about in the rain with a trowel in order to re-plant her seedlings in parts of the garden that were elevated enough to rise above it all), things have been kind of nuts. While I haven’t really been out of the house much, since everyone in Karachi magically loses the ability to drive successfully if it’s pouring, my short stints have seen a fair amount of damage done to parts of the city.

While the actual numbers are listed in the linked articles, so far people have died from the cold, from being electrocuted as live power cables snapped and fell into the water through which they were wading, and a number of shops and businesses have shut down because the streets are (were) flooded and there’s no access to them. Karachi’s most notorious underpass, which was designed to keep traffic flowing smoothly was temporarily the city’s most expensive wading pool, and all the while, power outages continue to make their presence felt–I’ve spent most of today trying to make sure that all the power outlets in the house are turned off so that the electronics in the kitchen and assorted rooms don’t blow up from sudden current surges. While it’s somewhat understandable that a desert city may not necessarily be well-equipped for rainfall, one would think that annual monsoons would have indicated to the municipal authorities that SOME sort of drainage system is in order.As a bulletin from the Asian Coalition for Housing Rights states, apparently,

of the 350 million gallons of waste water Karachi produces every day, only 30 million gallons are treated by the Karachi Water and Sewage BoardÂ’s three treatment plants (two built by foreign loans), which have the capacity to treat 151 million gallons. All the rest flows into the cityÂ’s 9 natural drainage nullahs (canals/lanes), and out into the sea – untreated. Foreign-financed infrastructure projects may be bankrupting Pakistan, but for the banks, the big construction companies and the high-flying consultants, they are real money-spinners.

I’m hardly an expert, but having seen the amount of construction work going on in various parts of the city, particularly the (oft-described as “upscale”) ares of Defence and Karachi, I’m not sure that anything substantive is really being accomplished. I think the best analysis to date that I’ve found of the problem is in one of Pakistan’s better-selling monthly news magazines, Newsline, which has a rather good article on the problem, and discusses the issues rising from the summer monsoons that effectively crippled the city this past summer, in July. Some choice quotes:

It started with some rain. Then before you could say the word “infrastructure,” the city flooded. The mayhem that followed was of Katrina-like proportions: power outages, telecommunication failures, collapsed roads, sewage in the streets, car breakdowns, stranded workers, five-hour commutes, flooded businesses, crores of inventory soaked and ruined, inaccessible hospitals and electrocuted pedestrians.
On July 30, some dark clouds rolled into town and dumped 67 mm of rain on Karachi. Then on August 17, the monsoon showered the city with 56mm. So, less than three inches of rain hit the city on each occasion. Three inches. Three inches is less than the depth of a coffee mug. Three inches is the length of an adult’s index finger. Clearly, ‘torrential downpour’ shouldn’t be used to describe three inches of rain. Moreover, three inches of rain should not be associated with the words ‘state of emergency.’

The rains that happened in the last few days haven’t had quite as catastrophic consequences as one would have expected on the basis of the article, but they’ve definitely messed the city up substantially. One of the major problems has been the covering up of the nullahs, the drainage canals, by housing developments that while not technically illegal, shouldn’t have occurred in the first place, were it not for incompetent or possibly corrupt land zoning authority regulators who seemed to think that allowing construction work to block drainage sites wouldn’t cause any future problems.

Well, at least the rain seems to have stopped. Anyone know where I can get a canoe?

80 thoughts on “Here comes the rain again

  1. Amitabh – From what I have been personally told and also read, etc., about Partition and that time, I think there was uprooting of many families from “all” sides of the aisle. We don’t even have to look halfway across the world to see the effects of displacement and replacement on societies – it even happened right here (not sure where you are) in North America.

  2. JOAT, I’m not denying that the Pakistani dude has legitimate roots in Karachi; by growing up there and having his family there, it’s his city; and in one sense, my Sindhi friend is not rooted there at all since he didn’t grow up there and has never been there. I still found that scene I witnessed to be ironic and kind of sad though. Maybe I’m not expressing myself well. No offense meant to anyone.

  3. Sin, sorry I didn’t mean to imply that your story was uninteresting. It’s just that there are so many pointless posts here that are completely unnecessary. It never ceases to amaze me how people feel compelled to say every thought on their mind without regard to the fact that they are unnecessarily cluttering this space and causing others to wade through tons of garbage to find few bits of remotely interesting ideas.

  4. ash sood,

    please leave your email so i can send my comment for your approval before posting.. oops i did it again – just unnecessary

  5. It never ceases to amaze me how people feel compelled to say every thought on their mind without regard to the fact that they are unnecessarily cluttering this space

    You must be at the wrong place. The Museum of Modern Art is here. This here is a group blog with open comments. Perhaps you don’t like blogs, or you don’t exactly understand what they are?

  6. Amitabh, I get your point but there were two sides that equally got screwed in the partition so the sentiment/story is shared by both sides. Resettlement has proven to be tough for any race all thru history. I’m currently reading about Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclaimation and the resettling that the slaves went thru especially in Sierra Leone & Liberia and how many of them died as a result of it.

    Perhaps you don’t like blogs, or you don’t exactly understand what they are?

    Ha the Jew/Bong humor!

  7. Amitabh,

    I don’t think you’re offending anyone. My grandfather’s family is from Lahore, and his college class was the last to graduate pre-Partition (1946). He went back for a class reunion a few years ago and broke down and cried. It was his first time back since his family fled in 1947. I know that a lot of my ABD Pakistani friends feel similarly about their family histories in Indian Punjab. It is complicated and painful and difficult.

  8. Well you’ve successfully turned the thread into a discussion about you, which is clearly more relevant than the previous “off-topic” discussion about the title of the post…

  9. There is no way the real Ash Sood would waste his time posting useless comments like the above. He has a good-looking, talented wife and a little daughter to focus his attention on (not to mention a career).

  10. Amitabh, so what you’re saying is that everyone on this site has an ugly, untalented spouse, and no real career?

  11. Guys, Let’s please stop with the nonsensical comments. “Ash Sood” and “pratik patil” are the same person and both are wasting my time by taking this post off topic. Please stop responding to him as well. Thanks.

  12. Amitabh, so what you’re saying is that everyone on this site has an ugly, untalented spouse, and no real career?

    No, I’m saying they have an ugly, untalented spouse, NO KID, and no real career…JUST KIDDING, didn’t mean any of that at all… I wouldn’t be surprised if the real Ash Sood were to read SM and were to make reasonably useful comments…but I would be surprised if he wrote the above “Ash Sood” comments though.

  13. but I would be surprised if he wrote the above “Ash Sood” comments though.

    Abhi already certified that he didn’t. Unfortunately for all of you, getting back on topic is something you will have to do without me, since I’ve just been ordered to fed ex a canoe?! This is only slightly less ridiculous than having to procure Cuban food on Thanksgiving day, but whatevs. I do what I’m told.

  14. Well, at least the rain seems to have stopped. Anyone know where I can get a canoe?
    L.L. Bean at Tyson’s? Hope

    sniFF!!

    We would rather be flayed by fire ants (cf GGM) than ever shop at LL Bean. We buy our canoes at REI or at MEC.ca

  15. Amitabh, I for one am going to commend you (for comment #47) because Hindu Sindhis are people without a true homeland. They had to struggle in India to achieve what they have. My relatives in Madhya Pradesh tell me that shopkeepers sometimes tell you that .. “I am not Sindhi .. I am Jain” in order to win your business. It shows the result of the cut-throat world of business where the uprooted Sindhis had to resort to survival tactics, creating a negative image for them in the business community. Sindhis have had opportunities to get to the highest political levels to highest levels in business and education, which is commendable and the applogists for Kashmiri terrorists must see that here is a community that was uprooted from their homeland but has decided to be part of their new home without resorting to violence and secessionist demands.

    Its a shame that you have to qualify your legitimate concern with the “I am against hindutva” caveat.

  16. Ah, monsoons. All I can remember besides the amazing smell of the rain mixing with the earth was the absolutely horrid humidity which killed any hairstyle I semi-attempted for the day. This looks to be a more wretched experience – keep yourself dry, Sin.

  17. Another great post, Sin. I’m loving hearing about Pakistan in this whole other way. Actually New York has had a hard time handling 2 inches of rain at times. A few summers ago it didn’t rain for 2 whole months and then we finally had a couple of inches and the entire subway system came to a screeching halt. What a mess.

    I had no idea Karachi was a desert. Perhaps the dry earth has something to do with this extra flooding (apart from the infrastructre money not actually going to develop infrasture).

  18. I understand Amitabh’s sentiment. I don’t think it’s offensive. I’ve been back to India and seen the places my grandparents fled. But unlike the story above, they never wept about their decision, or felt they made the wrong choice. In fact, it was the Muslim relatives left behind in India who had the regrets. A few years ago, I sat in a hovel in Allahabad listening to a ancient lady moan and cry about how she was left behind in 47, and how awful life was now. In contrast, even in the worst circumstances in Karachi (poverty, filth, pollution, heat, drought, bombs, crime, — Karachi can really suck) I never heard anyone say they wished they had stayed in India.

    We really are a bunch of tedious uncles. Every conversation always comes back to partition.

  19. Siddhartha and Jai Singh — your YouTube link-off was great stuff. I’d never seen the Oran “Juice” Jones video, and had forgotten about the extended monologue at the end of the song. I also didn’t realize there was a classic version of “Last Night a DJ Saved My Life” — I only knew of a more recent King Britt/Sylk 130(?) version (which I love). If there are ever competing meet-ups between you guys and the rock people on the other thread, I know which one will be more fun.

    I think that as a complement to the 55 Fridays, we should do YouTube link-offs with songs related to the topic at hand.

    My other idea — SM YouTube antakshari — girls vs. guys.

  20. and had forgotten about the extended monologue at the end of the song.

    His macho outburst “It’s MY world. You’re just a squirrel without a nut!” must be an all-time classic line :)

  21. His macho outburst “It’s MY world. You’re just a squirrel without a nut!” must be an all-time classic line :)

    I suppose it would be a painful experience overall because it would entail having been cheated on, but breaking up with someone using that monologue (verbatim of course) would be classic.

  22. “In contrast, even in the worst circumstances in Karachi (poverty, filth, pollution, heat, drought, bombs, crime, — Karachi can really suck) I never heard anyone say they wished they had stayed in India.”

    I wish this India vs. Pakistan rivalry would be confined to cricket.