KARACHI - Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah said on Sunday a total of at least $10 billion was needed to modernise the Southern port city’s infrastructure.

Murad Shah, while talking to media said, “The city’s issues are not new; they have been here for some time. In the past four years, we have worked a lot on cleaning the storm drains in the city,” added that a new monsoon spell entered on July 26-27, with the last heaviest rainfall recorded 1977.

“There was a lot of rain back in 2007, when nearly 200 people had died,” he noted. The Sindh government provided funds to the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC) to clean the nullahs in the city, the Chief Minister added. “In the last four years, we cleared many nullahs in the city. Despite the rain the water was cleared within three to four hours,” he said. “The major problem is due to a major structure which has blocked all nullahs in Karachi which are the responsibility of the cantonments and DMCS.

“In recent times, the responsibility to clean the storm drains lie with KMC and Sindh government has given money to clean the nullahs.” The spokesperson for the Sindh government, Senator Murtaza Wahab, said he would identify the issues plaguing the metropolis rather than engage in mudslinging. “Until and unless we all understand the challenges that Karachi faces, they cannot be resolved,” Wahab added.

CM Shah underlined that although 187mm of rainfall was recorded in Surjani Town and Nazimabad, the rainwater was cleared in 3-4 hours. “Shahrah-e-Faisal was not blocked despite the heavy rain,” he added.

In the past four years, a lot of work was done to clean the nullahs, he said, but that water stagnated at KDA and Nagan Chowrangis for four or five days. “Even now, there’s rainwater in New Karachi,” he added, saying the government had been giving funds to the KMC to clear the nullahs. The Chief Minister said he had met National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) Lt Gen Muhammad Afzal a few days ago and was thankful to the body for clearing three nullahs in Karachi. “The Supreme Court had ordered the NDMA to clear all the nullahs. When it rained again, the Gujjar nullah overflowed once more,” he noted.

Admitting that the KMC was short of funds, he said only Rs1.5 billion was collected through property taxes in Karachi, as opposed to Rs55 billion in Mumbai in the same category.

“Garbage collection is a major problem in Karachi,” Shah said.

The CM also spoke of the recently-formed coordination committee, saying it comprised federal and provincial ministers and has had two meetings so far.

“Such committees have been set up in the past as well,” he said, noting that there was a dearth of communication between the government of Sindh and Centre.

“The committee will not bring administrative matters under discussions,” he stated. “It will not interfere in the administrative matters.” Shah said the talks to make Kemari a district had already been ongoing. “There is no issue in creating new districts in Karachi, he noted. We have reservations that the highest-earning districts have ended up on one side,” he added.

“Karachi was not like this [in the past] but then unplanned commercial construction occurred in the city,” he said. “Commercialising residential areas creates problems. It is not okay to expect that problems would be resolved by transforming residential areas into business zones,” he added.

Responding to the Sindh Chief Minister’s remarks about the KMC having the responsibility to clean up drains in the city, Karachi Mayor Waseem Akhtar said the city did not fall under the domain of one man. “One person does not have entire city’s domain,” Akhtar said, adding that the issues stemmed from the fact that the powers were not with one person. “Till the local governments are not given power, nothing can be done. Cleaning nullahs is my responsibility but I only did so until I had the resources,” he added, stressing that had the Article 148 been imposed, the city would not have been facing these issues. However, the nullahs would not be cleaned until the DMCs had funds and resources, he stated, adding that the KMC was short of Rs130 million in salaries. “What should the KMC do? Resolve problems or pay salaries? The KMC is unable to deliver because it does not have the resources,” Akhtar explained.

“Karachi’s problems have increased and will continue to pile up if the local bodies system is not strengthened,” he warned. “The situation will worsen if there’s no devolution of powers,” the mayor said.

Meanwhile, leader of the Opposition in the Sindh Assembly, Firdous Shamim Naqvi of the ruling PTI, said everyone has been “hearing for many years that there will be a master plan for Karachi.” “But there’s currently no active master plan for Karachi,” he said. “A master plan should be prepared in proportion to the population growth” of the metropolis.

“There has one [party] government in Sindh since the past 12 years and, today, they are saying they will make a master plan,” Naqvi added. “To date, no one has come up with a solution to Karachi’s problems. Before 2013, there were 18 towns in Karachi.”

Speaking of the recently-formed committee comprising representatives of the Centre and Sindh government, the PTI leader said its mandate was “for specific projects only”.

“Our objection is over power not reaching the lower levels,” he explained. Highlighting the issues of Karachi, he said the state of public transport was such that people travelled on the roofs of buses. “There are more people are on the roofs of the buses in Karachi than there are inside,” he said. The port city was getting half of the water it needed, the PTI leader said, adding that the untreated water was discharged into the sea. The Karachi Circular Railway (KCR) and the Karachi Transport Company had been closed down, he added.

However, “Karachi’s identity should not be lost,” he stressed. PSP Chairperson Syed Mustafa Kamal, on the other hand, said he believed the Chief Minister of Sindh was not being provided correct information. “The impression from the CM’s speech today was that Karachi is much better today,” said Kamal, who was the mayor of Pakistan’s financial capital from 2010 to 2015.

“It is wrong to say that the situation in Karachi was bad before but is better now,” he added, warning that if it continued, the “problems will not be resolved”.