The monsoon rains have hit Karachi. After a heatwave the city is now subjected to flash floods. The Sindh government has been giving contradictory statements. Some officials have insisted that Sindh is not under the threat of floods, others are seen scrambling to prepare for heavy damage. The loss of eight lives some four days ago due to flooding in Karachi, is a wake up call for those who insist that there is nothing to panic about. Extended power outages due to 100 tripped feeders were experienced throughout the city and many parts of the city have ankle deep water.

The Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) has issued warnings of urban flooding in the low-lying areas of Karachi, namely Malir and Lyari. Urban flooding is a complex phenomenon, one that requires strict vigilance on part of the administration as well as the citizens to ensure their safety. Our cities are planned and built without considering ecological, environmental and weather adaptation. Storm drains are the only exit for the floodwater. Anyone who has seen the state of storm drains in Karachi will realise just how inept the Sindh government is at fulfilling the basic rights of it’s residents. The drains are clogged up with mountains of solid waste and garbage, a failure on the part of the city’s waste management authority. Encroachments and slums lining the drains and the nullahs pose a threat not only to the proper functioning of the drainage system but also to people who have no idea of the risk they face.

Ahead of the rains in Karachi, it is important for the government to make sure the people most vulnerable to floods are relocated from these slums to safe places. Just ordering the destruction of these encroachments is not enough or fair to the residents. They must also make sure all storm drains are cleaned and functional. People should be made aware that manholes should not be opened to drain the floodwater. This risks contamination of the floodwater, increasing water borne diseases in the aftermath. This practice also disrupts the entire sewage system. Residents should not enter the floodwater under any circumstance especially when the water is gushing with speed and driving along the nullahs should be discouraged. To avoid the danger of electrocution, non-conducive rubber shoes should be worn at all times.

Let us hope for the safety and well being of all the residents of Karachi, still reeling from the shock of the loss from the heatwave. It is appalling that we have been a flood prone country for years and we have not taken any precautionary measures.