I have had a perennial hatred for motorcycle riders in Pakistan … the impunity with which they get away with breaking the law; their crass method of driving; and their complete lack of knowledge on rules of the road (but the same may also be said of 4-wheelers ☹)
Then one day, Shireen, a young lady in our Community, contacted me about some issue and, in talking, mentioned she drives a motorcycle to work & back – I have seen sporadic women motorcycle drivers – but someone this hit home. (It’s like the time my son in the 2000 decade skillfully used chopsticks in Fujiyama, when I used a fork! – man, that really hit home 😊)
Come end December 2020, I learnt the basics of motorcycle driving through Pink Riders (as you guessed, basically a class for women learners). Besides the instructor, I was the only male in the group … and that too 50+.
So, in 3-4 lessons, I learnt the basics … and soon thereafter, much to my wife’s (and subsequently family’s) chagrin, bought a used, 70cc motorcycle. What she found even more vexing was the price I bought it at – she wasn’t sure if she should be concerned for my safety on a bike OR be concerned for my safety on THIS bike at THAT price 😊😊😊.
Honestly, what I have come to learn is motorcycles are actually fun (I’m still learning by the way in my compound, much to my guards and drivers’ enjoyment) and what I have been against in the past was actually the motorcycle RIDERS. There is no discipline, no system to the way they drive, nor any safety standards they adhere to.
Not only am I self-learning with ALL the help of YouTube but I am taking great care in learning as per the rules of the road. For instance, I ensure I wear the helmet, PROTECTING MY HEAD (where, I think, it’s meant to be 🤔) and NOT on the gas tank, PROTECTING THE BIKE! It’s not easy when you learn by YouTube because there’s no one to tell you when you do wrong – but I think I’m getting there.
So, while I may continue to bitch about others … I have basically JOINED THEM.
Corona has brought regulations upon regulations upon regulations … leading to headaches upon headaches upon headaches for hotels!
Can’t complain though- restricted regulations are still better than a complete lockdown, which we faced April to September.
Now, revised regulations restrict all indoor dining and activities but at least allow activities outside.
My grandfather’s foresight planned large outdoor spaces for our Beach Luxury Hotel by the sea in 1947; the Avari Lahore hotel in 1978; and the Avari Towers in 1985. Naturally, he had no knowledge about the calamity that would hit the world in 2020 then but his idea always was for large, green spaces.
In a city like Karachi, our so-called autumns & winters (whatever semblance of “winter” one can call it in Karachi 😊) make it absolutely outstanding to be outdoors and not cooped up in an a/c environment.
The other day my father and I dropped by for a coffee to Avari Towers. We made our way down to the gardens by the pool, which have been transformed into an all-day dining- menus from Fujiyama, Dynasty & Asia Live are available there. We thought we were sitting in some tropical paradise- with the trees, greenery, plants, tree overhangs, etc. Our Sky Grill restaurant continues operating for dinner on the roof of the Hotel, overlooking the lights of the sprawling metropolis.
At Beach Luxury, a full day conference (with social distancing, I might add) took place on our Seafront restaurant- the only open air, floating restaurant in Pakistan – which we use for our buffet dinners. In the past, we have used this venue for our breakfast and lunch buffets also – it is a sight for sleepy morning eyes to see the seagulls swoop down in Chinna Creek; school-going rowers in the first morning light (albeit being grumpy at having to awake at 5am 😊) on their Sculls, Doubles, Fours and Eights; the first morning fisherman throwing his net out in the dirty, still creek- to get small fish he can then sell to the large trawlers to use as bait … and if you come early enough, one of the best winter SUNRISES you can experience! Our Casbah restaurant, the freshest seafood grill, has had outdoor dining 365 days.
At Avari Lahore, our large lawns (which houses a small aviary too) now host our outdoor restaurants – Tollington combines Kims, Lakhnavi & Tollington menus; Dynasty & Fujiyama are combined at an adjacent garden venue. With ample space to spare, the other parts of the lawns are used for weddings & related events.
I may be proudly boasting but we are really happy of what our GMs & teams’ have created within the parameters of these Covid regulations & restrictions.
So, I tell you friends, we don’t look at the glass as “half empty” … rather, look at it as “half full”; these days shall also pass – maybe slowly, but pass they shall ! As my father quotes “Smile, & the World Smiles With You … Cry, & You Cry Alone”.
(End note: fat lot me giving such advice … by nature I’m one of the world’s greatest pessimists 😊 😊 😊)
As the World Bank’s Pakistan Country Director, Ilango Patchamuthu, puts it “60% of women in #Pakistan cite transportation cost as a major issue which hinders their #mobility. To bring real change, we have to step out of policymaking & address the basics.” Well, Salman Sufi Foundation is doing just that … addressing the basics!
Cyril Almeida comments “According to the international charity WaterAid, about 40 percent of Pakistan’s population of roughly 210 million lacks decent toilets.“
I first came across this concept of a “public toilet” in Mumbai – that too, smack adjacent to Mumbai’s iconic “Gateway of India”. What struck me was the concept of a public toilet – and I thought it was fantastic. We even went in – it was relatively clean (quite smelly) but the fact that such a facility was available to the passerbys near Colaba was awesome.
This public toilets project is long overdue … and should not have been initiated by a private citizen or NGO – but like the rest of the [lack of] public & services infrastructure in Pakistan, it’s the private citizen who comes forward to implement what should be government-led projects.
I don’t see any government in Pakistan ever looking after the social needs of the people on a micro level – it will always be private NGOs and citizens who not only take the initiative but implement public health, education, philanthropic & other social services projects – whether the Edhis, the Salman Sufis, Agha Khans, TCFs, UNICEFs, ABSAs or the I Am Karachis of Pakistan (to name just a few of the myriad of NGOs doing so much good in Pakistan).
A humble thanks to Salman Sufi for helping to ease life for the citizens of Karachi!
Recently I heard Arif Hasan, planner, architect & activist (http://arifhasan.org/about-arif-hasan), on a Samaa News interview (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vCb6OIWWsoo). The interview is an eyeopener and very insightful as Mr Hasan traces the roots of the problem, the history of our formal drainage systems, Karachi’s unchecked sprawl from the 1950s and especially 1970s leading to the drainage & sewer breakdown, we face currently. In identifying these problems, Mr Hasan implicitly provides the solutions too.
There are two courses of action required –
I have already addressed rain water harvesting & recycling;
Alongside this, the city’s RAIN WATER and SEWAGE DRAINAGE systems have to be urgently addressed on a professional basis.
Basically, Karachi needs to “get back to the drawing board” by using independent, non-partisan town planners and architects (like Arif Hasan himself). We have ONE YEAR lead time to fix the city- or at least be able to complete some of the main areas of the City – before the next rains hit us.
There are thousands of little drains – nullahs – (some naturally formed) which should feed into 64 large Nullahs which lead into Malir & Landhi Rivers, which in turn flow into the sea.
PROBLEM: When even one of these nullahs are blocked or stopped, it prohibits rainwater to flow into the sea- and instead, it floods the City. This is the root problem.
SOLUTION: So, firstly, the Entrance & Exit points of all Nullahs should remain undisturbed from encroachments, unplanned structures and debris.
PROBLEM: Next, when roads are being built, their drainage is also part of the scope. However, Arif Hasan points out that when the drains are made, they don’t lead anywhere – they end where the road ends … GO FIGURE! So, when the [so-called] drains fill up with rain – from the road itself – the overflow goes back onto the roads again … and … the “ROADS GET CONVERTED INTO NULLAHS”!
SOLUTION: So, the second action is that road drains must connect to the established nullahs, so there’s a formal route for the water to naturally flow into the sea (more on formal drains below).
PROBLEM: In the 1950s, Katchi Abadis (informal housing settlements) sprang up unchecked. There was no planning for their sewage drains, so the katchi abadis drained their sewage into Karachi’s nullahs…a practice which continues to this day. In the 1970s, when the formal housing schemes and neighborhoods were created, they continued the same practice of draining their sewage into rain water drains because no sewage drains or trunk sewers were planned … again, a practice that continues to this very day!
SOLUTION(s): So, thirdly, TRUNK SEWERS leading into FORMAL SEWER DRAINAGE SYSTEMS (& NOT into the rainwater drains) has to be planned & executed.
When this is done, all current formal Storm water drains must be cleaned off all the sewage sludge; all sewage outlets leading into such rain water drains removed and capped; and new storm water drains built to accommodate the City’s sprawl (it is massive task and a daunting one, at that). Storm water drains must ONLY be used for rain water drainage.
Each of these systems has to be physically separate and independent from each other – no one system should be able to lead into another system in case of a breakdown; each of these systems has to have its own failsafe mechanisms in place; have their own access points for repairs, replacements & maintenance in place; and have their dedicated teams ready to fix and clean them.
PROBLEM: The World Bank funded & completed a successful Sewage treatment plant in the 1990s. However, it never started operations. Why … because there were no trunk sewer systems designed or created to capture rainwater which would have flowed into the treatment plants; likewise, nothing was designed to capture the sewage (which instead was dumped into the rain water drains) to drain into such treatments plants either.
SOLUTION(s): Fourth- once these new Trunk Sewers and formal Sewage system captures all types of drains (be it rainwater or sewage), they should ONLY flow into Sewage treatment plants (plants…PLURAL); and then they should flow into new nullahs connecting to Malir & Lyari rivers.
Malir & Lyari rivers themselves need to be dredged and maintained to accept this drainage.
A recycling solution also lies in utilizing waste from treatment plants (after being treated) for watering the City’s green belts instead of letting it flow into the sea.
SOLUTION(s): So, we need to create large swaths of “green areas”;
We have to breakdown this concrete jungle and rebuild public areas with gardens and trees;
Town planning has to be formalized, professionalized and held accountable;
Katchi abadis may very well have to be relocated (like the successful Lyari/Orangi resettlement project) into new, formal neighborhoods- this can be successfully & mutually negotiated by giving these resettlers title to their new properties, instead of the usurious “pagri” and rental system most of these katchi abadi dwellers have to content with currently;
Lastly, roads and current infrastructure will also have be replanned, replaced or even relocated to accommodate these new services.
So, what is the STARTING POINT of all these actions?
A long term City & infrastructure Plan has to be created, agreed by all political stakeholders and implemented & monitored professionally. This Plan will continuously need amendments and updating, which cannot be done without a non-partisan, political approach to addressing Karachi’s problems professionally by the Chief Minister, Government AND Opposition parties working together, instead of the politics of destruction – the destruction to the City of Karachi!
Weather patterns have changed for Pakistan, especially Karachi. We are seeing colder winters, hotter summers … and heavier rains! The last I remember of these types of rains were in the 1970s.
Karachi is facing severe monsoon rains for the first time in decades. It’s a good thing too – it cleans up the city; there is more greenery; the temperature drops; and life is so much more pleasant; and the three major reservoirs supplying water to our City get filled.
Yet, with the rains upon us there is no drinking water in sight! Like South Africa’s current problem, Pakistan is heading for a water crisis in the coming decade.
Rain is God’s gift to Earth and we are rebuffing this free resource!
The time to act is NOW … with no POLITICS or partisanship involved, through micro & macro means. The provincial & federal governments cannot do this on their own- we as citizens have to help out too.
Let’s go back to school – literally – and immediately start teaching water saving to all nursery, kindergarten and primary school children! (Long Term Goal)
Water faucets can and should be changed to modern fittings which save water. I saw a very interesting concept at https://www.alteredcompany.com/ . Their water aerators/nozzles give a mist giving the same cleaning effects but at a fraction of the water wastage. Why can’t our domestic companies follow suit and make it mandatory for all faucets to be of this type?
Implement recycling “domestic” water for kitchen & clothes washing and swimming pool top ups;
Implement “waste” water recycling (from WC’s and urinals) for gardens and exterior washings (can be used for washing cars, external patios, etc).
Implement drip irrigation for all gardens, plants & farms –Middle Eastern countries are proof that such systems work – and theoretically it should be even easier for us to do!
All watering for gardens & plants should be done at/after sunset;
Domestic staff HAVE to be taught to conserve water (for that matter all our utilities);
On the macro side, our federal & provincial governments –
Have to put aside “-1 sum” politics (in this case “-1” referring to provinces) in favour of the citizens of Pakistan.
Like Hawaii, we need to create water catchment areas for rainwater in each province – NO RAIN WATER SHOULD BE WASTED.
Mini DAMS is a must – starting from the north of Pakistan’s main rivers down south to the Arabian Sea – so that our fresh water does not drain into the sea and is instead used productively. Politicians (not us citizens!) have concerns that water from such dams would not be used equitably – but if Pakistan & India’s Indus Water Treaty of 1960 can withstand the “test of time”, I’m sure our own provinces can also reach comprehensive, equitable & binding agreements.
Not a drop of fresh water in Pakistan should be allowed to flow into the Arabian Sea and instead equitably diverted East & West to all provinces as it flows southwards!
Desalinization plants – this is a macro project and while some smaller units have been set up in Karachi, they are not being used. Besides rainwater, ocean water is an absolutely FREE resource- why are we not using it? We take loans to pay off other loans … and loans for building our arms … why can’t we take loans & grants for providing drinking water to our population?
There is a great need for our governments (plural!) collectively to lead the way in collecting & storing rainwater; promoting households & commercial buildings to create water catchments & reuse rainwater; and teach & implement water saving techniques to the population!
THE WATER IS FREE people … we just need to optimally capture this very very scarce resource and utilize it correctly in & for our Country.
REPLY ADDRESS BY MR. DINSHAW B AVARI ON THE OCCASION TO COMMEMORATE HIS 85th BIRTHDAY on NOV 5, 1987-
“Sir Sidney Ridley confirmed to me that he would protect me and would ensure that the Hotel, if purchased by me, would not be requisitioned during the Second World War for the Army, Navy and Air Force, as was the custom.
So, putting up my entire life’s savings and borrowing the rest, I went to Mr. Wyseman and purchased the Bristol Hotel for Rs.100,000/-. Mr Wyseman agreed on one condition- that Khorshed and I learn the hotel business with him for a few months. So, every morning at 4 a.m. I went to the Empress Market to purchase all the groceries, and the mutton, beef, chicken, fish, vegetables and fruits.
As soon as six months training were over and Mr. Wyseman handed over the Hotel to me and left Karachi – and the Bristol Hotel got requisitioned!
When I went to Sir Sidney Ridley and informed him about this, he phoned the British Provost Marshal of the Army to enquire why this was done. The Provost Marshal said “How can a bloody Indian run an English Hotel?”
Sir Sidney Ridley insisted the Hotel be de-requisitioned and the Provost Marshal accepted only on my written agreement to reduce the charges to Rs. 5/- per room and Rs.7/- for room with all meals. Sir Sidney Ridley said I would go bankrupt, but I agreed. Inspite of all my social status, I was still a “bloody Indian” but I was willing to take the challenge.
Now, the charge for a Chota (small) Peg for a Whiskey was Rs. l/. I immediately doubled it and got the Sargeant at Mauripur Airport to send me as many soldiers as he liked and I would pay him Rs.1/- per soldier, as his commission.
Then, I put 6 soldiers in a room and within one year, with both husband and wife working till 2 a.m. in the morning, we made a net profit of Rs. One Lac in the very first year- I paid up the money I had paid to buy the hotel.”
but that doesn’t mean we forget all other social ills ☹.
I don’t recall the source or location of this Twitter picture but KUDOS to the inventor for this simple ‘garbage collector’ system to capture debris, rubbish, flotsam, etc.
So much of Karachi’s industrial waste, rubbish & sewerage finds its way into the Sea through its identifiable & controllable outlets & nalas (nala = stream).
There are manifold advantages to this simple model-
It’s cheap & easy to make – really, all it is, is a modified fishing net!
Easy to set up & operate – the way I visualize it is that you place it over the city sewer and “stormwater drain” outlets where they discharge into the creeks & canals leading into the sea.
Not only will it contain all the debris, stopping its passage into the sea on the ebb tide; but debris coming into the City on the flood tide will be contained.
It will lead to employment – let the villagers on the cusp of these drainage outlets be responsible for the operation of this system. They capture, collect and bag all such debris & flotsam; the City pays them; and KWSB simply schedules its collection thrice a day from each of these spots.
Take for example the stormwater drain (built in the ‘80’s by the World Bank) which passes Mai Kolachi into Chinna Creek. Over the last four decades, it morphed into a sewer. If you place one of these collection nets at the discharge outlet point (where it drops into Chinna Creek), you will effectively capture almost ALL plastic bags, Styrofoam and other floating debris. This can then be bagged and collected by KWSB or KPT.
Other such outlets are at – Shireen Jinnah Colony, Lyari River & it’s various streams, Moosa Lane Nala (fish harbour), Korangi Creek & it’s various nalas, Budnai Nala (Sandspit), Gogni & Nalas (Hawksbay), Hub River, nalas near HUBCO, Kanupp & Port Qasim.
WHERE THERE IS A WILL … THERE IS A WAY to clean up this City!
The “ills” of our times date back to the 1700’s East India Company!
In yesterday afternoon’s fascinating book launch “The Anarchy: The Relentless Rise of the East India Company” at the Karachi Literature Festival, William Dalrymple identifies the source of global corporate corruption and rot in society … The East India Company.
Darlymple’s style of delivery is OUTSTANDING! He’s humorous, easy to listen to, succinct and energetic. It was a pleasure to hear his two presentations yesterday and I hope we have the opportunity to hear more from him in future. For a Saturday morning session, he had an excellent turnout.
Starting from “… a five room office, smaller than the Beach Luxury Hotel…” and 3% of global trade, the East India Company grew to cover almost 40% of global trade. It was, pure and simple, in the business to make a profit. CSR practices were never on it’s agenda … there being it’s eventual downfall. It bought politicians, favors, influence and it’s own army of sepoys with the sole aim of emptying the coffers of South Asia and profiting from global trade – and it did this very successfully.
“Enlightening” would be the term I would use to describe William Darlymple’s book launch.
As an aside, in the 8 years I’ve been a participant at the Karachi Literature Festival, never once have I found it to be an “elitist” event– and I don’t say this just because it’s being held at my family’s Beach Luxury. Over the years I’ve heard this term over and over but I don’t believe this to be true of KhiLF. There is absolutely NO VIP culture, you rub shoulders with people from all walks of life, speakers interact with participants freely, the entry is absolutely free and no one is restricted (bar time reasons) from asking questions … with one common objective of enhancing KNOWLEDGE. For a city of 27 Million inhabitants, it’s an absolutely outstanding weekend!
This morning’s session at the KLF with Dr Asad Sayeed, Ghazi Salahuddin and Dr Huma Baqai (moderated very capably by Yasir Qazi), like a lot of discussions on Pakistan’s civil (and social) direction, was pessimistic … unfortunately and, I believe, rightly.
Several questions emerged from this discussion –
Where is the Pakistani civil voice?
Who is the cause of the destruction/silencing of this civil voice?
Why does the middle class – the backbone of any society – stay silent [numb] over atrocities that are committed in society over and over again … why do we not learn from history?
Is there a capacity to change?
… and finally, what is the solution to fix our civil ails?
For safety reasons 😊, I will not address the last question in political terms – however, one gentleman in the audience offered a solution – our universities do not address higher education topics like the Humanities, Social Sciences, Political Science, Investigative Journalism …. While the entire fabric of social service in Pakistan rests with the private sector, no Degree is offered in SOCIAL SERVICE in Pakistan. (If so, my daughter, would have undertaken her Masters in Social Works here!)
If universities are churning out only MBAs, Engineers and Doctors, there is no learning forum teaching how to address this apathy of civil society.
Dr Huma Baqai identified, correctly, that women will play a very large role in the coming years in shaping what our society will be like – that is good because if there’s any other solution, I believe it will lie in the female gender “fixing things”.
Lastly, my own solution lies with PRIMARY EDUCATION – we must bring civic studies, humanities, social service topics into our primary schools URGENTLY. If ever there’s a chance of any change in the future, it lies with children just starting out in school and through their formative years.
If there’s “no capacity to change” – and whenever a section of society seem to “rise”, only to be then suppressed – what happens to our future?