Karachi … BACK TO THE DRAWING BOARD!

September 8, 2020

In my recent blog (https://dinshawavari.com/2020/08/29/water-water-everywhere-but-not-a-drop-to-drink-the-rime-of-the-ancient-mariner-by-samuel-taylor-coleridge/), I was only concentrating on recycling rainwater for Karachi.  However, the inadequacy of the Karachi’s infrastructure to deal with … RAIN … has created havoc to our City.

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.

PROBLEM:          Samaa interestingly also points out (https://www.samaa.tv/news/2020/08/karachi-rain-water-weather-flooding-monsoon-update-storage-shortage-drought/) that Karachi’s “concrete jungle” doesn’t have the capacity to absorb any of the rainwater so as to shore up valuable ground water.  “The advantage would have been that the water table would have been replenished”.

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!

WATER, WATER EVERYWHERE … BUT NOT A DROP TO DRINK (“The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” by Samuel Taylor Coleridge)

(Long Article)

Samaa recently wrote https://www.samaa.tv/news/2020/08/karachi-rain-water-weather-flooding-monsoon-update-storage-shortage-drought/, with very good suggestions for capturing rain water- which reminded me of my post of last year (https://dinshawavari.wordpress.com/2019/03/25/water-water-everywhere-but-not-a-drop-to-drink/).  This is an apt time to re-summarize and add on to these thoughts-

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.

  1. Let’s go back to school – literally – and immediately start teaching water saving to all nursery, kindergarten and primary school children! (Long Term Goal)
  2. 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?
  3. Implement recycling “domestic” water for kitchen & clothes washing and swimming pool top ups;
  4. Implement “waste” water recycling (from WC’s and urinals) for gardens and exterior washings (can be used for washing cars, external patios, etc). 
  5. 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! 
  6. All watering for gardens & plants should be done at/after sunset;
  7. Domestic staff HAVE to be taught to conserve water (for that matter all our utilities);
  8. Individual water catchment systems need to be created – each building in our cities can easily have their own rainwater harvesting system – it doesn’t have to be expensive.  In our part of the world, Tamil Nadu leads the way!  Brazil, Singapore, Hawaii & Australia are other successful examples.  The cost and process of making a catchment system is not prohibitive or unreasonable.  It can even work effectively with a simple tarpaulin (refer http://www.oas.org/usde/publications/unit/oea59e/ch10.htm as an example).  (Here’s another source- https://outdoortroop.com/how-to-capture-and-store-enough-rainwater-for-your-cabin/).

On the macro side, our federal & provincial governments –

  1. Have to put aside “-1 sum” politics (in this case “-1” referring to provinces) in favour of the citizens of Pakistan.
  2. Like Hawaii, we need to create water catchment areas for rainwater in each province – NO RAIN WATER SHOULD BE WASTED.
  3. 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!

  • The current government’s tree-plantation drive is a correct first step – “growing trees take water from the soil and release it into the atmosphere. Tree leaves also act as interceptors, catching falling rain, which then evaporates causing rain precipitation elsewhere — a process known as evapo-transpiration […] strategically planting trees can bring rain to regions that need it most.” (https://forestsnews.cifor.org/10316/make-it-rain-planting-forests-to-help-drought-stricken-regions?fnl=en). 
  • 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.

We Are Who We Are Because Of Our Forefathers- 6

June 18, 2020

(6 of 12)

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.

(to be cont…)

(previous (5th) post- https://dinshawavari.com/2020/05/26/we-are-who-we-are-because-of-our-forefathers-5/)

Don’t Let COVID Consume Other Social Ills!

April 29, 2020

COVID … COVID … COVID!  We will PREVAIL

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!

Day 2 at the Karachi Literature Festival

March 1, 2020

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.

Forgotten Masters – Indian Painting For The East India Company

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!

… At the Karachi Literature Festival 2020 … The Political Character Of Pakistani Middle Class

February 29, 2020

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 –

  1. Where is the Pakistani civil voice?
  2. Who is the cause of the destruction/silencing of this civil voice?
  3. 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?
  4. 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? 

The Romance of Valentines … 27 years on!

February 14, 2020

I surprised my future wife with a romantic(?) Valentine’s dinner the year we were dating; and then for the next few years after our marriage.

…and just as suddenly those romantic dinners stopped J, not for want of trying  … I just “forgot”!

There is no religious significance of Valentines Day to the general public in Pakistan.  However, we all like to celebrate it as a means of entertainment.

Valentine’s occasion brings activity to Pakistan’s society in general.  It’s a means of entertainment- besides eating and drinking, there’s not much more one can do in a large city like Karachi.

I’ve found that occasions like Valentine’s increases market activity; there’s a positive vibe in the City; employment and commerce is generated by eating places.  Besides this, roadside sellers of flowers have a boon.  Patisserie orders increase (…so does your waist line!).

Pakistanis are not celebrating any religious angle with Valentines.  It’s purely an emotional outlet … a release for us.

Hotels go full; restaurants go full; the City buzzes; and people enjoy “just another evening” in the guise of “Valentine’s Day”.

So, get out, take your spouse out tonight … enjoy the lights of Karachi and whatever palate suits you’ll.

                … I’m surprising my wife with a romantic dinner for two at a Bhatiar Khana (roadside diner) J … either I’ll see you’ll tomorrow or, like the title picture, I’ll be in the hospital.

                                    HAPPY VALENTINES !

(Picture credit- author unknown)

LIGHT RAIL – TRAM SYSTEM

January 2, 2020

https://www.google.com/url?sa=i&source=images&cd=&ved=0ahUKEwjvk4Lqq-TmAhW9QUEAHbl6AzQQMwhZKAYwBg&url=https%3A%2F%2Fdefence.pk%2Fpdf%2Fthreads%2Fthe-karachi-tramway-of-yesteryear.428552%2F&psig=AOvVaw1X9tU1wvWsCxe7Pji-SRZJ&ust=1578034790143080&ictx=3&uact=3

On a recent trip to Sydney, I saw their new Sydney Light Rail project under testing and it reminded me of the tram system we commuted in Prague and Zagreb.

Sydney light rail (Sydney Morning Herald)

Karachi is a city of almost 30 Million residents (forget what the “census” says!).  The City is held “hostage” to the traditional bus mafia- unsafe, rash & decrepit.  While the Sind Government is trying to get it’s overdue Bus Metro project started (Lahore is way ahead of us with their Metro!), in a metropolis of this size, our mass transit has to be revolutionized and modernized … and the only way is Metro or a solar powered, Light Rail/Tram system.

The advantages of a light rail network is that it runs above ground – we don’t really know the plans of our buildings’ foundations so better to stick to above-ground solutions.

Like most cities of the world, distances in Karachi are great.  Unlike many cities in the world, Karachi still has wider roads – but as the traffic and parking is not controlled, we remain “bumper to bumper” when driving.  However, if safe parking plazas are built & operated and car, bus & motorcycles’ driving in lanes are regulated, I don’t see why we cannot actually convert one lane (each-way) on each of our main arteries and larger streets to a tram network.  Using the Sun to power the Rail during the day, we will also protect environmental damage and conserve electricity.

We need to MOVE PEOPLE safely and quickly- this will never happen with our current bus service.

Where there’s a will, there’s a way to success!

‘Tis the Season to … have FUSION

November 26, 2019

Karachiites witnessed three great socials over the last few weekends-

The Royal Embassy of #Denmark in Islamabad brought in the “Rocqawali

The Goethe Institute of Karachi brought in “Cyminology”.

The Italian Consul in Karachi brought in Chef Vittorio Castellani (aka Chef Kumalé)

Rocqawali blends “traditional Sufi music in a 21st Century version of guitars & drums”.

In 2004, Jonas (Rocqawali’s guitarist) traveled to Pakistan to seek out his roots.  Here he met lead singer, Ejaz, who hails from Mehr Ali & Sher Ali Khan, Pakistan’s Qawal family.  Drummer Stephan joined the band in 2012, followed with Tin (their guitarist), himself from a Persian-Sufi background.  The best part- all are Danish citizens!

Cyminology, a “Berlin based quartet, combines Persian poetry” with, essentially, Jazz. 

“This subtle yet dynamic, softly-pulsating music takes its cue from the sound of the Persian-language poets- Rumi, Hafiz & Khayyam”.  As an extra, they performed a poem by Faiz Ahmed Faiz, and that too in Urdu!  Cymin Samawatie is the lead vocalist, Benedikt Jahnel on the piano, Ralf Schwarz played a beautiful Double Bass and Ketan Bhatti topped off the performance on the drums.  The best part- all are German citizens!

As an added extra to this music-cultural fusion, is Chef Kumalé, a “Gastro-Nomad”. 

A career spanning over 27 years has differentiated Chef Kumalé from many other “chefs” in the world- he’s a traveling-journalist-food blogger extraordinaire!  His visit to Karachi was primarily to learn Pakistani food – while he gave a few Italian training sessions, Chef Kumalé immersed himself into Pakistani culture and food to add to his vast gastronomic & traveling repertoire and blog.

Chef Kumale trying out the Sev Puri, Dahi Puri & other delights at #Gazebo, Karachi

The ICING –

All three events have fused MULTIPLE cultures into a common platform people enjoy … MUSIC & FOOD, regardless of language, race, ethnicity, religion or nationality; and they have done it with respect and dignity to the original chefs/authors/performers/ music.

Our Country, along with India & Iran, has one of the oldest & richest cultures in the world – with poets, mysticism, love, myriad romantic languages & food havens – a cultural dream for any artist; and for that matter, for any nation.  What better for peace & cohesion than a fusion of these CULTURES with each other and with contemporary western thinking – just what we, and the world, needs, eh!

…and the Naatak entertained us this weekend!

October 15, 2019

(In Gujrati, “Naatak” = “play”)

Mix Breed”, based on a Parsi family who have to face “intermarriage” issues, is a light portrayal of the real-world issues our Community is facing.   With double meanings and inflections, the cast (90% of whom learnt Gujrati “on the job”!) entertained the Gujrati speaking communities of Karachi.

The Script was written by Mrs Huzan Wadia, who has successfully acted & directed it in Mumbai; and selflessly extended the script on a gratis basis to Natalia Karanjia in Karachi, this play being the latter’s directorial debut.  Yay to Natalia!

This is what Karachi, and Pakistan, lacks- ENTERTAINMENT.  We have food & drink and ………… hmmmmm.  Play and theatre is picking up in Pakistan but to a very restricted market.  The mainstream citizens do not get to enjoy theatre on a regular basis- whether drama, comedy, musical.  Our cast explained to me the ‘power’ of theatre – they get their rush when the crowd reacts with them- it’s a powerful, intoxicating feeling; there are no second chances for a mistake; and when you make a mistake, you have to think on your feet and keep going.

In the 2000 decade our media was opened – creating a new source of employment – for budding theatre artists, actors, directors, writers, film makers, etc.  It’s a growth market but we have to create more facilities for this talent to be nurtured, taught, portrayed – AND WITH IT allowing us citizens to enjoy these productions and enriching our lives.  Kudos to the NAPAs, Arts Councils and other such facilities – but we need more!

(The naatak was sponsored by the 109 year-old Young Mazdyasnian Zoroastrian Association (YMZA) and the Karachi Parsi Anjuman- however it is not meant to be any endorsement or official or unofficial stance of the Anjuman, the YMZA or any individual thereof)