Surjani residents brave abominable conditions in rain’s aftermath

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KARACHI: As you approach Yousuf Goth in Surjani Town on Tuesday, several days after the heavy rainfall of last Thursday, the road becomes very bumpy, the driver of our car tries his best to manoeuvre the steering to make the ride less shaky but all in vain. Where there may once have been a road, there are depressions and potholes of all shapes and sizes.

In some areas of the city, the damaged roads are at least repaired after the rains. Here no one bothered to rebuild them after any of the previous monsoons as they no longer can even be called roads. They are merely dirt tracks.

There are also heaps of garbage in the form of dead tree branches, broken crates, plastic bags, paper and cardboard, etc, in the middle of the main road, on the rather broad dividers. And where there is less trash there are the fruit and vegetable carts, broken down rickshaws, pickups and even buses towed and left here to dry.

On one side of the road, there are the small dwellings built illegally by encroaching over the nullah. The nullah has not completely been hidden by them though a much narrower part of it is still visible. It has ramps as little bridges to help one cross over to the homes. Many of these homes have put up strings for clotheslines outside with sheets, towels and stinking blankets, quilts, mats and rugs drying on them in the rancid air.

Locals are suffering from skin and stomach ailments due to sewage-mixed water

Turning right at Karimi Chowrangi, you come to the most affected place, drowned in stubbornly stagnant rain and gutter water which the residents of the area have accepted as their fate while carrying on with their lives.

Rolling down the car window makes you regret almost immediately. The stench is overbearing. And yet there are takhts laid out in front of eateries and tea stalls, men on motorbikes, children roaming aimlessly in the lanes along with mangy disease-ridden dogs. There are several vegetable and fruit vendors too. The fruit vendors are only selling overripe bananas as this is the only fruit that the people of the area are able to afford. The general stores are open as are the sandal and slipper shops and the hairdressers working from out of an extra room in 50- to 80-yard houses.

Scenes of devastation and misery abound in Surjani Town on Tuesday.—Fahim Siddiqi/White Star
Scenes of devastation and misery abound in Surjani Town on Tuesday.—Fahim Siddiqi/White Star

The wet stains on the walls indicate where the water level had reached last week.

Mohammad Afzal, an old resident of the area, says that as the water level went down in the area, it entered their homes. “The ground is not level, it tilts towards the homes. There is a slope,” he explains.

“We have managed to clean the houses now but there is sewage still there in our underground tanks,” he says. “The people here are suffering from all kinds of skin and stomach ailments.”

A huge army truck passes by and the neighbourhood children happily chase after it just as the street dogs bark and do the same from the sides. It seems like their highlight of the day. There are also a few children not interested in all of that. Carrying empty plastic bottles and canisters they got on the motorbike with their father to head to the nearest RO plant for potable water.

That’s when you also notice the medical camps set up here and there in the area and the women and children returning from there with medicine strips and syrup bottles. A gaggle of geese, with their once white feathers as dirty as the water surrounding them, spread and shake their wings to dry out before lining up and following each other into a waterlogged lane. There are hundreds of flies and also a few dragonflies enjoying the outdoors also.

There are the Pakistan flags from August 14 Independence Day celebrations also fluttering in the air above the little houses and electricity poles. Many places are still without electricity but here the people don’t have generators. They have learned to bear the heat and the darkness.

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