Cleaning my city, not a big deal!
By Menin Rodrigues
September 10, 2019 – Federal committees, provincial governments, the municipal
corporation, the mayor’s antics – are all cock and bull stories! Karachi, my beleaguered
city does not need any of these lofty imaginary protocols, loud-talking groups and
photo-hungry people who don’t really understand Karachi, period.
Why? Because none, presumably, have any affinity with, and ownership or awareness of
this once secular, beautiful and peaceful city! Its economic muscle, access to air-
sea and land routes, geo-political physical features, ethnic and cultural
diversity, historical landmarks and architecture, endless kilometers of
sandy beaches, wide thoroughfares, sprawling parks, huge stormwater
drains and a traffic quagmire, are its hallmarks!
To say that each of these traits of Karachi has been destroyed and abused, relegating the
city to its lowest ebb, would have said the least. Citizens are now at the mercy of a
The proverbial “roshnio ka sheher” is a nomenclature, all big cities have lots of
lights. It was never about lights – it was about its people, founding fathers and
conscientious municipal councilors, who are truly the makers of ‘modern’ Karachi.
They built a city with a vision, a city to last beyond 100 years, all we had to
do was to inherit this gift of benevolence and preserve its beauty while at the same time,
plan and design the Karachi of the future – for generations to come. This was not done.
Unfortunately, today’s generation has inherited a rot.
There’s no point in replicating or reincarnating the past, let Karachi’s treasures be where
they stand, just preserve for posterity, but go beyond. “Up town and Downtown”
signages to impress burger-clans, mean nothing, the physical features are the same!
Cleaning the beaches with a few bag-loads of garbage from a designated area along the
seaside are PR stunts. Karachi’s coastline/beaches stretch 90 kilometers! Who
will take on this challenge?
Surely, the then and now status of Karachi has changed dramatically, so much that in
many respects, Karachi’s magnificent past is dwarfed or drowned by the city’s
exponential growth, which unfortunately is its checkered present! More like, the
sorry tale of two cities – the past and the present.
Empty vessels make the most noise. Karachi and all those who stake claim to do
something good for the city, have met the same fate – failure! This may seem a
pessimistic viewpoint but it’s a reality check because nothing in the city gets better, only
worsens. Change cannot come so easily, it cannot happen overnight, no magic wand or
the trumpeted ‘cleanliness drives’ can change its destiny, therefore, like it or not,
citizens will continue to suffer, and Karachi my beloved will be torn between her
Promises after promises, so-called cleanliness drives and fake projections of how good
the city is, are like calls in the wilderness. Tall claims and promises to bring sanity to the
people of Karachi are purely political hallucinations, weightless statements, stop-gap
arrangements and certainly worthless opinions. These shenanigans cannot
produce any result to make Karachi, what we yearn for it to become,
peaceful, clean, green and beautiful.
From time to time, efforts are made to clean the city and rid the city of illegal
settlements, permits for additional bus routes are given, roads are laid over roads, and
repaired with inferior quality of raw material – it doesn’t last long. It looks good for a
brief period and crumbles within the year. Due to poor governance, there is no upkeep
and continuing maintenance, and therefore, before you know, it’s back to square one.
Stand at any traffic junction, crossroad and major intersection, and lo and behold, you
have Pakistan! The way we are, far from where we were, and where we ought to be! But
let’s focus on Karachi. Given the fact that the city has grown ten-folds, both in
infrastructure and population, in as much the staggering number of vehicles on the
road, solving Karachi’s problems may be in the hands of its political stalwarts but
certainly not a responsibility they can handle – for they have failed to date. There
must be an alternate solution.
Surf through the social media domains and you will find countless Karachi pages,
endless debates and nostalgic reminisces of the past. It’s a good thing, recalling
‘beautiful memories’ of their growing up in the city. But unfortunately, it has no bearing
whatsoever on the young and energetic youth of the city who look at Karachi’s future
from a different perspective! They would rather build on what they want the city to be in
the next two decades. Tirades and tirades on what Karachi used to be is
material for the museum, it is the past and must remain in the past,
therefore, we ought to visualize Karachi from a futuristic point of view.
Instead of cleanup operations, 90-day deadlines and garbage collection plans, why not
look at Karachi 10-20 years down the line, draw the plans, create timelines and seek
educational outcomes, such as introducing compulsory subjects like CITY-LIVING and
CHARACTER BUILDING in school-curriculums. The key to Karachi’s future is a
generation of educated people with exemplary character and a practical
knowledge of city-living to lead its citizens and achieve common goals.
Therefore, cleaning my city is no big deal. The mandate of ‘how’ to do, and ‘who’ is
responsible and ‘when’ it can be done, is all in the ‘standard operations procedures’ on
‘how to clean the city’ in the books of the Karachi Municipal Corporation.