The ExpreesTribune Editorial 10 August 2019

UN’s welcome assertion


A statement by the United Nations Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, had made it clear that the UN’s position on the Kashmir dispute continues to be governed by the UN Charter and Security Council resolutions regarding the disputed region. He also appealed to both countries to show ‘maximum restraint’ while mentioning the Shimla Agreement of 1972 between India and Pakistan, which requires the dispute to be settled by peaceful means. Guterres also expressed concern over the human rights situation in India-occupied Kashmir, where the internet and phone connections have been cut off, a curfew imposed, leading politicians put under house arrest, and several civilians reportedly martyred.
Guterres’ assertion is indeed an endorsement of arguments against the hasty abolition of Article 370 of the Constitution of India, pushed through by the far-right Narendra Modi government. Modi, for his part, continues to do his best to lie to the world and his own citizens. The Muslim-majority region has been under an unprecedented lockdown and communications blackout to prevent the oppressed populace from telling the world what the Hindutva ideologues, heading the BJP, have in store for them.
The Indian government gave itself a pat on the back on Friday for ‘relaxing the curfew’ to allow Muslims in Srinagar to go to local mosques. But even that relaxation was not citywide, and Friday congregation was barred at the historic Jama Masjid, where thousands pray every week. In keeping with his tyrannical benevolence, Modi has hinted at allowing Muslims to celebrate Eid-ul-Azha next week, claiming that his government would make “sincere efforts to ensure that the people in the region have no difficulties in celebrating Eid”.
Indian hawks have, meanwhile, been pushing for escalating the situation. But none of these greying hawks would have to go die at the border in case of war. It would be unsurprising to learn that these hawks also don’t have children who would be in the line of fire. These hawks need to get together with those encouraging asymmetric attacks on India and be put in a soundproof room, to save humanity from their insane shouts.


Give cleanliness a chance

Probably, now Karachi is the most appropriate antonym for cleanliness. If ocular evidence is anything to go by. But the authorities continue to be in a state of constant denial. Given the present state of unhygienic conditions in the city and Eid-ul-Azha around the corner, people fear what would happen if there is a fresh spell of rain before and during Eid. The prevailing state of lack of hygienic conditions combined with rains will likely result in an unbearable situation. The city is already witnessing an invasion of flies and mosquitoes. In all likelihood there will be a manifold increase in the swarms of flies and mosquitoes during and after Eid days, when hundreds of thousands of cattle are slaughtered and it takes time to remove the offal.
Stormwater drains all over the city are choked with garbage. Garbage is everywhere: it is over-ground, underground, and in the atmosphere — claims by the authorities to the contrary notwithstanding. Rainwater that has accumulated after the rains on July 29 and 30 is still standing in many areas of the city, as no effort seems to have been made to drain it out. Rainwater mixing with gushing dirty gutter water is adding to the myriad problems of the people. This situation exists even in downtown areas. One can only ask of the authorities: is it necessary to practise and promote apathy for success in politics? In few areas, there are signs of road repairs though, it is difficult to say whether the work will be carried out at all. In recent years, we have seen machinery appearing and some excavation work being carried out for a few days. Then the work in progress is abandoned abruptly. It is difficult to understand the rationale of road repair and road building work being undertaken after the rainy season has started.
All this is happening under a democratic dispensation. One cannot help concluding that democracy no longer means what it was meant to.


New reservoir


The biggest metropolis of the country and one of its main industrial and financial hubs, Karachi, is facing a severe water crisis that continues through much of summer and only marginally improves in winter. Now, the federal government has decided to finally do something about it. Prime Minister Imran Khan has directed the Water and Power Development Authority (Wapda) to build a freshwater reservoir for the city. The reservoir will be a barrage built on River Indus about 45km upstream of river’s outfall into the sea, 65km south of Thatta and 130km east of Karachi city. It will store around two to three million acre feet of water.
If the noises from the federal government’s camps are to be believed, this mega scheme will address almost all water issues downstream of Kotri Barrage, including sea intrusion upstream, land erosion, non-availability of water for both irrigation and domestic use, and addressing the water shortage in Karachi by supplying 1,000 million gallons of water per day. It will, however, take the government around four years to complete it even while adopting a fast-track strategy.
That Karachi and much of lower Sindh faces a water crisis is well known. Various remedies have also been suggested in the context, including a wholesale change in the entire water supply and distribution system. Curiously, there has been no mention of the Sindh government’s role in the project. This could ultimately add to the friction between the PTI-led federal government and the PPP-led Sindh government and could potentially impact the project.
The government’s desire and intention to build the much-needed project which aims to address the critical issue of water for the country’s biggest metropolis is more than welcome. But the federal government will be well advised to take the Sindh government and the local governments on board to make the project more inclusive and effective — particularly if the government wants to address further supply issues in the urban areas.

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