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Pakistan’s sprawling Karachi ‘broken’ by monsoon floods | News



Karachi/Islamabad, Pakistan – For Shahzad Ahmed, there was no time to think.

“The windows broke and the door caved in, that’s how intense the water pressure was,” he said of the first night of torrential monsoon rain in Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city, last week.

“We didn’t even try to take the water out of the house. I just tied my rickshaw [to a pole] as tightly as I could and my family and I [got on] the rooftop.”

Ahmed, his wife and children spent more than 10 hours on that roof, in the pouring rain, as Karachi saw more than 230mm of rainfall in less than 12 hours, the most ever recorded, according to the Pakistan Meteorological Department.

This year, Pakistan has seen some of the most intense monsoon rains in years, with more than 189 people killed and thousands of homes washed away in flooding across the country, according to the country’s National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) (PDF).

We used to have clean drinking water, but we haven’t had any since the rain started.

Azhar Abbas, a shopkeeper

Karachi, a sprawling metropolis of more than 20 million people, was one of the worst-hit by the urban flooding. Streets turned to rivers, as the sheer volume of water quickly overloaded the city’s dilapidated and ill-maintained drainage systems.

In Ahmed’s working-class neighbourhood of Yousuf Goth, a video taken after the rains showed water flowing through the streets, mixing with sewage and solid waste, as residents waded through it to salvage what they can from their homes.

“What we need most right now is clean drinking water and vegetables. You can’t make a meal out of oil or just packets [of dry food],” said Azhar Abbas, a shopkeeper in the same neighbourhood.

Muhammad Rashid, 29, a construction worker, said his family was trapped at home, but he had to wade through the sewage periodically to try and find drinking water.

Shehzad Ansari’s aluminium door and window frame shop was inundated by the floods, and ‘everything was destroyed’, he says [Aysha Imtiaz/Al Jazeera] 

“The only thing I left the house for was water,” he said. “We slept without food on the first night. We were safe on our roof, but I kept leaving in the five feet of water just to get [drinking] water.”

The city’s main thoroughfares did not cope much better, submerged under several feet of water, leaving cars stranded or washed away in the flow. Desperate residents took to contracting agricultural tractors to try and winch their vehicles out.

Electricity supply across the city failed, or was pre-emptively cut, almost immediately, as the city’s main utility company reported its substations were being flooded. The pre-emptive cuts were aimed at limiting deaths due to electrocution if exposed wires were to come into contact with water in the streets.

Right now, it’s like kicking a dead horse. They just don’t have the capacity for it.

Farhan Anwar, urban planner

At least six people died as a result of such electrocutions, hospital officials told Al Jazeera.

Ahmed said he had to take the risk to move his family after 48 hours spent on their rooftop without electricity, water or natural gas to cook with.

“I was worried about the [electricity] current in the waters, but when the choice is between certain death by starvation or possibly electrocution, what could I do?”

‘Governance system failure’

As the rains now begin to subside, the hard work of cleaning up the debris and rebuilding will begin. In a city as divided and administratively “broken” as Karachi, however, urban planners and researchers said that will be easier said than done.

“It is an overall governance system failure,” said Farhan Anwar, an urban planner and faculty member at Karachi’s Habib University. “You can’t isolate a particular cause for it [because] we have, over the years, allowed the city to develop and grow without planning or regulation or a framework.”

Anwar said the city was “on its knees” after the rains, and that its institutions, plagued by decades of mismanagement, a lack of planning and political contestation, simply do not have the capacity to deal with the situation.

Karachi floods [Aysha Imtiaz/Al Jazeera]

‘I haven’t seen any patients at my clinic since it started to rain,’ said Arif Javed, a herbalist doctor standing amid the wreckage of his store [Aysha Imtiaz/Al Jazeera]

“These institutions of governance that are responsible for maintaining services, whether it is water, solid waste management, land, transportation or sewage, they are all totally bankrupt,” he said.

“Right now, it’s like kicking a dead horse. They just don’t have the capacity for it.”

One of the reasons for this, Anwar and others told Al Jazeera, is the complex nature of Karachi’s administrative setup. The city is administered by more than a dozen land-owning civic agencies, all of which work independently and are not beholden to a single set of policies.

The city has a mayor, elected in 2016, but he said he only controls 12 percent of the city’s overall area.

A lot of people have lost everything, a lot of their saving and investment was in the form of their appliances or furniture

Haris Gazdar, researcher

The rest of the city is managed by a mix of federal and provincial government-controlled landholding bodies, cooperative housing societies, the port authority, the railways department, industrial area authorities and military-run cantonments (PDF).

This situation, Anwar argued, has “straitjacketed” growth and development in Karachi.

“Various agencies have control over resources and management and there is no collaboration or coordination between them … Everyone is on their own.”

As political parties play out their contestations over civic institutions, analysts said, it has left most bankrupt.

“The confrontation between the Pakistan People’s Party and the Muttahida Qaumi Movement over the years has resulted in a tug of war that is played out within these institutions,” said Anwar.

Nazish Brohi, a social sector researcher, says Karachi’s history of violence – it was the site of brutal political violence through the 1990s and again from 2008 onwards – means there is a high price associated with any kind of reform.

“Because Karachi has been so volatile, in terms of conflict and violence in the past, no one wants to disturb the equilibrium,” she said. “The minute someone intervenes, there is fear of a conflagration.”

In 2012, Karachi was the world’s most dangerous megacity, with a homicide rate far higher than any other city of its size, as the battle for power in the city, rooted in ethnic and identity-based politics, played itself out on the city’s streets.

Karachi floods [Aysha Imtiaz/Al Jazeera]

This year, Pakistan has seen some of the most intense monsoon rains in years, with more than 189 people killed [Aysha Imtiaz/Al Jazeera] 

A military operation targeting the MQM party, which was held responsible for much of the violence, has since reduced the number of violent deaths in the city considerably, although critics said the operation itself involved a large number of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances.

However, that affects the rebuilding of the city’s drainage system. Brohi brought up the need to clear residential and commercial buildings that have been built on top of drainage channels, blocking them.

“The drainage channels are choked right now, and those encroachments obviously need to be cleared,” she said. “But when the city is undergirded by an ethnic grid, then questions of which drainage channel you touch first can lead to a conflagration.”

The worst-hit area

One of the largest landholding bodies in Karachi is the Defence Housing Authority (DHA), a civic authority run by the country’s powerful military that controls 5 percent of urban Karachi’s land (PDF).

This week, hundreds of residents protested outside the offices DHA’s sister body, the Clifton Cantonment Board (CCB), demanding authorities do more to drain water that had been standing in their streets and homes for days.

In a statement, DHA said its staff was “working round the clock to bring life back to normal”, adding that it would work with the protesters to address the concerns of residents.

Monsoon rains in Karachi

The impact of the floods is also continuing for many, as their livelihoods or businesses have been decimated by the water [Muhammad Sabir Mazhar/Anadolu]

A day later, it also registered police charges against protest organisers for “rioting [while] armed with a deadly weapon” at the angry, but peaceful protest.

The area, one of the richest in Karachi, was surprisingly some of the worst-hit, with many neighbourhoods remaining inundated a week after the worst of the rains. Video footage shared with Al Jazeera showed residents complaining of flooded roads and basements, with many forced to sleep on rooftops on in stairwells.

For the city’s urban poor, the situation has been even worse.

“A lot of people have lost everything, a lot of their saving and investment was in the form of their appliances or furniture,” said Haris Gazdar, senior researcher at the Collective for Social Science Research. “And if you are even poorer than that, you have no assets other than maybe your [food] ration that you had stored up.”

“We live from hand to mouth and it was the end of the month,” says Kulsoom Bibi, a housekeeper in the Mehmoodabad neighbourhood. “For two days, neither my sister nor I could get out because to [leave] the … tunnel was filled to the brim.”

The impact of the floods is also continuing for many, as their livelihoods or businesses have been decimated by the water.

“How will patients reach me? They can’t. I haven’t seen any patients at my clinic since it started to rain,” said Arif Javed, a herbalist doctor standing amidst the wreckage of his store.

Azhar Abbas, a shopkeeper, returned home after having moved to a relative’s home in a drier neighbourhood for a few days.

“It’s been 12 days since we had proper electricity,” he said. “We used to have clean drinking water, but we haven’t had any since the rain started.”

Climate change

On Monday, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan directed authorities to prepare a plan within a week to reform Karachi’s administrative systems.

Experts, however, scoffed at the idea that anything will change on the ground unless the underlying political contestation and other issues are not addressed.

“It’s not that the city has not been planned for,” said Anwar, the urban planner. “There are so many plans, so many master plans, it’s just a matter of implementation and political consensus existing, and a level of sincerity of how you want to do it.”

For Gazdar, fixing Karachi’s problems goes beyond bureaucratic reshuffles – it requires both a fundamental reorganisation of administrative authority, and a clear focus on climate change.

“Flooding happens everywhere, even in cities in very advanced countries – they also suffer flooding and droughts and fires and so on,” he said.

“A lot of it is a failure to detect what the planet is trying to tell us. If you look at a global picture of the planet, [this is] a failure of the way we live our lives.”

In recent years, Karachi, and the Sindh province of which it is a part, has seen increasingly erratic rainfall patterns, leading to periods of drought and flood, and rainfall intensity changes that have badly affected agricultural practices that have stood in place for centuries.

Asked if he believes any of this will change, however, Gazdar laughs.

“What will happen in the coming weeks is that some other issue will take the spotlight,” he says. “Seven days is a nice period of time, because on the seventh day something else would have happened somewhere else in the country, and that needs another seven days, and before you know it another 70 years will go by.”

Asad Hashim is Al Jazeera’s digital correspondent in Pakistan. He tweets @AsadHashim

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Charles Mbire gains $1.2 million as stake in MTN Uganda rises above $51 million



Ugandan businessman and MTN Uganda Chairman Charles Mbire has seen the market value of his stake in MTN Uganda surge above $51 million in just two days, as the share price in the leading teleco company increased by a single digit.

The single-digit bump in the share price caused the market value of Mbire’s stake to gain UGX4.42 billion ($1.24 million) in less than two days.

The million-dollar increase in the value of his stake came after Uganda’s largest telecom company delivered the country’s largest-ever IPO through the listing of 22.4 billion ordinary shares on the Uganda Securities Exchange (USE).

Upon completing the largest IPO in Uganda’s history, MTN Uganda raised a record UGX535 billion ($150.4 million) from the applications that it received for a total of 2.9 billion shares, including incentive shares.

As of press time, Dec. 7, shares in the company were trading at UGX204.95 ($0.0574), down six basis points from their opening price this morning.

Data gathered by Billionaires.Africa revealed that since the telecom company registered its shares on the Ugandan bourse on Mon., Dec. 6, its share price has increased by 2.5 percent from UGX200 ($0.056) to UGX204.95 ($0.0574) as of the time of writing, as retail investors sustained buying interest long after the public offering.

The increase in the company’s share price caused the market value of Mbire’s 3.98-percent stake to rise from UGX178.45 billion ($49.96 million) to UGX182.86 billion ($51.2 million).

In less than two days, his stake gained more than UGX4.42 billion ($1.24 million).

In a statement after the successful listing of MTN Uganda’s shares, Mbire said the IPO shows the confidence that Ugandans and other investors have in the company, its brand and strategic intent.

“We commend all the regulators for their support in our work to become a USE-listed company and to comply in a timely manner with the listing provisions of the national telecommunications operators’ license,” he said.

Steady but sure-MBIRE who is the biggest investor on Ugandas Stock exchange with stocks valued at more than $55 million is laughing all the way to the bank after MTN declared the latest dividend payout.He has steadily grown his business empire which is believed to be more that $350 million (debt free).

Steady but sure-MBIRE who is the biggest investor on Ugandas Stock exchange with stocks valued at more than $55 million is laughing all the way to the bank after MTN declared the latest dividend payout.He has steadily grown his business empire which is believed to be more that $350. ( debt free).

He is into communications-revenue assurance-cement-distribution-oil services-real estate-oil exploration and logistics.

Source: Billionaires Africa

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2-year-old dies at Arua hospital as nurse demands Shs 210,000 bribe




A two-year-old child died at Arua Regional Referral hospital after a nurse, Paul Wamala demanded a bribe amounting to Shs 210,000 before carrying out an operation. 

The incident happened on Saturday, after Aron Nabil, a two-year-old child was referred to the hospital for an operation after he was diagnosed with intestinal obstruction, a medical emergency caused by a blockage that keeps food or liquid from passing through the small intestine or large intestine.

According to the relatives of the child, Wamala allegedly asked them to initially give him Shs 30,000 to buy medicines to commence the procedure. He however returned shortly asking for an additional Shs 180,000 from the relatives.

Emily Adiru, a resident of Osu cell, in Bazar Ward, Central Division, and a relative of the child says although they paid money to Wamala, he abandoned the child without carrying out the operation. According to Adiru, Wamala later refunded Shs 200,000 through mobile money, after she threatened to report him to the police.

“They told us this boy needs an operation which was supposed to be done in the morning on Sunday at around 7 am. They took him inside there, some doctor came from the theatre, he called one of us and said, we should pay Shs 70,000 for buying medicine to start the operation. We paid the Shs 30,000 [but] after paying the Shs 30,000, after some minutes, the same man came and opened the door and called us again, and told us we should pay another Shs 100,000. We also paid the Shs 100,000 and we thought it is finished. We were outside there waiting for our patient to come out [but] then this man came back again and said we should pay another Shs 80,000,” said Adiru.

Although the operation was later carried out after a 7-hour delay, the child didn’t make it, and relatives attribute the death to negligence. Miria Ahmed, a concerned resident wonders why such incidents have persisted at the facility which is supposed to service the citizens.

“Is the problem the hospital, is it the management or it is the human resource that is the problem in the hospital? A small child like this you demand Shs 210,000 for the operation? Well, if the money was taken and the operation is done, I would say anything bad but this money was taken and the small boy was abandoned in the theatre,” she said. 

When contacted Wamala refused to comment on the allegations. Dr Gilbert Aniku, the acting hospital director says that the hospital will issue an official statement later since consultations about the matter are ongoing.

Arua City resident district commissioner, Alice Akello has condemned the actions of the nurse saying she has ordered his arrest so as to set an example to the rest. The case has been reported to Arua regional referral hospital police post under SD reference No:05/30/05/2022.

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Mexican president’s Mayan Train dealt new legal setback | Tourism News




Activists say the planned tourist train will harm the wildlife and natural features of the Yucatan Peninsula.

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has been dealt the latest setback to an ambitious plan to create a tourist train to connect the country’s southern Yucatan Peninsula.

On Monday, a judge indefinitely suspended construction on a portion of the project, known as the Mayan Train, saying the plans currently do not comply “with the proceedings of the environmental impact evaluation”.

The ruling follows a legal challenge by activists who said they were concerned the 60km (37 mile) portion of the train that would connect the resorts of Playa del Carmen and Tulum would adversely affect the area’s wildlife, as well as its caves and water-filled sinkholes known as cenotes.

The original plan for the disputed section was for an overpass over a highway, but the route was modified early this year to go through jungle at ground level.

The federal judge cited the “imminent danger” of causing “irreversible damage” to ecosystems, according to one of the plaintiffs, the non-governmental group Defending the Right to a Healthy Environment. In a statement, the group said that authorities had failed to carry out the necessary environmental impact studies before starting construction of the section.

Lopez Obrador had announced the ambitious project in 2018, with construction beginning in 2020. The roughly 1,500km (930 mile) cargo and passenger rail loop was presented as a cornerstone of a wider plan to develop the poorer states and remote towns throughout the about 181,000sq km (70,000sq mile) Yucatan Peninsula.

The railway is set to connect Caribbean beach resorts with Mayan archaeological ruins, with authorities aiming to complete the project by the end of 2023. The plan is estimated to cost about $16bn.

The project has split communities across the region, with some welcoming the economic development and connectivity it would bring. Others, including some local Indigenous communities, have challenged the project, saying it could not only disrupt the migratory routes of endangered species, including jaguars, tapirs and ocelots, but could also potentially damage centuries-old Mayan archaeological sites.

The National Fund for the Promotion of Tourism, the government agency overseeing the project, has said that it expects to “overcome” the latest challenge and that work should continue after an environmental impact statement is finalised. It said the Environment Ministry was currently reviewing its environmental application for the project.

For his part, Lopez Obrador has insisted the railway will not have a significant environmental effect and has accused activists of being infiltrated by “impostors”.

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