Editorial : July 2015
The Heat Wave
Dr.Rasheed Hasan Khan
Sind in general and Karachi in particular has been a victim of neglect and mismanagement of public utilities and services during the last few decades. Water supply is subject to unexplained breakdowns and interruptions, some times for days on end. Electrical power is an on again and off again phenomenon with blackouts sometimes lasting for days The state of sewerage lines can be judged by the filthy water overflowing main public through fares. The state of Government hospitals in the largest metropolis of Pakistan with a population of 20 Million is most deplorable to say the least. All medicines and surgical items have to be purchased from the market by the patients. All X-rays, ultrasounds and pathological tests are done by private laboratories at the cost of the poor patients. The dismal state of education and educational institutions, from elementary to higher education institutions has to be seen to be believed. Public transport is mainly vestigial, hundreds of thousands in the metropolis spend millions of hours and tens of million of rupees to get to and from work daily in ramshackle privately owned transport services.
In the race to make super profits, almost all green cover has been eliminated throughout the city and ‘developers’ have undertaken to plot and build high rise apartments wherever possible, thus creating a massive and lethal concrete ‘heat trap’ out of this metropolis.Along with scarcity of water, ‘load-shedding’ and power outages, the weather turned pitilessly hot during the last ten days of June 2015, causing the death by heat stroke of nearly 1500 people.Most of the casualties were homeless people who lived under bridges and flyovers but a significant number also comprised of senior citizens and debilitated people who were fasting, since the advent of Ramzan coincided with the lethal rise in temperature.
In this scenario, what was most remarkable was the inertia exhibited by the powers that be.After the second day when the largest number of fatalities had already taken place and Volunteers and citizens of Karachi had come out and mobilised to establish Heat Stroke Treatment Centres in almost all major hospitals the Provincial and the Central Governments entered the scene to engage in a mutually destructive blame game.The most important question here is whether the Provincial Government of Sind or the Central Government have the clarity of vision to see the role that decades of mismanagement and neglect have played in undermining the efficiency of public sevices’s response to a disaster situation whereby avoidable fatalities could not be treated and dealt with? This is not only true in case of Karachi, but many instances of disasters, natural or man made, all over the country prove this to be true.