Jawad is dejected. His tiny abode of a room that houses 7 members of his family is threatened to be demolished to widen a Gujjar nallah (drainage) to “solve” the problem of repeated urban flooding during monsoon. Up till now 4000 homes have been destroyed, displacing more than 40,000 people who, in reality, run the city. From being the house helps, to rickshaw drivers, construction laborers to street vendors, Gujjar Nallah had been a safe dwelling to the service providers of the city from the 1960s. What started as a tiny community on fertile land in Karachi, on both sides of the storm water drainage of Gujjar Nallah, is now in shambles. The lack of infrastructure resulted in turning the clean rain water drainage into unplanned runoff where the sewage of the metropolis conveniently gets dumped. To worsen the matter, the inorganic plastic chock the drain resulting it to be flooded during heavy monsoon. Though the government did little to help, the resilient community worked on their own to alleviate their troubles. The streets that were once abuzzed with children playing, girls cycling, women chattering and men debating politics and daily lives, now echo with cranes and commotion due to ongoing demolishing and eviction. This culturally enrooted, multi-ethnic community could crumble if reforms are not made to impede the eviction plans. Though small, this free from gentrification and gender discrimination Gujjar nallah community does not need relocation but a viable plan and basic interventions to survive. The fact that even during demolition, the residents supported each other and provided spaces to their affected neighbors, shows their confederacy. A social housing with shared communal spaces and flood resilient structures, designed and built by the community is a workable solution. Instead of widening the drain, cleaning it and limiting the plastic waste can avoid flooding in future. What started as an informal settlement in 1960 has now become a micro community with the culture of its own, therefore it is imperative to understand and enquire about their needs, culture and traditions, ambitions with the space, the skills and services they can provide in the process, the type of design they envision, their perspective of the whole area, their opinion of the design and how they anticipate their streets to be in future. Though individual efforts can create a ripple effect, campaigns such as “Karachi Bachao Tehreek” (Save Karachi Campaign), and Gujjar Nallah Affected’ Committee can work as the catalyst to resolve the matter. The drainage conditions can be evaluated by waste management experts and Karachi Sewerage Board. To celebrate their street culture, horticulturists, urban ecologists, street designers and inhabitants’ advice should be sought. Most of the residents are skilled workers; besides their opinions, both men and women, can be part of the design and construction process to invigorate a sense of ownership with the area and the community. In order to nurture equitable societies, instead of building hostility and creating pandemonium, sensitive and empathetic design solutions should be sought, at the end of the day, every citizen matters.


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