By Farooq Khattak
Lahorites love to inhale a fresh whiff of air when they wake up in the morning or for that matter, at anytime of the day. Many of the lively-hearted Lahorites have planted flowering plants and shrubs by their houses or have placed earthen pots containing such plants by their bedrooms or in the corridors of their houses, for aesthetics and a whiff of fragrant air every now and then.
However, millions of residents of south Lahore have been denied this pleasure for the last decade or so. Its not that the people residing in this part of Lahore have less aesthetic sense or don’t care for a fresh breath of air in the mornings; they have been compelled to smell fetid air 24 hours a day seven days a week.
The reason is a storm water channel called Sattu Katla. The course of this rainwater drain runs through almost the entire south Lahore. It has been there since before Independence. It emanates somewhere close by Wahga border and passes close to Makkah Colony, the now abandoned Walton aerodrome, Askari Flats and some parts of cantonment area, R and S Blocks Model Town Extension, Township, Wapda Town and other localities beyond it and empties in River Ravi.
One must think how a rainwater drain makes life miserable for the citizens. It does when it carries foul smelling sewage, dirty water, refuse, effluents, rotten vegetable, fruits and similar garbage.
All these things make a mixture and produce a foul smell that overpowers all other in the areas, especially in the summer season. Nothing in nature can match the evil smell of this manmade environmental tragedy.
About a decade ago, this drain was put in use to dump the sewage of the Makkah Colony, which was set up as a Katchi Abadi in late 70s. The colony is now a proper locality with all civic amenities provided by the Lahore Development Authority (LDA).
Soon afterwards in early 80s, the Askari Flats were constructed. These flats had no underground sewerage system and the sewage was dumped in the rainwater drain too. Following suit, dirty water and refuse of almost all the localities, particularly the Katchi Abadis like Liaquatabad falling in the path of this drain, were channeled into this rainwater drain. Thus, the rainwater drain changed into a dirty water nullah.
The foul smell emanating from this nullah permeates atmosphere of the whole area and is always there. Other then creating health problems like gastrointestinal ailments and respiratory problems, this dirty water drain has also affected the real estate value in these areas of south Lahore, from where this drain passes.
About a decade back, some residents of south Lahore, especially of S block and R block Model Town Extension started raising voice against this. After much effort of the bureaucracy and civic bodies high-ups at that time, they moved the Punjab ombudsman and sought relief.
In this connection, Dr Sultan Khan and others filed a complaint (No 143) with the Punjab Ombudsman Justice (Retd) Manzoor Hussain Sial against LDA and Wasa and pleaded for relief.
The ombudsman in his decision in 1998 stated that the complainants have maintained that Sattu Katla drain was originally a storm water channel, creating no unhygienic conditions for the people of the area. It added that Wasa did not provide sewerage facilities to localities around the drain, which made the people to flow their sewerage waste water in the drain.
The ombudsman gave three options to Wasa. He ordered the authority to construct a trunk sewer line starting before R & S Blocks, Model Town to LMC disposal Station or to provide separate underground sewers for disposal of domestic and industrial waste water by diverting it upside of R and S Blocks and then connecting it with the open drain outside Modal Town. The third option for Wasa was to cover the drain running through the S and R Blocks Model Town Extension (approximately 22,000 sq feet in length) with portable slabs and pre-cast girders. In 2008, Wasa has started to chalk out a plan to provide relief to the masses in this regard.
When TNS contacted S Block Model Town Extension Welfare Society patron-in-chief Inam Ullah Khan Sherwani, he said that, “Minus this nullah and its smell, S Block is the best place to live in south Lahore, but not anymore.”
He said earlier his association met with Wasa high ups a number of times but it took almost a decade for the authorities to start doing something positive.
A property agent, Nadeem Khan Niazi of Khan Estates, whose office is by the nullah in the Q Block LDA Flats, said that property prices in the vicinity of the drain have declined.
People don’t want to buy or rent any house situated by the drain. Rents and value of properties on the bank of the nullah have declined by 15 to 20 per cent because of the bad odour, he said.
When TNS contacted Wasa Managing Director Pervaiz Iftikhar in this connection, he said Nespak was conducting a survey of the Sattu Katla drain and that a report would be submitted by June 30.
He said that funding from the government would be arranged to take appropriate measures regarding the drain to provide relief to the people.
It seems that finally the government is looking to provide relief to people. Hopefully, soon the residents of the south Lahore will be breathing fresh air.