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May 16, 2010

Havoc of Unplanned Urbanisation in Gilgit

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Published on: Dawn News
Gilgit, the provincial metropolis of Gilgit-Baltistan, is facing a number of civic problems due to its fast but unplanned urbanization. The most serious of these is the worsening status of the city’s drainage and sewerage system, which is threatening public health even as other civic amenities come under pressure of the growing population and increased commercial and economic activity.

Gilgit, which had no special need for a modern sewerage system until the sixties being a tranquil habitat of a simple farming society, has been transforming into an urban and commercial hub with the government and non-government offices clustered here. Population growth in the absence of a proper drainage and sewerage system has resulted in the contamination of the two arterial canals (dalejas) which had hitherto supplied potable water to the town.

This has resulted in sharp rise in gastrointestinal diseases among users of these water channels. In case of heavy rainfall, these primitive canals laden with clogged sewerage material are unable to carry away the city’s refuse. Areas from Barmas to Jutial, Nagral, and Kulchinot up to Kashrot are badly affected.

The perennial waterlogging problem faced by these central parts further makes things worse for localities like Kashrot, Majini Mohallah and the bazaar area.A sewerage/drainage project was conceived years ago followed by its feasibility study by Nespak. However, it was shelved as a costly project. Unplanned constructions allowed during the preceding three consecutive decades are behind these myriad problems. Such constructions continue without a thought to the severe problems they are and would create in the future.

As the old sewerage infrastructure failed to keep up with the city’s growth, waterlogging in the central areas mentioned earlier is causing serious problems. One cannot dig deeper than a foot or more before striking water. Torrential rains make things worse. It has to be noted that all houses in residential areas have modern flush systems, which help pollution to percolate to the subsoil water.

Until a half century ago, the landscape here was wholly different with panoramic views of lush green acreage all around except for the tiny patch of the bazaar area – not even making 1/4th of a kilometre. The shops of that period were constructed in primitive style while the rest of the town comprised agricultural land.

Urban growth played havoc with this green cover as with other services some of which were natural like outflow of sewage. Things as they are today need urgent attention of the newly formed democratic government, which cannot shut its eyes from the problems created by lack of urban planning and the need to install civic infrastructure to meet the present needs of the town. In any case, the sewerage and drainage system has inevitably to be put in place as it concerns public health. But when it is done concerned authorities must ensure that the prospective drainage/sewerage system must not find any outlet into the Gilgit River.

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