In May 2009, a truck rolled through the Sheikh Yasin camp in Mardan, Pakistan’s “city of hospitality,” where thousands of people had fled following one of the country’s military offensives against the Taliban.
If water was a scarce commodity to this refugee community, ice was a luxury. And it was worth fighting for: A single block could refrigerate whatever perishables the displaced had secured for their families.
Perween Rahman, an architect and urban planner by trade and one of Pakistan’s most prominent social workers, was brutally murdered in Karachi on March 13. Although some believe she was most likely shot dead by hit men contracted by the city’s powerful land mafia, when I met her, we talked about another equally dangerous and influential group that formed to benefit from Karachi’s stolen waters.
Zulfquar (42) and Atique (25) are two of five brothers who make their living by selling water. They take turns transporting it from a public well 30 kilometers away by donkey cart and selling it to their neighbors in the slum. Since the water’s quality is not suitable for human consumption their customers can only use it for bathing and washing.
Amar Guriro, a Karachi-based environmental journalist and a WaterAid Fellow, has named Machar Colony ‘the town of miracles’. After we walked through piles of rubbish surrounding children using the streets as a playground, he explained that surviving here is only possible by the appearance of small miracles.
Amar Guriro, a Karachi-based environmental journalist, and a WaterAid Fellow, has named Machar Colony “The town of miracles.” As we walk through piles of rubbish surrounding children using the streets as a playground, he explains that surviving here is only possible by the appearance of small miracles.
Machar Colony is built on land reclaimed from the sea. Where mangroves once grew, migrant workers settled down slowly and filled the swamp with literally any materials they found.