KARACHI, June 4: A number of mechanical street sweepers imported at a cost of millions of rupees more than six years ago to clean roads in the city are lying abandoned at a Karachi Metropolitan Corporation facility near the Mewashah graveyard.
The machines are not only gathering layers of rust, theft of their key components is also rampant at the poorly-guarded facility.
Sources privy to the situation at the facility said that several mechanical sweepers were parked at the KMC machinery pool department near the graveyard with most of their key parts having gone missing. Many auto parts of these machines parked inside the facility had been stolen, they said.
The machines have been lying abandoned there for more than a year and most of them are now out of order and needed an overhaul to become operational.
“They are parked here without any shades in the open sky,” said a source.
“As time passed these machines fell prey to harsh weather conditions, rains, heat and sunrays and foggy season. No arrangement has been made to protect them against such conditions.”
The prolonged parking of the mechanical sweepers also puts a question mark on the utility of the machines, which are now hardly seen on city roads.
The authorities concerned, however, insisted that the machines were being used for sweeping purposes regularly, but no senior officer came up with a proof, such as a schedule of sweeping and the names of roads where mechanical sweepers were being used.
The City District Government Karachi in 2006 initiated mechanised sweeping of city roads after a gap of more than five decades describing it as “a conceptual transformation of vision and attitude” towards civic needs.
Initially 30 marathon mechanical sweepers were imported and 28 major streets were spotted for regular sweeping. The number of machines as well as roads was increased gradually.
The project was successfully run with a fanfare for a few years but since 2010, the sources said, the situation started worsening and maintenance of a majority of those vehicles stopped.
The first fleet of 30 multi-purpose mechanical sweepers were imported from Turkey at a cost of Rs1.45 million each and required a tractor with drawbar to pull the machine for sweeping.
At the time of its launch it was claimed that the machine could sweep a track of Sharea Faisal up to eight kilometres in just eight hours and provided 60 to 80 times more output than manual sweeping.
Although the authorities said the machines were still ‘fit’ and useful, a visit to the KMC facility near the Mewashah graveyard sowed an altogether different picture.
A number of machines parked there were seen standing on blocks without wheels while engines and batteries of a number of mechanical sweepers were removed.
The lack of security and apparent connivance of the staff concerned has further faded the future of mechanised sweeping of the city roads.
Some people already critical of the mechanised sweeping project believe that the KMC should not engage itself with sanitation work, which primarily is the job of towns and grass-roots institutions.
“The KMC decided to keep these mechanical sweepers but couldn’t manage them properly. If these machines had been allowed to be used by the towns of DMCs, it could have been utilised in a much better way and saved from destruction,” said Sajjan Union CDGK (CBA) president Syed Zulfiqar Shah.
Speaking to Dawn, KMC municipal services director Dr Shaukat Zaman admitted the fact that a number of machines parked inside the KMC facility could not be looked after well due to several problems, including security concerns.
“We are fast setting up a separate workshop at one of the KMC facilities in Mehmoodabad where these machines could be better looked after.”
Replying to a question that why these machines were not properly maintained, he said a contractor responsible for that job had not been paid for almost a year.
“But the KMC administrator has taken up the matter and issued directives that his dues be cleared. Now we expect that the situation would turn better.”