HYDERABAD: The Water and Sanitation Agency (WASA) of Hyderabad is likely to undergo a second round of colossal layoffs after the agency’s top officials conceded in their report the uselessness of hundreds of daily wage employees. In the report submitted before the Supreme Court-mandated Commission on Water and Sanitation during a meeting in Hyderabad on Saturday, the officials stated that they require services of 977 daily wage staff out of a total of 1,604.
The joint report was submitted by WASA Managing Director (MD) Agha Abdul Raheem and Additional MD Saleemuddin Arain. In July 2016, more than 500 employees from WASA and its parent organisation, Hyderabad Development Authority, were sacked with the hope that the attrition would improve financial health of the two organisations.
However, in the following two years, the staff kept protesting recurrently due to non-payment of salaries while the agency’s financial straits, due to a huge variance revenue generation and expenses, continued as well. “Both [MD and additional MD] have suggested that only 977 [staff] need to be retained and services of the others should be terminated,” the commission’s order observed.
However, the commission’s chairman Justice (R) Amir Hani Muslim forwarded the report to Sindh local government secretary for review and decision. The secretary will have to submit report about the decision to Justice (R) Muslim in seven days.
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The commission heard complaints about solid waste burning and dumping near the residential areas in Hyderabad. Sindh Environment Protect Agency (SEPA) Regional Director informed that he has been repeatedly issuing notices to Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (HMC) and Qasimabad Municipal Committee (QMC) but to no avail.
He said that the garbage was dumped in the open and burnt on daily basis, pointing out the localities where this happens on a large scale in Qasimabad and Latifabad.
The commission inquired about the status of acquisition of 200 acres of land along the M9 Motorway for the landfill sites for Hyderabad and Jamshoro. However, Justice (R) Muslim was informed that Sindh land utilisation department has so far approved the summary for only one piece of 100 acres land for Jamshoro.
That summary is now pending with the environment department secretary for the approval. The case for acquisition of land for the landfill site for Hyderabad is still in process. The HMC’s Mayor Syed Tayab Hussain pointed out a lack of resources and vehicles besides unavailability of landfill site as a constraint for shifting tons of garbage outside the city.
QMC chief municipal officer (CMO) Hatim Mallah also based his case on continuing to dump and burn hazardous solid waste outside Qasimabad Sports Complex on unavailability of landfill site. Meanwhile, no short term remedy could be provided to the citizens as tens of thousands of people have become direct victims of the solid waste burning.
The commission visited Hyderabad’s largest recreational park, which spreads on 54 acres of land and is locally called Rani Bagh. Currently, less than 70% portion of the 54-acre land is underutilised. To his dismay, Justice (R) Muslim found the place in shambles with lack of cleanliness and sanitation staring in the face.
Despite strength of 12 gardeners, weeds and wet soil instead of lawns were seen in every part of the park, which consists of a zoo, Eidgah and fun land besides a park, called Abbass Bhai Park. “Rani Bagh, which is under QMC, is in a pathetic condition,” observed Justice (R) Muslim. “There seems to be no mechanism for the maintenance.”
The post of assistant director for the park’s zoo is vacant and currently occupied by a junior official. A veterinarian has also not been appointed for the zoo as the CMO of QMC said that they had written several times to the local government authorities to appoint a vet. “The QMC neither has the capacity nor the intention to improve the park,” he said.
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The commission gave three hours to Liaquat University of Medical and Health Sciences (LUMHS) to hand over four newly built filtration plants in Liaquat University Hospital (LUH) Hyderabad and LUH Jamshoro to the hospital’s management. The plants, two each in LUH Hyderabad and LUH Jamshoro, were constructed on the commission’s order but their completion and operation has been delayed.
LUMHS Vice Chancellor Prof Dr Bikha Ram Devrajani assured swift compliance of the order. The commission, however, expressed shock while noticing that the cost of the cemented structures in which the filter plants are installed is higher than the cost of the four filtration machines combined.
“In the given circumstances, the commission is constrained to order inquiry in order to fix responsibility on the officers who travelled beyond their mandate. The Hyderabad Commissioner Muhammad Abbass Baloch shall probe the matter and submit report,” Justice (R) Muslim ordered.
The commission directed senior super-intendant Hyderabad Sarfaraz Nawaz Shaikh to implement Sindh High Court’s order with regard to smooth flow of traffic in Hyderabad especially around LUH. LUH medical superintendent Dr Abdul Wahab Wadho complained that the road outside the main entrance of the hospital is always occupied by an unauthorised taxi stand besides other public transport vehicles. The illegal activity causes traffic logjams outside the hospital and congestion of vehicles inside due to a lack of parking, he added.
The Hyderabad commissioner was order remove encroachment from the service road and a nullah in Hyderabad SITE area and to restore the road and the drain.