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November 9, 2020

Gas cylinders in restaurants eating away at residents of Gulshan


November 9, 2020

Abdul Qayyum lives on the fourth floor of Fatima Castle, which is located near Disco Bakers in the Gulshan-e-Iqbal neighbourhood. And in his room he suffers non-stop from the plumes of exhaust and stench billowing out of the chimney of a fast food restaurant contiguous to the apartment building.

Despite several complaints, the eatery’s owners have not budged. The building’s maintenance committee is already perturbed about the ever increasing commercialisation of the locality, which is already teeming with residential flats, and fears that any untoward incident can take place.

One of the committee’s members named Jamil told The News that scores of restaurants in the neighbourhood are strewn with hundreds of gas cylinders at any given time. “If, God forbid, one of them were to explode, there would be a chain of explosions,” he shuddered. “There should a system of checks and balances in place.”

Fear has a stranglehold on Gulshan-e-Iqbal’s residential area near Maskan Chowrangi ever since last month’s massive blast in a four-storey apartment building due to an apparent gas leakage. At least five people were killed and 22 others injured, while the jury is out on the number of those who have been scarred for life.

Allah Noor Apartments, where the blast had occurred, is situated opposite the University of Karachi’s gate and houses banks and shops on the ground and mezzanine floors. The damaged portion of the building was later knocked down by the Sindh Building Control Authority because it had become hazardous.

The Sui Southern Gas Company had ruled out gas leakage as the reason for the explosion. It later transpired that gas had been leaking from a pipe in a resident’s house. The locals now fear that such an explosion can eventuate again.

The fast food restaurant whose chimney blows fumes directly into Qayyum’s house is based in two flats of Shazco Apartments. “It’s not only hot air and fumes that emanate from the chimney but also unpleasant, loud noises round the clock,” he said, lamenting that they cannot even open a window in their flat.

Another eatery, which is also located inside Shazco Apartments, has a hefty standby generator that has eaten up part of the road. “When there’s a power breakdown, the fumes and noise this generator produces causes a lot of headache to the locals,” said Junaid Akhtar, a resident of Shazco Apartments.

Opposite Shazco Apartments and Fatima Castle is the compound of Saima Apartments where a host of restaurants are running. It was observed that each of the eateries had at least a dozen huge gas cylinders: some inside their kitchens and others out on the road and footpath.

“Can they keep dozens of huge cylinders at a time in a small restaurant situated inside a flat?” asked a resident, fearing that the pace at which the neighbourhood is being commercialised, “it’s a ticking time bomb.”

KMC versus DMC

While the Supreme Court has repeatedly ordered the municipalities to remove all kinds of encroachments from roads and footpaths, including generators and gas cylinders, the menace continues unabated in Gulshan.

The Karachi Metropolitan Corporation’s (KMC) Senior Director Anti-Encroachment Bashir Siddiqui told The News that the problem in Gulshan Town is that the East District Municipal Corporation (DMC) had issued challans to restaurant owners and tea shops to keep their generators and gas cylinders out on roads and footpaths, despite the top court’s orders.

He said that the challans are valid for one or two years. “When we try to take any action against them, the shopkeepers raise a hue and cry and show us their challans issued to them by the East DMC.”

As for the fear of blasts due to gas cylinders, Siddiqui lamented that even the maintenance committees of various apartment buildings end up giving up their ground floors to restaurants and tea shops and then don’t keep any checks and balances.

Inquiring about the East DMC’s Director Anti-Encroachment Zahid Bin Khalil, The News learnt that an inquiry is under way against him in the matter of illegal yet organised encroachments in the jurisdiction of the DMC in lieu of a monthly extortion system.

Mishal, the assistant commissioner for Gulshan-e-Iqbal, said she has already received a complaint regarding the issue and will get it checked on Monday (today). District East Deputy Commissioner Muhammad Ali Shah, who has the additional charge of East DMC administrator, could not be reached for comment despite repeated attempts.