Affluent residents of Peshawar’s Gulbahar-V locality are constantly irked by the piles of trash, accompanied by flies and a constant pungent smell, across the Ring Road adjacent to their neighbourhood. However, if they ever looked past their own ‘issues’, they would also see their neighbours who live among the garbage.
This is a Christian colony, known locally as ‘Kachra Colony’, whose inhabitants have been residing here for around a decade. They moved here sometime in 2008 when the government uprooted their homes from the Lahori Gate area in order to construct a road. While the land was provided by the state, the people built their houses themselves with whatever meagre resources they could gather.
Elizabeth Aslam, a resident, narrated how they all felt hopeful of living a better life when they first moved here. The reality which soon settled in has been on the contrary. “It was an uninhabited piece of land when we first settled here but we made do. Things started deteriorating when waste began to be dumped on the land since it was an open area and thus an easy target for dumpers,” she explained, adding that the constant smell of garbage has made their lives unbearable. Another devastating effect of the waste dumping has been a severe deterioration in the quality of the groundwater which the residents use to pump up to drink.
“Electricity load-shedding is a non-issue compared to the fact that we have never been supplied with gas by the government,” she complained further. Despite all its ills, the area is still home to her and she fears even this may now be taken away from them.
As if their present hardships were not enough, sometime back the district government issues notices to the residents seeking rent for the years they have lived on the state land. Resident Arsalan Altaf informed that government officials, along with the police, have been here several times to negotiate with their elders. “We have held many demonstrations against their actions but our pleas have not been heard,” he shared, adding that their troubles increased when some residents, under pressure from the ensuing circumstances, sold their houses to Muslims.
A committee has now been formed to resolve the matter. Chief Minister’s Special Assistant on Minorities’ Affairs Wazir Zada, who heads the committee, said they will look into the matter in detail. He commented that since the land was given to the Christians, only they have a right to be living there. However, he added that if the dwellers have sold or sub-rented their properties then the issue will have to be examined from that angle. “It would be premature to say anything at this point as the committee will consult all the stakeholders and then make its recommendations,” he assured.
Sharing her ordeal, another resident, Safia Rani, said despite its official name, people still refer to their homes as ‘Kachra Colony’, due to it having become a waste dump.
“It breaks my heart every time I hear someone refer to our home that way.”