Conservation of Makli assumes fresh hopes with sustainable livelihood of mendicant communities


KARACHI: The Heritage Foundation of Pakistan which is working for the sustainable conservation of “Makli”, one of the largest necropolises in the world located at a distance of 98 Kms from Karachi has completed its “Safe Shelter and Clean Water Project” for the mendicant community living around the site.

Known architect and Heritage Foundation chairperson, Yasmeen Lari while sharing the effort initiated under the theme Green Shelters project at Makli Goth said that it was aimed at providing quality and self-reliant existence to the poorest of the poor.

“These people mainly comprising of beggars and nomads are being helped to live with dignity and self-respect,” Yasmin told APP, adding that the low-cost integrated approach has been adopted for construction of shelters, raised water hand-pumps, eco-toilets, Pakistani chulahs (stoves), solar water racks and women centres.

To a query, she replied that the project is extremely important as the community members are in a better position to not only own the heritage site but also assist authorities in its protection against threats.

With regard to the project itself, Lari said, “Remarkable results are being achieved with the investment of only Rs 30,000 per household”.

The foundation was said to have already provided 650 of the 1000 living quarters to the families while the remaining are in the process of completion.

Known as Lari OctaGreen or LOG Shelters comprising octagonal shaped, pre-fabricated bamboo panelled lodging are not only earthquake and flood resistant, but the traditional vernacular-inspired conical roofs provide safety from rain and keep shelters cool throughout the scorching summers.

Under the scheme 1000 such shelters are to be constructed along with 250 raised water hand-pumps, 500 eco-toilets, 1000 Pakistan chulahs, 1000 raised platforms, 500 solar water racks and 20 women centres.

Of the 500 green eco-toilets 325 toilet cubicles have been set up similar in construction to LOG fitted with a liquid pan WC, a cover with seat, allowing the periodic removal of waste for making organic compost, which when sold is a source of regular income.

There is also a tiled shower space annexed to each of these cubicles further supplemented by raised earthen platform water pumps.

Lari mentioned that installation of 215 pumps out of the promised 250 has been completed and that these are designed in two levels separating the clothes washing platform from the one used to procure water for drinking.

The conservationist fully conscious of the atmospheric pollution induced threats to people, particularly the marginalised sections, also referred to the introduction of zero carbon, fuel-efficient stoves commonly known as “Pakistani chulahs” for the Makli Goth community.

Six hundred earthen chulahs out of 1000 promised were said to have been completed, serving also as a family dining and socialising place.

The earthen chulah boasts double stove combustion chambers, chimney, air regulation pipe, utensils storage, and washing area, with multiple benefits over the open floor-mounted single stove that is used throughout the country in villages.

To another query, Yasmeen Lari said that since steady and regular income generating activities for the community members was an essential component of the programme, Community Women’s Centres and Community Bamboo Workshops for men have also been developed.

Eight women’s centres have been built in collaboration with the community providing assembly spaces for women while arranging workshops for income generation activities at the same time.

“Large-scale training for bamboo products has raised the employment level for male population in the village,” she said mentioning that this has helped many of the mendicants to begin earning by marketing simple furniture items to the proud owners of newly-built shelters from their own community.

Moreover, most of the land considered barren due to salinity in the soil is being transformed through eco-friendly plantations.

For this, after excavating the lot and replacing the soil, 2600 trees, 514 bushes and Miyawaki-style community forests have been planted on the roadside by the communities.

“Women and children were equally involved in these plantation activities,” said Yasmeen reiterating that a series of measures to teach the inhabitants different skills and earn their livelihood without any dependence on others are underway.