CCEHR statement on the tragic death of two sanitation workers

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CCEHR’s press statement – Sanitation Workers deaths on 16 Jan 2024

The avoidable loss of precious lives


We share the pain of the tragic and completely avoidable deaths of two sanitation workers, Sadiq Masih and Anwar Masih, while cleaning the sewage gutter of a housing complex at Gulistan-e-Jauhar, Karachi on 16 January 2024.   They were undertaking this assignment privately as the Karachi Water and Sewarge Corporation (KWSC) had failed to respond even after five days of complaining by the residents. Sadly no newspapers felt it appropriate even to mention their names, leave aside expressing the deepest gratitude and respect that we owe to them. They gave their lives in dark and poisonous gutters, cleaning our filth and performing a vitally important service for the community.

The above incident (not the first of its kind), relates to our fundamental humanity and is of utmost significance, for the state and the society.  We urge upon the government to hold the Karachi Water and Sewerage Corporation (KWSC) accountable for the following:

  1. How is it that only non-Muslims are made to undertake manual scavenging of sewers and that almost all sewerage workers of KWSC , Cantonment Boards and Municipalities are non-Muslims. This discrimination must end.
  2. Is it not a fact that the poor response of government departments, KWSC, Cantonments and Municipal Committees has resulted in a parallel industry of untrained, unmonitored, and unregulated private individuals undertaking the hazardous and life-threatening task of manual scavenging. Numerous workers have died in this process.  Either these organisations be shut down or made to respond within 24 hours.
  3. The KWSC needs to explain why it chose to purchase 40 sewage cleaning trucks, at an exorbitant cost of Rs900 million, and failed to deploy them effectively, thus resulting in continued loss of lives.
  4. Why can the government not locally and cheaply manufacture within the country hundreds of gutter cleaning machines at one tenth the cost – as already being implemented in numerous cities of India.
  5. Why has the manual scavenging not been banned (like it was done in India), despite a petition for the same is pending before the Hon’ble Sindh High Court for more than one year.
  6. Kindly also see CCEHR-Report-2023.pdf


Sara Malkani                Naeem Sadiq             Dr. Kartar Dawani            Tahera Hasan

18 January 2024