KARACHI: The Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC) is spending Rs1.5 billion to construct four more flyovers – on Sharah-e-Pakistan at Ayesha Mazil and Water Pump intersections, at Teen Hatti and Daakhana.
But experts are questioning why such mega projects are needed when the already cash-strapped city has failed to deliver on so many other fronts and this infrastructure is not a solution.
“Politicians and bureaucrats are always in a hurry to initiate mega projects to take the credit, especially in the month of May when budget money is being released ahead of fiscal year’s closure,” explains city planner Tasneem Ahmed Siddiqui.
He says traffic can be managed without the construction of elevated roads. “That is what we did at Guru Mandir. The routes were altered a bit and the problem was solved.”
And even if a flyover must go ahead, the government never conducts the proper feasibility studies to assess the impact on surrounding localities, he argued. Flyovers are dead spaces the world over.
They are a solution for cities that only cater to people with cars and not pedestrians. Traffic DIG Khurram Gulzar insists the city needs more signal-free corridors. “More than 2.5 million vehicles are running on Karachi roads,” he said. “The city had expanded vertically. We don’t have any other choice.”
In the process of catering to more cars, however, the city’s government is ignoring that such infrastructure changes the dynamics of social life wherever they are built. In Gulshan-e-Iqbal, the Rashid Minhas Flyover has become haven for mobile phone snatchers for example. Encroachments underneath flyovers have undermined their purpose, added Siddiqui.
Many of the flyovers have to be changed in design and some have become a nuisance, said Siddiqui.
“The Drigh Road flyover is in middle of the road. Anyone coming to Karachi for the first time will confuse it for being Sharae Faisal.”
Similarly, one part of Baloch Colony’s flyover has to be closed because of traffic jams. The University Road Flyover was built to facilitate the circular railway, but that has not started working yet.
Muhammad Iqbal bought a shop near Submarine Chowrangi after months of research. He knew getting into the business of selling chandeliers won’t be easy. Everything had to be calculated – the right amount of capital investment and customers.
“I am sitting right at the opening of Gizri. All the people going to Defence Housing Authority (DHA) would have passed by my shop,” he said. “I thought I had hit the jackpot. There was ample parking space outside for customers as well.”
But then the Gizri Flyover was built for traffic to DHA. It was inaugurated in 2010 amid much fanfare and shattered Iqbal’s hope of earning. The narrow roads left over on both sides of the flyover do not allow cars to be parked. Traffic can be held up for hours because of one vehicle since there is no space to manoeuvre.
The once expensive and thriving Gizri markets have lost their charm. Babar Ali who has run a tailoring shop for years at Gausia Market says loyal customers still come.
“But I feel really bad when their cars are damaged. Sometime the side mirror is broken or the bumper is scratched.”
The slide in sales was not the only change with the construction of flyover. Dozens of auto mechanics have opened up makeshift workshops underneath the structure.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 16th, 2012.