KARACHI: Development comes at a cost, and the residents of Karachi know this all too well. Whenever a road or bridge is built in the city, thousands of people benefit, but somehow the lives of hundreds of others are changed for the worse. This is exactly what happened when the city government decided to build a flyover at the Gulshan Chowrangi intersection.
Back in 2007, the government decided to construct the flyover to improve traffic flow. But before the work began, the contractor asked for a place to build the girders. He was given Momin Ground, a large amenity plot near Nipa Chowrangi.
It was to be used for just a few months – the girders were to be built there and then transported to the nearby construction site. The work on the bridge started in full swing but came to an abrupt halt within months as the city government said that the contractor, Techno International, was not complying with the regulations. The matter went to court, another contractor completed the bridge and everyone forgot about Momin Ground.
Shahid Qureshi, a resident of Block 11 of Gulshan-e-Iqbal, remembers the evening in July 2001 when, during the final match of a cricket tournament organised at Momin Ground, he hit a boundary on the last ball and steered his team to victory. But he has abandoned the sport because he can no longer go to the ground to play. “Momin was our spot. I saw older boys from my area play cricket there, so that is where I went as well.”
To this day, over 40 girders are lying at the ground. Since the amenity plot has not been used for many years, people have started dumping garbage there and drug users use it as a shelter. One of the addicts even tries to cut steel rods from the girders so that he can sell them to buy heroin.
The ground closest to Momin is the Hockey Ground, which is being used as a parking lot by Sir Syed University of Engineering and Technology. Another ground adjacent to Urdu Science College is almost always booked for teams playing cricket.
The occupation of just one ground changed the behaviour of children in the entire neighbourhood. The boys who went to play cricket at the ground said that their preference for outdoor games has diminished.
Like so many other projects, what happened to Momin Ground was result of a dirty money game, claimed a senior official of Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC) who wished to remain anonymous. He said that the kind of girders being built by Techno International would cost less, allowing the contractor to pocket some of the project’s money.
“There are two types of girders. One is built separately at an open space and the other type is box girders, which are constructed over the pillars at the site.”
The box girders appear flat from underneath and have been used to support the Sohrab Goth and FTC flyovers. “They are a bit costly because of the strength they add to the structure. But no one bothers about these details,” he said.
The director of technical service at KMC, Altaf G Memon, said that the girders could not be removed from the ground because the matter was still in court. “The contractor has a stay order, so we can’t remove the girders.” The hearing of case is supposed to come up in a few weeks and KMC will request the court to remove the girders from the ground, he said.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 6th, 2012.