HYDERABAD: Villagers and businesses got a chance to tell the builders of the M9 motorway from Karachi and Hyderabad why they disagreed with the project at a public hearing on Wednesday.
The contract of the motorway was given to Binapuri Pakistan Pvt. Ltd in January, 2012. And the environment protection agency has cleared it. The 136-kilometre-long road, which is spread across three districts of Malir, Thatta and Jamshoro, includes the addition of two lanes to the Superhighway’s existing four lanes. Both sides will be fenced by iron grilles and barbed wire. More than 400 acres of land will be bought.
Seven interchanges and two service areas with restaurants, toilets, filling stations, tyre shops and workshops, a trauma center and mosque are part of the development. The motorway will be equipped with electronic toll collection, an emergency call service, centralized operation center, traffic counting stations, and emergency assistance system.
“The objective is to facilitate the movement of goods and people in the project area and between Sindh and other provinces to save travel time and convenience,” said project director Jamal Yousuf.
But local businesses take these promises with a pinch of salt as they consider the project a threat to their work and mobility. “The population of tens of thousands people living on either sides of the highway will be cut off from each other,” said Badal Khan Palari, who is representing the Palaris. “The distance to our graveyards, agricultural lands, schools, dispensaries and other places will increase so much that people may stop travelling.” He claimed that the planned flyovers, pedestrian bridges and passages for the motorcycles are located at a distance of 40kms from one another. Chaakar Khan Shoro, representing his clan, complained that the locals were not consulted when the feasibility report was being prepared. “It does not take into account the difficulties the local people and traders will face,” he added. Shoro believes that the project will also affect the wildlife and ecology too.
This concern was also shared by environmental and wildlife activist, Nisar Panhwar. According to him, 12 species of mammals, 18 of birds and 11 of reptiles live in the area. He pointed out that due to sand mining the depth of subsoil water is already dropping. “The construction and rehabilitation works of the motorway will further speed up the process, leading to greater depletion of the water table in this arid zone.”
Iqbal Waheed, the owner of a petrol pump, said more than 150 petrol pumps and CNG stations are working on the highway. He felt that fencing would destroy their businesses and leave tens of thousands of their workers redundant. “The Karachi-Hyderabad Superhighway should be maintained in its present form while a motorway like the Lahore-Islamabad motorway should be built as a separate road,” he proposed. Abdul Rauf, another petrol pump owner, while supporting this proposition, said a separate highway will also prevent the closure of the highway due to any major accident or for some other socio-political reason.
Yousuf disagreed with these apprehensions. He denied that the flyovers will be built at a distance of 40 kms, saying it was closer to 17km. Fencing would help prevent accidents.
More consultation sessions will be held and so far sessions have been organised in Karachi, at the Edhi Center and Dunba Goth on the highway.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 6th, 2012.