KARACHI: While the University Road has been on the radar of the anti-encroachment team of the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC) since Thursday, it is only a matter of a few hours for the encroachers to reclaim their territories after the team leaves.
The anti-encroachment department of KMC removed hundreds of kiosks, pushcarts, roadside cabins, shops and other obstacle during two operations on University Road, which runs from Jail Chowrangi to Safoora Goth, on Thursday and Friday. The road usually bustles with encroachment and illegal parking.
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"By the eve of every operation, we make our way back to the footpaths," said one of the juice vendors opposite the Federal Urdu University of Arts, Science and Technology, Muhammad Ramazan. "I hide my kiosk behind the park and when the team is gone, I bring it back on the road."
The owner of a small betel kiosk at the same spot, Danish, believes that it was only a case of luck that his kiosk was saved from the wrath of the anti-encroachment department. "The anti-encroachment team comes and launches operation randomly," he said, adding that whosoever comes in their way loses his kiosk.
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Danish pointed towards the huge generators and other electronic items that were thronging the footpaths. He said that only their kiosks were being removed, while the shops of generators and electronic items on footpaths were spared.
When KMC anti-encroachment department director Bilal Manzer was contacted, he said that they have been trying their best to root out encroachers from the area. "The encroachers should understand that they are not allowed to encroach upon the footpaths and roads," he said. When asked if some shops were being spared by the team, Manzer said that the department destroys kiosks and all sort of other encroachments without any discrimination and sometimes confiscates them. However, he said, the encroachers buy new ones. "What can we do in such cases?"
Talking about the anti-encroachment drive, Gulshan-e-Iqbal assistant commissioner Shoukat Ali Ujjan said that it was an ongoing effort. "People are habitual of encroaching the footpaths and roads and that is why they come back even when we remove them," he said, adding that they have also come up with a follow-up plan for University Road, which they will implement after a week of the drive.
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When asked about the illegal parking in the area, Manzer said that the department was not responsible for addressing that menace. Meanwhile, KMC charged parking director Imran Mirza seemed to be unaware about any illegal parking on University Road. Just outside the Chase Up store at Nipa, where the road is completely dug up by the Karachi Water and Sewerage Board, the three-lane parking happening with the approval of the KMC's charged parking team has turned the road into a sorry mess. "I am not sure if that is legal parking or not," said Mirza, adding that if it is illegal parking, he will ask the anti-encroachment department to address it. "Else, I will clean that area by Monday [of illegal parking]," he assured.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 20th, 2016.