KARACHI: It was in 2002 when the government promised a wide, uninterrupted Lyari Expressway to lead drivers from Sohrab Goth to Mauripur and back. It is nearly 14 years later and this dream has yet to turn into reality.
Encroachments on mere 1.6 kilometres (km) of the 16.5km stretch are preventing authorities from completing the project and easing the city’s traffic flow.
In February this year, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif inaugurated the Green Line Bus Rapid Transit and promised to start the remaining work on the Lyari Expressway within 15 days. Unsurprisingly, this has yet to happen.
Before the PM, the Sindh government constituted a committee in September 2015 under the supervision of the then commissioner Shoaib Siddiqui to remove the encroachments along the route. Unsurprisingly, these half-hearted efforts have yielded no results.
Bone of contention
Lyari Expressway is the third mega transportation project introduced in Karachi, after the revival of Karachi Circular Railway and the Bus Rapid Transit system. The southbound part of the expressway, which stretches from Sohrab Goth to Mauripur Road, has been completed and is in use for traffic since 2010.
The northbound track, which starts at Mauripur and goes all the way to Sohrab Goth, is still incomplete. The patch from Mauripur to Sir Shah Suleman Road, which is around 6km, needs construction while the remaining portion has been built. Within the incomplete portion, there is a mere 1.6km where the Sindh government has yet to clear encroachments. According to the National Highway Authority (NHA), which is constructing the road, they are awaiting the right of way from the Sindh government before they can go ahead with the construction. An NHA official, who requested to remain anonymous, said a total of 5.3km along the Lyari Expressway were encroached which is why they decided to make the road elevated.
For his part, NHA Sindh general manager Abdul Rauf told The Express Tribune that construction work was started last month. He accepted that the work pace was very slow due to encroachments in the area. “The Sindh government has yet to clear the encroachments and relocate the settlements,” he said.
Meanwhile, project director Munir Ahmed Memon refused to comment as he was transferred the very day that The Express Tribune approached him. So far, Lyari Expressway has had eight project directors.
Lacking the will
Officials blame the Sindh government for the fact that such a small portion of the road is preventing a mega project from unfolding. The federal government has released the funds but it is because of sheer laziness on the part of the Sindh government that the project is stuck in limbo, said a former deputy commissioner of District Central, who had successfully rehabilitated a large portion of Lyari River for the expressway’s construction.
On the condition of anonymity, the officer told The Express Tribune that the encroachment cases landed in court but were never properly taken up by the Sindh government. “The project only needs strong will,” he said, adding that the Sindh government lacks the motivation as it’s not on their agenda.
Sufyan Yousuf of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, who is also the chairperson of the National Assembly’s standing committee on communication, felt the encroachment issue is not too big. If the NHA starts working, the area can be cleared easily, he said. The deputy commissioners of District Central have already helped clear nearly 1.5km of the encroachments but NHA delayed its constructions and the illegal settlements grew again, he claimed.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 16th, 2016.