Going nowhere fast

Any attempt to solve Karachi’s mass and rapid transit problems seem doomed

Editorial May 16, 2016
Any attempt to solve Karachi’s mass and rapid transit problems seem doomed. PHOTO: EMC.COM.PK

Any attempt to solve Karachi’s mass and rapid transit problems seem doomed, with the Lyari Expressway being just one of the mega projects to fail to be completed – and all for the sake of 1.6km of encroachments. It is now 14 years since the project was started, a 16.5-km stretch of multi-lane road that would connect Sohrab Goth to Mauripur, but completion is being prevented by encroachments along a short stretch that the Sindh government seems unable to remove. It is not as if the encroachments sprang up overnight, they have been there for many years. In February, the prime minister made a rare visit to the city and inaugurated the Green Line Bus Rapid Transit at the same time as making a promise that the remaining work on the Lyari Expressway would begin within 15 days. He should have saved his breath because nothing has happened since.

Nothing has happened either with the committee constituted to remove the encroachments in September 2015. To the astonishment of some, a part of the road is to be elevated in order to bridge the encroachments rather than clear them. The National Highway Authority, which has the responsibility for construction, says that the Sindh government has not moved to clear the settlements or relocate the encroachers, presumably because it has little interest and if the road can be made to go over the encroachers, then why bother to relocate and resettle — presumably at some expense to the Sindh government itself. The southbound section of the Expressway has been operational since 2010 and the encroachments have increased in size even as the project was under construction. This is inept governance at best, crass stupidity at worst. Incompetence has once again hindered development on a key project in Karachi, which is the country's economic heartbeat. That a group of encroachers should be allowed to call the tune in this way is beyond ridiculous. A project like the Lyari Expressway cannot be allowed to flounder in this manner.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 17th, 2016.

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