Karachi's District East now a shadow of its former glory

Area now filled with high-rise buildings, dilapidated roads

SHEHARYAR ALI October 09, 2017
Encroachments appeared on University Road weeks after its inauguration. PHOTO: ATHAR KHAN

KARACHI: Populated by almost three million people, District East, Karachi’s third most populous district is a mixture of posh and slum areas with poor infrastructure.

Comprising Gulistan-e-Jauhar, Gulshan-e-Iqbal, Bahadurabad, PECHS, Sindhi Muslim Cooperative Housing Society, Karachi Admin Society and Safoora, among others, the district lies in the heart of the city and borders districts South, Korangi, Malir and Central, as well as Defence Housing Authority, one of the city’s other ‘posh’ areas.

Being summarily ignored by authorities, the residents of District East are angry at what they call the ‘ignorant behaviour’ of the government. The area, once highly sought after, has now lost its charm due to widespread encroachments and unplanned commercialisation.

An example of this is the newly-reconstructed University Road. While some sections have yet to be completed, the finished section between Hassan Square and NIPA Chowrangi was occupied by encroachers mere weeks after being inaugurated. It is now home to scores of illegally parked vehicles of people visiting restaurants, coaching centres and hospitals situated on the main thoroughfare.

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A traffic police official performing duty in the area, Ashraf Chaudhary, said that the road is wide and has around five lanes but even if it had 10 lanes the situation would be the same, as the authorities have failed to remove encroachments. When asked why the traffic police failed to take action against illegal parking, however, he had no answer.

Explaining how the city has suffered at the hands of ill-planning, environmental activist Raza Gardezi pointed out that we are seeing the results of ill-planning. He questioned how a thoroughfare could be declared commercial without any planning for the future.

To explain this point he used an analogy of a residential plot being converted into a commercial building. If six to 10 people were living in a 1,000 square yard house and it is converted into a commercial plot with a 15-storey plaza built on it, at least 400 people will be living on a plot that was meant to house only 10 people.

Gardezi added that the burden on the sewerage and water lines would be increased tenfold. Parking the vehicles belonging to those 400 people would be a problem, as we have very few designated parking spots, which means the residents would park their vehicles on the road, making it more congested.

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He added that in the 1980s the trend of high-rise plazas began in the city and later the policy of commercialisation spread in 2002 in which suddenly more than 20 major thoroughfares of the city were declared commercial without any future planning or modification of existing infrastructure.

Whether it is the dilapidated roads, broken water and sewerage lines or increased garbage, you have to blame the ill-planning of the government authorities which has created a mess in most parts of the city.

Gardezi shared that most of the posh areas in the city lie in District East but they have lost their charm due to massive commercialisation. He pointed out that some of them, which include Delhi Mercantile Society, Muhammad Ali society, Dhoraji Society, Sindhi Muslim Cooperative Housing Society, PECHS and KDA scheme 1, were once populated by the elite of the city. But they are now selling their houses due to the commercialisation, which has ruined the once peaceful environment of these areas.

All these areas now littered with high-rise residential plazas, which are a huge burden on the existing utility and infrastructure system of the area, he added.

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A resident of Muhammad Ali Society, Omar Motiwala, who is an exporter by profession, said that his family has lived in the area for the past 50 years but it can no longer be considered a posh locality just because it has houses on 6,000 square yard plots.

Motiwala questioned who in their right minds wanted to see broken sewerage lines and dilapidated roads outside homes they have spent massive sums on. Now we are also considering selling our house with a heavy heart, he said.

East District Municipal Corporation (DMC) Chairman Moeed Anwar unsurprisingly passed the buck for the area’s issues onto the Karachi Water and Sewerage Board, claiming that the problem lies in the sewerage system of the area which has broken all the roads. He said the water board is responsible for the mess but is of no help, therefore they have decided to renovate the water lines with their own budget since it is a waste of funds to re-carpet roads over and over without rectifying the root cause.

Anwar said his performance has been better during the rain emergency and that he wants to carry it forward by serving his voters by maintaining the areas that fall within his jurisdiction. He admitted to the encroachment issue and claimed that within the next 48 to 72 hours all the encroachments from University Road will be removed, as per his directions.

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The deputy commissioner of District East, Nadeem Abro, told The Express Tribune that work is under way with the coordination of the DMC team to renovate all the areas of the district, whether they are posh areas or slums.

He said the road network on an internal level in the district is dilapidated but instead of opting for patchwork again and again they want to rectify the actual issue that has worsened the condition of the roads, which is either the movement of water tankers or broken water lines.

Past ill-planning has affected the area, however, the present situation is in our hands and we will improve the condition of the area by improving the road network and maintaining parks, said Abro.

He added that after the lines are repaired, the roads will be built, otherwise it is a massive waste of their budget.

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Surprisingly, he praised the level of teamwork between the East DMC and deputy commissioner’s office, saying they are working together to improve the condition of the district.

Abro said he will ask the DMC to take immediate action against encroachers. Commenting on the delay in the completion of University Road from Karachi University onwards, he mentioned that there was a delay in the laying of water and sewerage lines, vowing that the road would be inaugurated within a month.

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