KARACHI: The Sindh government has allocated Rs934 million for the Rapid Transit Edhi (Orange) Line project in the upcoming budget.
The project, initiated in June 2016, was to be completed in exactly a year's time but after three years, only 70% of the three-kilometre corridor has been completed. The Sindh government has now vowed to complete the project by this year's end and import buses by February next year.
For a change, the project's cost of Rs2.26 billion is not the reason which has led to delay. The Sindh government has had no problem releasing funds for this scheme at least. Instead, the project has been delayed on account of three things: a legal battle, tardiness on contractors' part and water supply and sewerage issues.
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The Edhi Line project was delayed by one year due to a legal battle between the Sindh government and one of the contractors initially hired to handle part of the project.
When it was initiated, the project was split into two 'packages', each of which were awarded to a different contractor. Package One comprised construction of two stations and an elevated bridge structure between the Orangi Town office and Banaras Bridge while Package Two entailed construction of three stations and reconstruction of Shahrah-e-Orangi.
The project ran into legal trouble when the Sindh government tried to sack the Package Two contractor for failing to meet legal requirements and award the project to another company. The aggrieved contractor took the matter to the Sindh High Court and obtained a stay order. While the court eventually ruled in Sindh government's favour, the project was put on hold for a year till legal proceedings concluded.
Slow pace of work
Even when the project was not on hold for legal reasons, the contractors handling the project made very slow progress, sources said. According to them, both contractors were warned last year that their contracts would be cancelled unless they picked up pace but no such action was taken despite persistent delays.
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According to officers involved in the project, a third main reason for delays is non-cooperation on the part of the Karachi Water and Sewerage Board (KWSB). They said that the dilapidated condition of water and sewerage lines in project sites has brought the pace of construction to a crawl.
Although the Edhi Line administration installed new lines at different locations using their own funds, the joints and connections still had problems, resulting in leakages.
KWSB officials, meanwhile, said they are unable to take action because those involved in the project have not provided exact data on the water and sewerage lines.
Talking to The Express Tribune, new Sindh Mass Transit Authority Managing Director Iqtidar Ahmed claimed work on the Edhi Line has been sped up in the two months since he took charge. "We will now try our best to finish the project by December and import buses in February."
Published in The Express Tribune, June 22nd, 2019.
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