KARACHI: After endless financial and bureaucratic deferrals, it seems Karachi’s defunct public transit system may finally be moving towards revival. The Sindh Government is expected to pump Rs80.7 million into the Karachi Circular Railway (KCR) project to construct a boundary wall that will prevent future encroachment of land and the area around the railway track.
“Fencing is important for the security of land and it will be done in two phases,” Sindh Transport Secretary Ghulam Abbas said while commenting on the project. Abbas expects to accomplish phase one within the current year.
“In the first phase, we will be inviting contractors to submit bids for the fencing,” he said. “This is expected next month,” Abbas added.
The circular railway is a looping network of several stations that was expected to connect various parts of the city. Almost two decades ago, the transit project was abandoned. Since then, the railway land has been encroached or illegally occupied by people looking for a piece of land to dwell in the bourgeoning megacity.
According to the budget for the current fiscal year, the provincial government has allotted Rs.41.5 million for PC-1 of the KCR project. In total, the project is set to receive a financial lifeline of Rs.124.14 million, which is Rs.88.86 million less than the previous financial year.
Abbas claimed the Pakistan Railway authorities and Commissioner Karachi have removed encroachments in several areas. However, the land is yet to be handed back to the Sindh government.
“The process of fencing will begin shortly,” said Abbas, adding that the KCR project is likely to be completed under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project at a whooping price tag of $1.97 billion which will be provided as a loan by Beijing.
“To secure funding from China, sovereign guarantee should be given by federal government and the final agreement should be made,” the secretary added.
However, Pakistan Railway officials believe the restoration of the KCR project is a distant dream for now. According to sources privy with the matter, the restoration process can only begin after the KCR land is returned to the provincial government. Apart from that, the Federal government also needs to seal an agreement with the government of China for the restoration of the abandoned project.
The project has faced innumerable interruptions. In 2005, the Federal government established the Karachi Urban Transport Corporation to evaluate the feasibility of the project with the financial cooperation of Japan International Cooperation Agency, an international cooperation agency that coordinates development assistance for the government of Japan.
During the process, the government of Japan promised funds for the restoration of KCR and the rehabilitation of the people displaced during the revival process. However, the opportunity was not availed by the Sindh government due fundamental differences on the process of rehabilitation of displaced individuals.