While effecting displacement of people for development and infrastructure projects, the humanitarian aspect of the issue should be kept uppermost in mind. The issue needs restraint, but it is seen somewhat missing during anti-encroachment drives in the country. At a recent event in Karachi, researchers involved in urban planning and displacements resulting from encroachments’ removal had in-depth discussions on these issues. They gave their input for the authorities and the population so that they can carefully tread the path. Displacements resulting from even the need for infrastructure development should be avoided. Though the authorities promise the affected people compensation for their lands, sometimes they are not paid any compensation or very little of it. In some cases, the affectees are entirely forgotten.
Experts at the discussions, especially renowned urban planner Arif Hasan, emphasised the need for anti-encroachment actions with a human face. Last year in Karachi, the municipal authorities carried out a major exercise to remove encroachments on their lands and against unauthorised structures. The main focus of the drive was to retrieve lands of the Karachi Circular Railway. The experts rightly observed that resistance from the affectees is weakened due to ethnic and other differences.
Encroachers in our country are quite resourceful. In the 1960s in Karachi, some people had illegally built houses on KMC land. When the KMC gave them the final warning that they would remove the illegal structures the next day, what they found that graves had appeared overnight in front of every house. This prevented the authorities from demolishing those houses.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 5th, 2019.
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