The Sindh capital, Karachi, has seen many plans drawn up for mass transit projects, but few have gone beyond the paper stage. As a result, over the years, public transport in the biggest city of the country has gone on shrinking while its population continues to swell. The Orange Line Bus Rapid Transit Project had kindled a new ray of hope, but this too has inordinately been delayed. Work on the project’s construction was inaugurated in 2016 by then Sindh chief minister, Syed Qaim Ali Shah, and the project was to be completed in four years. Since the imposition of a lockdown in March this year the construction work has come to a grinding halt. Even before this, work had been moving at a snail’s pace.
Besides the stoppage of work on the project, now it has hit several snags. The provincial government has earmarked Rs843.3 million for the project in the budget for 2020-2021 but no amount has so far been released. Officially, 75% of work has been completed on the project. A Sindh government official says provincial authorities had made several political hirings in the Sindh Mass Transit Authority, under whose supervision the Orange Line Project is being executed. Finding it difficult to carry on with the project the provincial government has sought the Centre’s assistance.
Under a latest agreement with the federal government, while the Sindh government will bear the cost of the project, the former will procure 25 buses and handle the megaproject’s operations for a period of three years. After three years, the federal government will hand over the buses and the project’s operations to the Sindh government. Officials in the provincial government attribute the delay in the completion of the project also to non-payment of contractors’ dues. They claim the provincial government is creating hurdles in the way of clearing contractors’ arrears. However, the main reason for the delay in the project’s completion is lack of political will.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 25th, 2020.
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