Connecting people: For Sindh’s farmers, no routes to escape yet

Seven-year project to be implemented with Asian Development Bank assistance.


Salman Siddiqui January 04, 2012

KARACHI:


The ambitious Sindh Highways Network Master Plan may be the answer to finally emancipating poor farmers living under the thumb of landlords in rural Sindh. But the implementation of the Rs100 billion project is still several years away from completion, given the lack of funds and political will.  


Former adviser to the Sindh chief minister Dr Kaiser Bengali, who came up with the road development programme, strongly believes that if the road network is implemented at the earliest, then people living below the poverty line in rural areas will have the option to relocate to cities that provide them with better employment opportunities.

According to Bengali, if the floods had taught one crucial lesson, it was that the power base of the feudal class and landlords did not lay in the vast acres of land they own, but the people who worked on them.

However, sources at the works and services department, say that as for now work was only progressing at the Hyderabad-Mirpurkhas road network, while the rest of the envisioned network may take several years to complete.

The Sindh government plans to implement the road network through assistance from the Asian Development Bank. The 700 km long road network plans to connect Hyderabad with Badin and reduce travel time from Karachi to Sukkur from the present seven hours to just four hours and to Thatta to just 45 minutes in the first phase.

The other major roads planned in Phase I are the 296kms Karachi-Thatta-Badin-Mithi-Islamkot Road that would connect Karachi with the coalfields; a dual carriageway between Ratodero and Jacobabad that is expected to reduce the distance by 27 kms; 159kms Qazi Ahmad-Benazirabad-Sanghar-MirpurKhas Road; 58km Hala-Shahdadpur-Sanghar Road; and the 374km road from Nara Canal Road from Sukkur to Umerkot.

The Phase II is expected to connect other remote areas of rural Sindh with the National Highway and major roads completed in Phase I. Although the initial deadline for the project is set at seven years, a senior official at the works and services department said that they were expecting a delay for unspecified years due to a variety of reasons, including the financial crunch caused by the massive floods of 2010 and the rains in 2011.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 5th, 2012.

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