By 2030, it will take 120 minutes to travel a distance that took 40 minutes in 2010 if nothing is done to develop a mass transit system in Karachi.
This doomsday scenario has been painted by the Japan International Cooperation Agency and Karachi Mass Transit Cell in their Karachi Transportation Improvement Project report. But if the performance of the transport minister, Akhtar Jadoon, is anything to go by Karachi should prepare for a lifetime of waiting in traffic.
Jadoon’s answers on his department’s performance in the Sindh Assembly were garbled and confusing on Tuesday.
MPAs repeatedly asked him to explain how the increase and decrease in fares worked, considering the rise of fuel prices. MPAs looked confused when they went through a document provided to them on fare prices from 2008, 2009 and 2010 that reportedly stated that prices were the same in 2008 and 2010. One MPA asked if it was a “computer error” while others looked sceptical at the notion that fares had not increased.
Jadoon said that fares are calculated “on the increase in diesel prices”. The price of diesel has to either fall or rise by Rs8 to Rs10 for the fare to be changed by one rupee.
Raised eyebrows, repeated queries and a miffed MPA or two were in store for Jadoon, who was also criticised by MPA Haji Munawar Ali Abbasi. He questioned the transport minister’s statement that there were 75 CNG buses in Karachi being operated by the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation. “This is not the statement we received from him in the standing committee,” Abbasi pointed out. “We were told that there were 35 buses each being run by Daewoo and Hino, but that Daewoo was not running its buses.” Sindh Assembly Speaker Nisar Khuhro asked Jadoon to clarify the conflicting statements.
MPAs also tried to corner Jadoon on whether CNG buses were allowed to operate in the province. “Only buses that have factory-fitted CNG kits are allowed but old buses dating to the Second World War with expired cylinders are not and we inspect them,” he said. CNG buses were viable for long routes but the government was planning to introduce Euro-2 diesel buses that were ideal for longer routes. He sympathised with transporters that were in a fix after converting their vehicles to CNG but now face a shutdown of CNG stations twice a week.
“Don’t you care about passengers?” an MPA asked in response to this remark.
According to Jadoon, it is also difficult to find investors for the province’s transportation needs because of the state of security.
The department was working on bus terminals in 2011-12 at sites in Thatta, Badin and Kambar-Shahdadkot (Miro Khan) and several would be shifted to Zulfikarabad from Karachi. Private contractors would soon start a shuttle service in Karachi to the terminals.
At least 36 properties of the defunct Karachi Transport Corporation and Sindh Road Transport Corporation were illegally occupied across Sindh. Jadoon also said that the government had not permitted 70cc motorcycle rickshaws but 100,000 were in operation.
(with additional input by PPI)
Published in The Express Tribune, March 21st, 2012.
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