KARACHI: There have been as many as 20 transport-related projects that the Sindh government started with great fanfare, ran them for a while and then let them erode into obscurity, claimed Ronald deSouza of Shehri - Citizens for a Better Environment.
He was speaking at a public hearing to discuss the environmental impact of Green Line Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system. The hearing was organised by EMC Pakistan Private Limited and the Environmental Protection Agency.
The Karachi Transformation Strategy, Urban Transport Scheme, Karachi Circular Railway, Sindh Road Transport Corporation, Green Bus and many such projects were kicked off by the Sindh Government but never realised, he said.
DeSouza fears that the fate of the Green Line bus project will be similar to the other projects of the past. He pointed out that the owner of the project was the federal government, whose role was simply to construct its infrastructure and later hand it over to the Sindh government.
"Sindh government will be a very strange owner of this project," he said, suggesting that the project must in fact be owned and run by the government of Karachi. "How will the provincial government be able to run this project?" he questioned.
Ronald also expressed concern over the fact that there were around five different Bus Rapid Transport (BRT) lines being setup by five different parties. He also feared that Aurangzeb Park located on MA Jinnah Road could turn into a bus terminal if thousands of passengers thronged the place to get onto the bus.
Urban Resource Center's Zahid Farooq echoed his concerns, fearing that Mazar-e-Quaid could possibly turn into a bus terminal with this project. "How will you facilitate the large number of commuters?" he asked the consultancy firm.
Farooq also stressed the importance of underground passages. He said that elevated structures were not feasible for the elderly. On this, the chief engineer of EA consulting private limited, Syed Muhammad Tayyab, said they will provide elevators and lifts.
Farooq gave the example of Saima Tower constructed in front of the Matric Board Office. "With such high-rise buildings on the way, how will elevated structures be constructed?" he pointed out.
Removal of vegetation
The EMC's manager for its environmental studies division, Saquib Ejaz Hussain, feared that around 4,100 trees will be damaged due to the BRT. He said that wherever possible, the detailed designs should accommodate the trees. According to him, international practice is to replace the trees at a minimum rate of 5:1. This would be appropriate, given the possible difficulties with planting trees and the low survival rate of young trees.
Waste water treatment
Hussain said that the waste would be treated at a sewage treatment facility to conform to the National Environmental Quality Standards and then discharged into the nearest sewerage line.
"The storm water will be drained into the bus lane drainage channel, which will carry it to the central storm water drainage system, where it will be stored as harvested rainwater and utilised wherever possible," he said.
On the present condition of the storm water drainage system, he said that the drains proved inadequate in the incidence of heavy rainfall on the entire Green Line corridor. That is why, according to him, water is collected in depressions on the roadside and on the roads, submerging low lying areas.
He said that the roadside drains on the corridors will be designed to discharge stormwater down the pipes at appropriate intervals adjacent to the station on each side.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 11th, 2015.
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