KARACHI: The drive against encroachments on nullahs kicked off in the city two months ago with much fanfare, but ended midway due to the polio drive, local bodies’ election, a shortage of funds and, eventually, the nonchalant attitude of the Sindh government.
The Central district additional deputy commissioner, Shujaat Ali, who in August claimed that there were around 100 houses that had been demolished to allow the free flow of water at the Gujjar Nullah and several others that would be demolished, admitted that they had to stop the operation midway.
Speaking to The Express Tribune, he gave several reasons for leaving the operation incomplete. He said that the Central DC office had to focus their efforts and energies on the polio drive, then the Eidul Azha holidays and after that the local bodies’ election. He said that the police force was required to carry out the anti-encroachment operation at Gujjar Nullah but they had to deploy that force for the polio drive.
However, according to a Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC) official, the operation was stopped due to shortage of funds. The official, on the condition of anonymity, revealed that all the machinery deployed at the nullah was sent back and the process of demolishing the encroachments came to a halt a month ago.
The initial plan was to demolish any encroachment, up till Ziauddin hospital, within 10 feet of the nullah, starting at Hotel Cafe Pyala in Gulberg, however, the official revealed that barely two kilometres (km) of the nullah were cleared of encroachments before the operation came to a halt.
When KMC’s anti-encroachment director, Mazhar Khan, was contacted, he responded that the anti-encroachment drive was carried out by Central deputy commissioner, Afzal Zaidi, and KMC was only providing manpower. “Even the machinery used to remove the encroachments was taken on rent by the Central DC office,” he said.
Khan also said that around 13km were supposed to be cleared of encroachments, admitting that barely two kilometres were cleared.
According to him, the anti-encroachment drive was part of the Gujjar Nullah resettlement project. He said that Gujjar Nullah was supposed to be channelised and for that around 30,000 houses would have to be demolished. “We were trying to give the nullah its original route, so that water could at least flow through it,” he said, adding that certain points of the nullah were eight feet wide.
KMC’s parks director-general, Asadullah Shah, who has just left the post of Central chief engineer and was incharge of the Gujjar Nullah resettlement project, told The Express Tribune that it would cost Rs18 billion.
He said that it has not yet been decided, whether the federal or Sindh government was going to finance the project. “The project’s PC-1 has yet to be approved and that could take more than a month or two,” he said.
Shah said that the residents of the 30,000 houses that have to be demolished for this project would either be compensated or be given new houses. “Around 80 per cent of the cost of the project is for the resettlement,” he said, fearing that the number of houses to be demolished could increase.
“We have limited resources but will try to do our best,” he said, adding that the Gujjar Nullah that flows from North Karachi’s Sector 11-J to Lyari Naddi would be widened by 150 feet from both sides.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 12th, 2015.