Lyari expressway: Concerns of the URC


Concerns of the Urban Resource Centre

1. Public Consultations and Transparency

1.1 The Necessity for Public Consultations

Since 1992, Lyari Expressway has been on the cards. Controversy has raged around it. Professionals and NGOs have pointed out that heavy traffic should not move through the city but should bypass it because it will cause immense pollution. They have pointed out that the Defence Society has refused to let the Southern Bypass be constructed through it. They have also pointed out that since heavy traffic started moving through Khyaban-e-Room and Sunset Boulevard, the lives of the people living on this corridor have been adversely affected and the green areas on the roundabouts which were fully of people previously are now empty. They have also pointed out that in many cities, expressways that passed through the city and carried heavy traffic, have now been restricted to light traffic only or have had major environmental mitigation measures adopted. Examples, Riadh, Boston, Bangkok. As such, the opponents of the Expressway have supported the building of the Northern Bypass.

Given the controversy, public consultations on the Project should have been held before finalising it. Such consultations are even more important in the case of Karachi where many projects have turned out to be disasters. In most cases, citizens and professionals gave reasons as to why these projects would fail and asked for public consultations. Such consultations never took place. A list of some of these projects is given below.

  • Metrovilles: It was pointed out that the plots in them would never reach the target group and that the better-off would make use of the subsidies in built in them. After building two and a half metrovilles, the Metroville Project was abandoned.
  • Lines Area: Professionals pointed out that the Lines Area Redevelopment Project would turn the area into a large slum which would neither benefit the city nor the people of the area. Alternatives were offered but not considered by the authorities.
  • Greater Karachi Sewage Plan: This has been funded by the Asian Development Bank (ADB). As a result of this, the KWSB is in debt to a tune of Rs 42 billion which the city of Karachi will ultimately pay. However, Karachi’s sewage problems have not improved as a result and its treatment plants function to about 20 per cent of their capacity.
  • Baldia Sewage Scheme: Funded by the ADB it has been a major failure which the ADB itself has admitted. As a result, Rs 600 million have literally gone down the drain. Alternatives to the Scheme offered by the Orangi Pilot Project-Research and Training Institute (OPP-RTI) were rejected but were successfully implemented in Orangi.
  • Karachi Development Plan: A team for the evaluation of the Karachi Development Plan was appointed by the UNDP. It pointed out that the Plan was not implementable and gave all the reasons for it. Its recommendations were not considered. The Plan which cost Rs 430 million was never implemented.
  • Karachi Mass Transit: Citizens and professionals raised objections to the Karachi Mass Transit Project. As a result, the Project was modified to reduce and number of proposed corridors from seven to three since it was pointed out that the Circular Railway ran parallel to some of the corridors and if it was revived, the corridors were not necessary. Also, as a result of citizen’s intervention, the width of the transit way along a part of M.A. Jinnah Road was reduced and as a result helped improve environmental conditions.
  • The Gulshan Flyovers: Citizens pointed out to the then Additional Secretary, government of Sindh that by taking the Railway track underground or overhead one flyover could be reduced and costs of the project would a fraction of what had been estimated. If this proposal had been accepted, the larger flyovers would not have been constructed much to the relief of pedestrians and to a marked improvement in aesthetic terms.

1.2 Transparency

In the absence of public consultations, there is no transparency in the project design and implementation process. This is obvious from the following.

  • The plans of the project have not been made available to the affectees and as such many of them are unaware of whether they are being affected or not.
  • The planners do not seem to be aware either since the plans have not been finalised and yet demolitions have begun.
  • The President of Pakistan had issues instructions that the affectees should be rehabilitated on the land acquired as a result of the building of the expressway. Yet the affectees are being removed to distant locations.
  • The Karachi Nazim has claimed that all land reclaimed by the building of the expressway will be turned into parks. He has also said that it will be earmarked for development projects.
  • At the Jang Forum the officials and consultants in charge of the expressway project expressed conflicting views as to whether heavy traffic would be permitted on the expressway or not.
2. Resettlement

According to government estimates, about 14,000 housing units and 1,222 commercial units are being demolished. According to estimates of the Lyari Nadi Welfare Association, a association of 42 Lyari community groups the figures are 25,400 houses and 3,600 businesses. These are enormous dislocations of livelihoods and homes. The majority of the people who are being affected either work within the corridor in garbage collection and sorting or in the neighbouring settlements as day-wage labour. The garbage collection and sorting industry serves the recycling factories that are on the northern side of the River.

The government is offering a plot to these affectees in Baldia, Taiser Town, Surjani and Hawks Bay. Land required for resettlement is around 600 acres. The alternative sites have no water, roads, sewage, electricity, social amenities or job opportunities. In many cases, people who have previously been allotted plots in these schemes, have yet to receive them for reasons that the authorities are unable to give. In Karachi a very large number of people who have been evicted previously from their homes (example, Lines Area) were given parchis promising them a plot. Even after ten years they have still not received their piece of land. That parchi is worthless. Also, experience tells us that it requires Karachi’s development authorities anything between five to ten years to fully develop 600 acres.

A resettlement plan guaranteeing homes, jobs and social amenities should have been an integral part of the Lyari Expressway Project. There are many examples of such plans such as in Bombay where 19,000 families are being evicted as a result of the expansion of the railways. According to this plan:

  • State government provides land;
  • Railways level and develop the land;
  • The municipality provides off-site infrastructure and allots the land to community co-ops;
  • The Housing Bank provides house building loans to the co-ops through NGOs.
  • Railway development starts after this process has taken place.

A proper resettlement plan could have been self-financing and could have been an opportunity for improving the housing conditions, education, health and economic activities of 25,000 families and businesses rather than their total destruction in this age of recession, unemployment and a growing homelessness. Urban planning is not about building roads alone but about improving job opportunities and community cohesiveness. By now, Karachi’s planners should have learnt this lesson.

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