Lyari expressway: Concerns of the URC

3. Lyari Expressway and Its Adjacent Areas

The building of the Lyari Expressway will not solve the problems of the areas adjacent to the Lyari Corridor. The problems of these areas are in essence the problems of Karachi. The issues are explained below.

  • Between East Avenue in SITE and M.A, Jinnah Road are the settlements of Sher Shah, Chakiwara, Khadda, Lyari, Kharadar, Mithadar, Bohra Pir, Ranchore Lines, Wadomall Quarters and other old areas of the city.
  • These areas are the most density populated areas of the city and by far the most environmentally degraded and congested with traffic. The reasons for this are:
    • These areas contain Karachi’s old markets and industries. Previously they occupied a small area and the rest of the area was all residential. But they have expanded to meet the demands of a growing city and now engulf this entire area.
    • This market and industrial activity requires godowns. These have proliferated.
    • Godowns are served by trucks and transport and these have clogged the narrow lanes of these old settlements. All cross roads and open spaces have been turned into transport terminals.
    • Due to the absence of space for the growth of this activity, it is now taking place on the roads and footpaths.
  • The markets and industrial activity in this area consists of:
    • Dhan Mandi: The Mandi operators do not wish to remain in this area. They have been asking for relocation to places that are easily accessible by rail and road and where they can expand their godowns. Their godowns are now not only on the ground floor but even on floors above and have expanded to around the KMC offices. Due to their presence people in the area suffer from asthma and other respiratory diseases.
    • Chemical Market: Six children died recently because of pollution produced by the chemical market. The market has godowns attached to it which are a very hazardous and should be shifted in any case. Residents are constantly in conflict with the chemical market operators and godown owners.
    • Metal Market: Metal Market has foundries and casting and recycling industries. It occupies a very large area and due to a lack of space it has expanded along the Lyari Corridor.
    • Solid Waste Sorting and Recycling: The solid waste recycling factories are in Sher Shah and the northern bank of the Lyari River. The sorting activity that supports them has expanded along the Lyari Corridor due to an absence of space for its growth. This activity is crucial for the city of Karachi since it manages to collect and recycle about one-third of Karachi’s solid waste. The recyclers and sorters have indicated to the Governor’s Task Force for the Improvement of Municipal Services, that they would be willing to shift to landfill sites if they were developed in an appropriate manner and provide them and their labour with land, water, electricity and access roads.
  • Residents of the Lyari settlements have constantly demanded that cargo transport and godowns should be shifted from their areas so that they can breathe and congestion and pollution can be reduced. They have also demanded that the areas located by these activities should be taken over by the government and turned into badly needed amenities.
  • The areas of Kharadar, Mithadar, Bohra Pir, Jail Quarters, Wadomall Quarters, house much of Karachi’s built heritage. This built heritage is being pulled down and replaced by godowns and residential accommodation for the people who work in these markets.
  • Over the years the number of people sleeping on the streets and pavements of this vast area has increased alarmingly. Most of them work in the markets and industries that are located here.
  • The suffocation of this are by traffic is one of the major problems that the city of Karachi faces. It is also the reason why businesses from Sarai Quarters and “down town” are shifting to Clifton and Shahrah-e-Faisal, turning this historic core of Karachi into a dilapidated and environmentally degraded area.

The building of the Lyari Expressway will not solve any of the problems and concerns mentioned above. On the contrary it is possible that much of the land reclaimed from the building of the expressway will be used for the activities that the expressway is dislocating. This is because the market is stronger than the desires of the planners or the power of the state. This is an aspect that needs to be looked into.

4. Aesthetics

The designs of the consultants for the expressway indicate that the expressway will be built on a six metre high (about 20 feet) wall which will run along the Lyari Corridor. At 16 points along the Corridor this wall will rise to a height of 15 metres (about 49 feet) so that it may flyover the existing bridges. Four of these points will be interchanges. Thus, we will have a roller coaster on either side of the River way above the level of the river bank. It is necessary to seek the advise of architectural and planning profession in this regard and to involve other interest groups in this discussion.

5. Priorities

If the government is desirous of saving the people living in the Lyari bed from a flood disaster, there are other ways of doing it. These alternatives should be discussed. If on the other hand the government wishes to reduce traffic congestion, there are a number of projects whose impact would be enormous. These projects include the building of a road from Tin Hatti to the Jail Roundabout reducing pressure on Guru Mandir; the completion of the Preedy Street and Korangi Road extensions; the building of inter-city and intra-city transport terminals, workshops and depots (a lot of spade work has been done already) and the building the Circular Railway and its extensions.

6. Possible Alternatives

Considering what has been said above, the alternative to the present plan should be:

  • Build landfill sites and shift the recycling industry and garbage sorting yards from the trans-Lyari area to them along with the families that work in them. They will require water, electricity, land and roads. Plans for this have already been developed for the Governor’s Task Force on Municipal Services and consultations have been held with the garbage recyclers and sorters.
  • Build the Northern Bypass and shift the Dhan Mandi, Chemical Market, metal foundries and the labour working in them to it. Much of the homeless labour can be housed through schemes on the Khuda-ki-Basti model.
  • Occupy all land vacated by the transfer of these activities and turn it into amenities for the trans-Lyari settlements.
  • Dredge the river and build embankments on either side. The land reclaimed by this should be converted into parks. If a road is still thought necessary, it should be developed as a simple bank road. Karachi needs open spaces and recreation.
  • Institute a conservation plan for the old quarters of Karachi. This will be possible only if congestion and environmentally degrading activity can be shifted from it.

If it is problematic to develop infrastructure along the Northern Bypass, then the development of the Southern Bypass should be reconsidered and the various markets and their related activities should be shifted to it. However, if the Northern Bypass is built without formal development, informal developments along it are bound to develop.

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