Lyari Expressway Controversy


The Northern Bypass was proposed by the Karachi Master Plan 1975-85. If the bypass had been built, all port related traffic, which now passes through the city, would have been redirected through it to the Super Highway. Since this traffic consists mainly of heavy diesel vehicles, their bypassing the city would have helped in removing congestion and pollution in Karachi. However, the bypass, for a variety of reasons, was never built and over the years the volume of port related traffic has steadily increased congesting and polluting the city further.

In 1989 a group of public spirited citizens proposed the Lyari Expressway as an alternative to the Northern Bypass. The Expressway was to be an elevated one built over the Lyari River from the port to Sohrab Goth. Subsequently, the local government changed its design and it was decided to build the Expressway along the banks of the Lyari River.

Many professionals, NGOs and citizens of the Lyari Corridor objected to the building of the Expressway including the Urban Resource Centre (URC). This paper gives the concerns and proposals of the URC.


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-Roomi 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 full of people previously are now deserted. 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 applied to them (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. The dissenting professionals were proved right.
  • Lines Area Redevelopment Project: 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. The Lines Area today is the largest planned slum in Karachi both in physical and sociological terms.
  • 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, a success admitted by the ADB in its reports.
  • 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 and the expensive hardware purchased for it is now junk.
  • Karachi Mass Transit Project (KMTP): Citizens and professionals raised objections to the Karachi Mass Transit Project. As a result, the Project was modified to reduce the number of proposed mass transit 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. It is now accepted that the Karachi Circular Railway and its extensions are a viable mass transit option to the KMTP and is cheaper and environmentally more friendly.
  • 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 be reduced to a fraction of what had been estimated. If this proposal had been accepted, the larger flyover would not have been constructed much to the relief of pedestrians and to a marked improvement in aesthetic and environmental terms.

One Comment

  1. Rushmeen Khan

    Assalam o Alaikum!
    I’m an IVS student in my thesis year for B.Arch, and my dissertation is based on the concept of gentrification as urbicide – the murder of a city – taking the Lyari Expressway as a case study. I have closely followed all you have written on the subject and would like to interview you to discuss how your stance has evolved over time and your thoughts about the Lyari Expressway currently, 20 years after the initiation of the project. Please do let me know if you are available for this, your input will be invaluable for my research! Thank you!

    Posted April 8, 2021 at 10:50 pm | PermalinkReply

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