Lyari Expressway Controversy

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 Expressway planners do not seem to be aware either of these issues since the plans have not been finalised and yet demolitions have begun.
  • The President of Pakistan had issued 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 and will not be given/sold to the developers. He has also said that it will be earmarked for development projects. This is a contradiction. The land that will be reclaimed is estimated to be 1.8 million square yards.
  • 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.

In the absence of transparency, there is confusion among the communities that are being effected, confusion among the planners and concerned NGOs and citizens.


The Government of Pakistan has committed itself to the global plan of action of UN Habitat – II, in 1996, which recognises the right to adequate housing, condemns forced evictions and encourages a humane manner of dealing with poor squatter families. The forced eviction and demolition of homes and businesses for the building of the Lyari Expressway is a violation of this commitment and also the violation of the policy adopted by the Musharraf Government for dealing with katchi abadis.

Under Section 12 of the Pakistan Environmental Act, 1997, “no proponent of a project shall commence construction or operation unless he has filed with the federal agency and initial environmental examination”. This section further binds any proponent of a project to submit an environmental impact assessment (EIA) when the project is likely to cause an adverse environmental effect and has obtained approval from the concerned federal authority.

In the case of the Lyari Expressway the government is violating its own commitments and its own laws. A government that does this cannot be taken seriously and no can expect its citizens to follow the laws.


According to government estimates, about 13,531 housing units and 1,222 commercial units are being demolished. In addition, 58 places of worship and tombs would be affected. 1,348 multi-storey structures, including 31 five-storey buildings also come in the Expressway alignment. Government estimates that the lives of a population of 81,540 will be disrupted. However, according to estimates of the Lyari Nadi Welfare Association, an association of 42 Lyari community groups, the figures are 25,400 houses and 3,600 businesses. These are enormous dislocations of livelihoods, homes and children education. The association estimates that over 200,000 families will be affected. 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 in settlements that are located on the northern banks of the River. This industry is crucial to Karachi as it recycles about 30 per cent of Karachi’s solid waste.

There are four types of settlements that are being dislocated due to the construction of the Lyari Expressway. One; there are old villages whose origins go back to more than one hundred and fifty years. This is where Karachi began as a city and the mosques, graveyards and old community spaces are still intact. The residents have ownership rights and have invested in a big way in real estate and infrastructure. Two; these are settlements that are part of the planned KDA schemes such as Liaquatabad and Pir Illahi Bux Colony. Here too, people have invested in infrastructure which has been provided to them by the state. Three; these are settlements which have been regularised as katchi abadis and leases have been issued to the property owners. After the issuing of leases, the residents have invested in electricity, water, telephone and gas connections. They pay for these legally. And four; these are settlements within the river bed which do not have security of tenure and can be washed away if there are major floods. About fifty per cent of the affected households live in these settlements.

The government’s rehabilitation plan does not differentiate between these different types of settlements. All affected households are to be given fifty thousand rupees and an eighty square yards plot in the distant locations of Hawks Bay, Baldia, Taiser Town and Surjani. Land required for resettlement is around six hundred acres. These alternative sites have no water, roads, sewage, electricity, social amenities or job opportunities. In many cases, people who have previously been allotted plots in resettlement 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 six hundred acres.

The commercial enterprises which are being demolished are not being given any compensation or land. At the modest estimates these commercial enterprises provided direct employment to about forty thousand persons. Surveys by the URC suggest that so far approximately 2,200 such enterprises have been demolished. They have shifted to hired premises in the neighbourhood of the Lyari river corridor densifying an already dense are further. Since most of them are informal garbage recycling and soap factories, they are also increasing pollution in dense residential neighbourhoods.

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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