Lyari Expressway Controversy

So far, plots for the affectees have only been demarcated at Hawks Bay. A total number of plots in the scheme are 3,367. Parchis have been given to 2,271 families although more than 3,200 houses have been demolished. Houses have been built on only 296 plots. Houses on an additional 824 plots are under construction. The rest of the affectees have also acquired hired premises along the Lyari Corridor so as to be close to their places of work. The Expressway therefore is not only the destroying the homes and lives of thousands of families but is also causing environmental degradation to an area that desperately needs rehabilitation.

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, for example in Bombay nineteen thousand families are being evicted as a result of the expansion of the railways. According to the Bombay resettlement 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 expansion starts after this process has taken place.

A proper resettlement plan could have been partially self-financing and would 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 growing homelessness. Urban planning is not about building roads alone but about improving job opportunities and community cohesiveness. By now, after years of civic strife, Karachi’s planners should have learnt this lesson.


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 these markets 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 bringing about major land use changes.
    • 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 and the pavements cater to the needs of the drivers, loaders and mechanics.
    • 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. Due to an absence of space many Dhan Mandi merchants are establishing godowns in katchi abadis which will create problems in the future.
    • Chemical Market: Six children died recently because of pollution produced by the chemical market. The market has godowns attached to it which are very hazardous for the area and should be shifted in any case. Residents are constantly in conflict with the chemical market operators and godown owners. They too are seeking godown space in katchi abadis.
    • Metal Market: Metal Market has foundries, 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 that provided 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 vacated 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 huge area 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 the 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.

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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