Lyari Expressway Controversy


The designs of the consultants for the Expressway indicate that the expressway will be built on an earth embankment of approximately eight feet in height which will run along the Lyari Corridor. At 12 points along the Corridor this embankment will rise to a height of about 27 feet so that it may “flyover” the existing bridges. Four of these points will be interchanges. Thus, we will have a high roller coaster on either side of the River, often way above the level of the river bank. It is necessary to seek the advice of the architectural and planning profession in this regard and to involve other interest groups in this discussion. From the looks of it, the Lyari Expressway will consist of two massive fortifications along the two banks of the river, physically dividing the city into north and south of the Lyari. This existing division between comparatively better off and poorer sections of the city will be reinforced. In addition, with this plan, the Lyari Expressway will be no Lahore Canal Bank as its promoters have claimed it will be.


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 far more beneficial than that of the Lyari Expressway. 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 on these by the Governor’s Task Force on Municipal Services) and the building the Circular Railway and its extensions.

The Northern Bye Pass and the Lyari Expressway both begun and end at approximately the same locations and serve, at least for port related traffic, the same functions. Therefore, one can ask that after the building of the Northern Bye Pass, what exactly is the need for such an elaborate Expressway?


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

  • Build landfill sites and negotiate the shifting of the recycling industry and garbage sorting yards from the trans-Lyari area to the landfill sites 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 negotiate the shifting of 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, and especially the trans-Lyari area, 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 planned development, informal developments along it are bound to develop. Indications are that this is already happening.


Work of the Lyari Expressway should be suspended and a discussion on the issues raised in this paper and also raised by the Lyari communities and some of the cities leading professionals, should be initiated. If as a result, it is decided to build the Expressway then a proper rehabilitation plan which improves the living and economic conditions of the affectees in particular and Karachi in general, should be developed and implemented with their participation, before continuing with the physical work on the Expressway.

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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