The Lyari Expressway: Citizen’s Concerns and Community Resistance

Concern – One: City Level Planning Issues

The Expressway project is not a part of a larger city planning exercise. There are cheaper and easier methods of easing traffic flow in Karachi that have been proposed repeatedly by the KDA’s Traffic Engineering Bureau (TEB), Karachi academics and professionals. More than half of the affectees of the Expressway are not living in the river bed or in areas prone to flooding. They are simply being relocated because their homes and businesses are in the Expressway alignment. For rehabilitating those who are living in the river bed or the flood zone, an Expressway is not required. In addition, the building of the Expressway does not solve the major environmental problems of the city or of the areas it passes through. These problems can only be solved by the relocation of the major wholesale markets and congested informal industrial activity and warehousing in the inner city. On the other hand, the curtailing of the Northern Bypass will result in a lesser area being opened for Karachi’s future development and will increase congestion at Karachi’s main exit point. Also, the building of the Expressway and the demolition of settlements along it would introduce landuse changes along the corridor for which no planning has been done and for which no infrastructure exists.

Concern – Two: Environmental Issues

If the Expressway is going to be used for heavy port related traffic, it will cause severe environmental pollution and hence further degradation along the already densely polluted Lyari Corridor. This degradation will lead to down market landuse changes and the expansion of industrial, storage and transport related activities which are inappropriate and should be shifted from the inner city. On the other hand, if the Expressway is to be used only for intra-city traffic, a different sort of landuse change will occur. In this case, there will be a sharp increase in land values and will lead to the eviction of the remaining old settlements along the corridor. The residents of the trans-Lyari area are aware and afraid of this. In addition, the Expressway is designed as a roller coaster along the river banks. Its height varies from eight feet to twenty-seven feet above the banks. As such it will consist of two wall on either side of the river (dividing further an already divided city) with twelve gates (where the existing bridges are) linking it. Therefore, in social and aesthetic terms it is also undesirable.

Concern – Three: Destruction Of Homes And Businesses

According to government estimates, 13,531 housing units, 1,222 commercial and manufacturing units and 58 mosques, churches, graveyards and temples will be demolished. However, according to the URC and community surveys, the number of housing units being demolished is 25,400 and the number of commercial and manufacturing units being destroyed is around 8,000. As a result of these demolitions, the schooling of 26,000 students will be discontinued and about 40,000 wage earners will lose their jobs1. Almost all these persons work in the commercial and manufacturing units that are being demolished. At a modest estimate, residents and local government have invested five billion Rupees in building homes, schools, social sector facilities and in acquiring legal infrastructure connections (water, electricity, telephone, gas). Less than half of the affectees of the Expressway live within the flood plain as identified by the WAPDA Study of 1978 and as such there is no justification for shifting them2.

Concern – Four: The Expressway Violates State Laws and Government Commitments

The government of Pakistan is a signatory to the Global Plan of Action of UN Habitat- II, 1996. The plan is against forced evictions and demolitions. Section 12 of the Pakistan Environmental Act 1997 binds any proponent of a project to submit an environmental impact assessment when a project is likely to cause an adverse environmental affect and on the basis of this seek approval (or modification of the Plan) from the relevant federal authority. This has not being done in the case of the Lyari Expressway. Again, land can only be acquired from leased settlements and notified katchi abadi through the Land Acquisition Act and its well laid out procedures. These procedures have not been followed.

Concern – Five: The Resettlement Plan Is Flawed

The Resettlement Plan is not an integral part of the Project. The alignment of the Expressway has been determined not by on-site surveys but through satellite imagery. As such, the affected houses have also been determined through satellite imagery. When actual demarcation of the alignment takes place (as it does in bits and pieces), major differences between on-site and satellite imagery details surface. In addition, number of households in different buildings, many of them multi-storied and housing a number of families cannot be determined. Similarly, the difference between residential, commercial and industrial buildings cannot be determined either through the satellite survey. The Resettlement Plan also does not differentiate between old villages, leased settlements and informal occupation of land for residential purposes3. The commercial and manufacturing units that provide direct employment to about 40,000 wage earners are being demolished without compensation or support for relocation. Under law it is obligatory for the concerned authority to publish a notification of the affected people but no listing was available when the project was initiated and even now such a list does not exist. As survey for listing is carried out in bits and pieces, and areas for demolition are periodically determined, immense mental stress is caused to the affected families as they do not know weather they will be shifted or not. These periodical listing are carried out with the involvement of councillors, nazims and government officials but without consultation with community organisations and groups. Hence, they lack transparency and have promoted large scale corruption in the allotment of plots and in the compensation process. To make matters worse these listings are made available only three or four days prior to demolition. In addition, 50,000 Rupees compensation is not enough to build a home. Surveys show that this sum is consumed in transportation to the distant relocation site and/or in hiring a place to survive between demolition and considering the construction of a house. Surveys also show that the majority of people who have been given allotments have not built their homes and while retaining their plots, they have hired accommodation nearer to their traditional places of work4. The relocation sites will take well over twenty years to develop the social and physical infrastructure that had been acquired in most of the affected Lyari Corridor settlements. Surveys show that as a result of relocation, there has been an increase in unemployment (especially of women); discontinuation of schooling for children; exorbitant cost and time increases in commuting to and from work; unaffordable costs of house construction; an end to community support systems which had been built over the years; and a sense of insecurity especially among women and children when men go away for work5.

Concern – Six: Absence Of Consultation

Lyari Expressway project at the conceptual stage should have been presented for consultation with the affected communities, concerned professionals, relevant academic institutions, NGOs and other civil society organisations. All attempts made by interest groups in initiating a meaningful dialogue with the NHA or with the district and provincial establishments have failed although many promises to initiate these dialogues have been made by the City Government. Such consultations are all the more important since Karachi has a long list of failed development projects which have damaged the city. Professionals, NGOs and concerned citizens had correctly pointed out the shortcomings of these projects, and offered viable alternatives when their details were published in the press6. During periods of military rule, such concerns were largely ignored. In addition, the Lyari Expressway Project has not been approved, or even discussed, by the national and provincial assemblies or by the City Council.

  1. URC and com­mu­nity joint esti­mates quoted in news­pa­per arti­cles and URC reports
  2. Ibid
  3. The list of set­tle­ments below con­tain about 85 per cent of the affectees: • Old vil­lages: Hasan Aulia, Ilyas Goth, Angara Goth, Gauharabad, Jahanabad; • Reg­u­larised katchi abadi and planned areas: Mian­wali Colony, Liaquatabad, PIB Colony, Gharib Nawaz Colony, Mus­limabad, Farooqabad; • Noti­fied abadis marked for reg­u­lar­i­sa­tion: Haji Murad Goth, Mus­limabad, Mad­ina Colony; • Squat­ter colonies in the river bed: Peo­ples Colony, Moham­madi Lane, Iqbal Colony.
  4. URC mon­i­tor­ing sur­veys, July 2003; • URC: Liveli­hood Sub­sti­tu­tion: Sur­veys car­ried out for an ongo­ing joint URC/WEDC research, Feb­ru­ary 2004; • Ashish Toseef, Fatimah Rashid, Saima Ismail; The Ratio­nale Behind Gov­ern­ment Tak­ings: A case study of the Lyari Express­way, LUMS unpub­lished report, 2003
  5. Ibid
  6. These projects include: i) The Metro­villes of the KDA, 1975; ii) The Lines Area Rede­vel­op­ment Project 1983 onwards; iii) The ADB funded the Greater Karachi Sewage Plan; iv) ADB funded Bal­dia Sewage Project 1996; v) The Karachi Mass Tran­sit Project Cor­ri­dor 1; and vi) The Gul­shan Flyovers.

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