RE-LOCATING AUTO-WORKSHOPS

Karachi needs technical centres

By MUHAMMAD BASHIR CHAUDHRY
Mar 15 - 21, 2004

Cities, towns and even villages now witness plenty of motorcycles, cars, vans, buses and trucks as modern means of transport for people, animals or goods. The number of these vehicles keeps growing every year in pace with the economic development in the country. However, this increase is closely followed by mushroom growth of repair shops commonly known as auto-workshops or garages. These workshops make or keep the vehicles road-worthy by providing services such as routine repairs and maintenance or urgent repair in emergencies when the vehicles breakdown due to engine or electrical faults or the major repairs when the vehicles suffer structural damage due to accidents. The workshops generally offer a dirty look due to spilling of used engine or kerosene oil and scattering of consumables or worn-out parts. Near these auto-workshops, traffic jams are common due to parking of the vehicles alongside the roads, leaving little space for the smooth flow of traffic. The comings and goings of the smoke-emitting vehicles at odd hours to the auto-workshops many of which are in residential areas inconvenience for the residents. The noise emitted in the actual repair is in addition. The residents are exposed to unpleasant noise and other inconveniences, mostly during day but in some places at night as well.

The local authorities generally issue permits for setting up and operation of the auto and other workshops. However, the way the operations are actually carried out to the inconveniences of people, one wonders if most of the workshops were not violating the prescribed conditions by the city government. The residents feel that despite tall claims by the administration about controlling the environmental pollution, there seems no plan to control the nuisance caused by the auto and other workshops and thus save the people from health hazards. As no improvement is taking place despite protests, the exasperated residents living around workshops feel the authorities were either helpless against these auto-workshop owners or some of them were in league with the workshop owners. The issue is important as it has serious physical and mental health implications for the residents. The city government of Karachi is urged to bring discipline in the location of these workshops and their operations. The following suggestions are offered in this context.

Karachi is a sprawling city and is still growing in every direction. The authorities might provide sufficient land for essential services including workshops in all suburban areas presently under development. Proper terminuses might be set up in these localities for the buses, vans, taxis for transporting people as well as goods to and from the old city areas mostly housing commercial establishments, godown and government offices. The terminuses for trucks, buses, vans and taxis including repair workshops and garages might be developed on commercial basis. Parking of large vehicles particularly at night might be at the specified parking lots or the terminuses where repair facilities would also be made available. Adequate space might also be provided for setting up of technical trade centres to house different repair shops as well as small manufacturing facilities for household durables made of wood, iron bars, etc. and repair thereof. New areas must be planned properly and operation of workshops in the residential areas might be discouraged. Policy might also be reviewed regarding commercial areas where such workshops are being run on the ground level and in the adjoining open plots. First and second floor are mostly living quarters. Commercial areas should generally on the ground floor have shops selling various products or offices offering services but noisy repair or auto-workshops should be located elsewhere.

The government has designated certain open areas as terminus for the inter-city or intra-city buses. Similar is generally the case for trucks and other modes of transport. It is felt that as the number of terminuses is small as compared to the enormous need, resultantly many auto-workshops and garages have sprung up in the residential areas, offering repair facilities. The residents are made to suffer by the noisy repairs and maintenance almost round-the-clock. This has virtually turned the residential areas into some sort of small industry areas. All the existing terminuses as well as the new terminuses must have adequate space for various purposes and be equipped with necessary facilities for round-the-clock repair of the vehicles, supported by auto-part shops for supplying needed spares or parts. The building should be made self-contained by making arrangements for food and tea, saying of prayers, and clean toilets for washing purposes. Roads and open areas within the limits of the terminuses must be as good as the highways and all pot-holes must be filled up. This would facilitate smooth movement of people as well as the vehicles. This way the terminuses would become more useful to the vehicle drivers as well as owners of different repair shops. The proper development of the terminuses would also create employment opportunities for many people.

It is not enough to set up terminuses for buses, taxis and trucks. These terminuses should be located away from the residential areas and should also be operated properly. In the city areas where bus or truck terminuses have been established improperly, the residents of the areas also suffer. The drivers of buses and trucks block the main roads by parking their vehicles for hours and sometimes getting the repairs done in that fashion. The buses start honking and emitting smoke early in the morning and continue till late in the night, posing great health hazards to people, more to the residents of the area. The repair-shops/workshops must be within the four walls of the terminuses and all repairs and parking should be within the boundary of the terminus. The flow on the main road should always stay smooth and there should be no cause of inconvenience to other commuters.

Karachi is a metropolitan city with population nearing 14 million people. There are no underground railways like in other mega cities. Therefore, all movement of men and materials has to be done through surface transport. This places extra load on the roads which are not of adequate width or quality and the useable surface of which is reduced by road-side auto-workshops as well as the inter-city buses and trucks which are parked there either due to lack of terminuses or the drivers do not bother to avail the facilities at the nearby terminus. The situation in many localities has worsened because the upcountry transporters offering services to cities in the interior of Sindh, the Punjab, NWFP and Balochistan, have converted the whole areas into big terminuses. Because of more transport activity, a mushroom growth of auto-workshops and garages has taken place in the residential areas. In certain localities long-distance bus operators have occupied even the footpaths by putting tables and chairs there, compelling the pedestrians to use the main road, exposing them to serious accidents. The roads and the footpaths need to be fully restored to the road-users and the pedestrians respectively and the traffic flow has to be managed better. The city administration has to cope with the situation by taking policy as well as administrative measures in a planned way.

The residents of almost all towns/localities in Karachi particularly areas other than Defense Housing Authority (DHA) are inconvenienced due to operation of different workshops/repair-shops, often in the residential areas. It is acknowledged that these workshops and garages provide essential repair and other facilities to the people but to save the residents from noise and other nuisance there is need to re-locate these workshops in planned terminuses or technical trade centres specially built for the purpose. The efforts of the provincial and the city governments to clean and beautify the city cannot be fully fruitful unless all the workshops generating noise and other inconveniences are relocated. The city government might review the traffic load within the city as well as for the inter-city movement of vehicles and on that basis rationalize the location, number and organisation of various terminuses as well as technical centres for the workshops. There are reports that both Karachi and Lahore are in the initial stages for setting up of an inter-city terminus. Such efforts need to be re-doubled to discipline the traffic, reduce congestion on roads and to provide better facilities to the commuters.

All vehicle owners and drivers need repair facilities preferably within a radius of say half a kilometer for emergency or for more extensive repairs. It is understood that existing auto-repair workshops or other essential workshops including small manufacturing facilities are not to be taken outside the city limits. All these facilities need to be properly re-located within the city so that repair and maintenance of vehicles is carried out without causing inconvenience to the resident of the areas or the passers-bys on the roads. The appropriate solution for this is through the building of technical trade centres providing all related services to the vehicles in one central location where enough of working as well as parking space is also made available. The relocation would better be in a phased manner in line with the actual construction of the technical centres and provisions of all required utilities.

Due to absence of underground railways in Karachi and the closure of the Karachi Circular Railways, it is but natural that the number of motor vehicles would be extra large in keeping with the demand. More vehicles need more auto-workshops and therefore more number of technical centres would be required for relocation. It would not be easy to take-up the financing and construction of a large number of technical centres in one go. Clear-cut priorities might have to be devised on the basis of actual survey of the workshops and traffic congestion in different localities. The setting-up of these technical trade centres could be expedited if private sector is associated for their construction and operation. The banks and leasing companies are expected to grab the business opportunities and they could finance the construction if the projects were sponsored by the city government independently or in association with the private sector. Open plots owned by the city government at appropriate locations can be earmarked for this purpose. This should ultimately become a source of regular income to the city government. The repair shop owners in each area may be allowed to buy the shops in these centres or rent them to be able to continue their existing trade. The workshops presently causing inconvenience to the residents, their licenses might not be renewed if they do not agree to relocate in the trade centres where constructed and purpose-built facilities are already available. The trade centres have the potential to clean the city and to provide the residents with peaceful atmosphere day and night. Other cities in the country should also take note and properly plan location of technical centres for auto-workshops and the terminuses for different means of transport.