HANGING FATE OF LYARI EXPRESSWAY
TARIQ AHMED SAEEDI (firstname.lastname@example.org)
July 06 - 12, 2009
Crossing beyond scheduled deadlines of completion is a common characteristic of development projects being carried out around the country. Lack of funds has been added to the cart of excuses government officials used to present to justify delay, fortunately, during the current federal government strapped of public development funds. While the scarcity of funds is really hampering successful finale of development projects nowadays, yet the excuse cannot atone for lethargy that can safely be linked with the projects undertaken directly by the federal government.
Lyari Expressway is one such federally supervised project that has surpassed its completion deadline not once but many a time and it witnessed cost revision concordantly in this effect. The project has been completed partially, but as the centre has tightened strings of its purse, and is not realising funds, further construction is moving with snail pace. That might be one of the reasons for why would LEW skip again February 2010 ñ a revised deadline of project completion. However, the prime reason is unavailability of right of way that has diametrically halted work on some portion of the northbound track, according to the project director.
Major (R) Syed Ahmed says that had Sindh government provided ROW in July, we would have completed LEW by Feb 2010. "It seems impossible now that we can meet the deadline," he surmised in an interview.
He appealed government to provide National Highway Authority (NHA) with ROW to enable the contractor to finish remaining works. According to him, 99 percent construction on southbound has been completed while northbound is left up with 58 percent work. The main hindrance is that right of way comprises of areas inhabited by a large population. He says the aggregate area spreads over about 5.7 kilometres. The areas include Hasan Olya, Dhobi Goth, Mianwali colony, and Teenhatti. Located on and around riverbeds these areas are reminiscent of ghettos where people are living without proper health, education, and other basic public utilities.
He says sixty percent houses in these areas are leased and rest is interspersed with encroachments. The Director finds presence of political influence and mafia that is inhibiting recovery of right of way, which is not only important for northbound but also for southbound. "If we get a certain small portion, at least southbound track will be fully functional." One entry point is not opened. Lyari Expressway is a unique project, as it needs a massive relocation of families of around 33,000, living on and around the strips of land on which two highways, connecting through signal free corridors main Superhighway with Mauripur, are proposed.
Government has given a 80 square yards plot in newly developed suburbs and Rs50,000 to each family. This also led to encroachments by people who were not genuine residents. Unfortunately, there is no deliberation to ascertain genuineness of habitants, the Director said. Since last government was not stopping funds, ROW was cleared for construction after compensation to families, but some other issues have compounded right now scarcity of funds.
Anwar Lashari, Resident Engineer of Engineering Associates, which is the architecture of LEW, said despite slow payments from NHA they were working. For him too, the paucity of fund is not hobbling the project as unavailability of ROW is.
BYPASSES IN RETROSPECTION
There is a dire need of efficient traffic management in Karachi. Lessening burden of heavy traffics on intra-city routes and traffic congestion requires expansion of present road networks and designing of alternative ways. Over the years, although different governments conceived transport management projects for the city, these projects could not be materialized due to various reasons.
Construction of northern and southern bypasses is not a resolution of this century, but it was planned several times during 1975 up to 2000. First time, Karachi Master Plan 1975-85 included northern and southern bypasses to divert traffic loads of upcountry from the city, but the idea was scrapped. The proposed routes were variants of present day's northern bypass and LEW. Disastrous flood of 1977 that caused heavy death toll of mostly inhabitants of riverbeds - past record estimated over 300 - once again triggered the interest of urban planners in relocating population living on riverbeds and in making use of rangeland later. However, soon that interest died down.
In 1986, Lyari Expressway project came under limelight again, but it could not be implemented. Heavy downpour in 1993 suggested displacements of population from Lyari River and ground making for the project to take off, but the fate of LEW remained undecided. Under former president Musharaf rule, the LEW project was also reverberated in 2000 before it finally broke ground in 2002. Initially in 2000, it seemed that Karachi Port Trust would be assigned the construction of LEW, which it planned from Mauripur to toll plaza on superhighway, but the task was handed over to NHA. The latter federal government agency entered in to a contract with Frontier Works Organization to construct the elevated highway of combined 32 kilometres with almost equal distance of southbound and northbound roads of 16 kilometres each having four lanes. Its southbound track has entry and exit, intersections, at Shorab Goth, Sir Shah Suleman road, Mangophir (graden). LEW project cost was revised to Rs10 billion from Rs 5 billion. Of that, Rs2billion was earmarked for resettlements. The completion deadline was mid-2007 that was revised to December 2009 and is still being revised. Daily an average 5,000 vehicles ply on southbound track. Northern Bypass is a substitute of LEW, however, it is a suitable channel for heavy traffic directing from upcountry towards Mauripur.
Layri Expressway is a vital artery for logistic and traffic flows coming from upcountry as well as moving within the metropolis as it makes possible just-in-time travelling from main superhighway to Mauripur, optimizing fuel consumption in vehicles. LEW is a unique development as it involves human factor more than any other comparable project by carrying along a massive resettlements, which have become a very obstruction in its completion and addition of a new intersection on Shersha. Completion of LEW as per revised deadline heavily depends on the compensation by the government to inhabitants and enforcement of state writ untainted of political cronyism to root out encroachments. The prospect of getting ROW is glimmer for Anwar Lashari whilst the ground realities are too bearing him out.