KARACHI MASS TRANSIT SYSTEM

CITY NEEDS MULTIMODAL TRANSPORT SYSTEM

SHABBIR H. KAZMI
July 06 - 12, 2009

Karachi is not only the hub of economic activities of the country but also has a population now touching about 20 million. It has an area and population, which are more than the size of many countries. In fact it has emerged very fast and over the years city planners have not been able to even it growth what to talk about developing infrastructure. Ever since Karachi is managed by the CDGK, extensive development work has been undertaken costing billion of rupees but it is not sufficient. Construction of roads, flyovers, and underpasses has smoothened traffic flow but public transport system remains in shamble.

It may not be wrong to say that the 7th largest city of the world is almost devoid of a public transport system. The unplanned and mushroom growth of the city has resulted in chokepoints hindering smooth flow of traffic. However, encroachment on main arteries, link, and service roads often create chaotic situation. On top of all virtually no financing facility for public transport has resulted in obsolete public transport, often causing fatal accidents resulting in death of nearly a dozen people every day.

Failure of the provincial government in managing public transport has led to the development of transport mafia, which is fully supported by the local police. Every year billions of rupees are collected by the traffic police, provincial and city transport authorities, motor registration wing and people responsible for awarding fitness certificate. At times isolated efforts have been made by every time transport mafia has proved to be stronger and responsible for sabotaging the efforts be it 'Green Buses Project' or 'Metro'.

It may not be wrong to say that the public representatives had given only lip service rather than coming up with any sustainable solution. Except intermittent announcements that the government is serious in reviving 'circular railway' nothing concrete has materialized as yet. While some of the experts are soliciting this project, many do not subscribe, simply because in the amount required to refurbish the highly depleted system, a new and multimode system can be implemented. The system introduced decades back has been rendered unserviceable and redundant, mainly because of mushroom growth of the city.

Before embarking upon any plan it is necessary to study the city rather minutely to understand movement of people in the mornings and evenings, location of residential areas and workplaces i.e. ports, industries, commercial establishments and main markets. Most of the people go towards Merewether Tower from all the areas and the key industrial areas, SITE, Landhi and Korangi, though industries have also been in other areas. Therefore, it may not be wrong to say that people have to travel in certain directions in the mornings and complete the return journey in the evenings. This demands ensuring availability of transport facilities in the peak hours and also facilitating smooth traffic flow.

Almost all the roads are packed with motorcycles, minibuses and cars. In fact in the absence of any respectable public transport people are forced to use their vehicles, most of the time one could see only one person traveling on a vehicle. Experts are of the view that if dependable, affordable and comfortable public transport system is introduced in the city most of the vehicles will go off road. This will not only help in smooth flow of traffic but parking issue will not be there. On top of this the country will save millions of dollars being spent on import of motor gasoline and diesel and CNG used in cars could be diverted to industries.

One of the proposed solutions is introduction of CNG operated buses. However, the CDGK should abstain from operating buses. It is suggested that companies with private-public partnership should be established where CDGK provides part of the paid up capital and vehicles are financed by a syndicate of commercial banks. These banks should also be made equity participants but management of the company should comprise of professionals.

It is also suggested that instead on importing CNG operated buses, local assemblers should be encouraged to supply the vehicles. Since the number of buses required for Karachi is estimated above 1000 to begin with, import of CKD kits should be declared duty free, this was done when 'Yellow Cab' scheme was introduced in nineties. Local assemblers have ample capacity and these buses could be introduced under a phased program.

Having said this, it is also necessary to point out that the CNG outlets operating in the city are not equipped to fill the tanks of buses. Therefore, in the meantime permission should be granted for the establishment of dedicated outlets to cater to the needs of new type of customers.

It is also recommended that assemblers should be asked to deliver long chases vehicles capable of carrying up to 150 passengers. To ensure smooth playing of these buses encroachments should also be removed from the roads. Since these vehicles will pass though areas falling in the jurisdiction of other civic agencies all must cooperate in the best possible manner.

In the meantime, feasibility study should also be conducted to establish and operate monorail, as and where possible. However, it must be kept in mind that most probably operating CNG buses provides the best solution. But in the mean time feasibility study should also be undertaken to establish and operate monorail system in the country.

BABY ELEPHANTS

The four baby elephants imported from Tanzania currently have become the center of attention of people in general and children in particular as the induction of elephants after a lapse of many years to Karachi Zoo and Safari Park.

A large number of citizens mostly kids and women visiting Safari park to watch them with great enthusiasm. The City District Government Karachi had imported four baby elephants from the tropical country of Tanzania and they were presently housed in temporarily sheds in Safari park.

Earlier a panel of veterinary experts had examined them and certified them to be strong enough to withstand the pressure of the joyous visitors. District Officer Safari Park Raza Abbas Rizvi has said that citizens can see baby elephants at Safari Park daily from 6 to 8pm.