CONFUSION worse confounded. That’s what Bahria Town’s Clifton project in Karachi has become since the Sindh High Court ordered that construction be stopped on the site pending the submission of an Environmental Impact Assessment report by the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation, the overseeing authority. That was in late April, and since then until now, the site remains in a shambles, impeding traffic in a highly frequented area, posing a hazard to vehicles and pedestrians alike, and adversely impacting commercial establishments in the vicinity. The Rs1.8bn mega project, comprising one flyover and two underpasses, was questionable to begin with, notwithstanding grandiose announcements by the Bahria Town construction company that it was a ‘gift’ to the people of Karachi. For one, it was foisted on the hapless residents overnight without even obtaining the requisite NOC from the Sindh Environmental Protection Agency despite its location in a part of town with significant heritage landmarks, including an ancient Hindu temple, colonial structures and the much-venerated Abdullah Shah Ghazi mazar. For another, the main impetus for its construction appeared to be entirely self-serving in light of the Bahria Town Icon Tower high-rise at the same locale.
However, regardless of the merits or otherwise of the project, the reality is that the monsoons are around the corner and as the Bahria Town counsel has itself pointed out, no doubt with ‘public welfare’ in mind, the onset of rains would create manifold problems and exacerbate the risk to life and limb, as well as to the structures in the immediate vicinity. One could posit that Bahria Town and KMC have cleverly presented the public with a fait accompli, but the issue must be swiftly resolved. Either the project should be allowed to proceed to its logical conclusion or the construction company ordered to restore the site to its original condition. It is mindboggling that a public thoroughfare can be dug up in Pakistan’s largest city and the area left in chaos while the issue is dragged through the courts.
Published in Dawn, July 14th, 2014