KARACHI: In one of its major “successes”, the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation has moved close to clearing the 28-kilometre-long Gujjar Nala, removing more than 4,000 structures raised on the encroached land for as long as the past 50 years, officials and sources said on Sunday. The officials believed that it would help streamline the sewerage system in the densely-populated district of the city and smoothen the longest storm-water drain of the metropolis.
The authorities claim to have cleared a more than 24-km stretch of the Gujjar Nala during the past few months after the KMC’s anti-encroachment wing launched the drive under directives from chief minister Syed Murad Ali Shah. And it may not be a surprise for many, the structures bulldozed during the drive included a variety of facilities that ranged from cattle pens to multistorey buildings, mosques to schools and from offices of political parties to factories.
“More than 4,000 structures have been removed during our operation on Gujjar Nala,” the KMC’s director of the anti-encroachment wing, Mazhar Khan, told Dawn. “Among these razed structures, only fewer than 100 were leased. Those leased structures would definitely be compensated for but others would not get anything as they were occupying the land illegally that was hindering the city’s key sewerage system.”
‘More than 4,000 structures have been removed during our operation'
The operation against illegal structures on the Gujjar Nala was launched over a year ago that initially prompted a strong reaction from the residents and those occupying land for commercial use.
The situation worsened when a mother and her three-and-half-year-old daughter drowned when the KMC demolished their house along the drain in the Gulberg area. While the mother was rescued, the body of her daughter could not be retrieved despite repeated attempts.
During the first few days of the operation, a large number of area residents and shopkeepers protested against the operation, blocking traffic on the main road along the Nala in different areas, but the situation gradually became normal when the authorities showed determination on the back of law enforcement agencies, including police and Rangers.
Before draining into the Arabian Sea, the Gujjar Nala flows through the northeast to the centre of the city and merges with the Lyari river. For Karachiite, the massive illegal structures along the drain were an eyesore. But the civic agencies’ anti-encroachment operations launched from time to time could not achieve success due to political and law and order comprises.
“After removing encroachments from the entire Gujjar Nala in the next few weeks, we have to complete the project by June 2017,” said Mr Khan of the KMC’s anti-encroachment wing.
“The project includes building of a 20-foot-wide road on both sides of the Nala keeping the width of the drain at 40 feet throughout. Once the encroachments are removed, we will begin streamlining the drain size to keep it 40 feet throughout its way and then the roads on both sides will be built.”
He said in houses near Liaquatabad residents claimed that they had been living since the mid-1960s, when the encroachments on Gujjar Nala started to appear, making it a more than half a century old practice.
“Once the project is completed by June 2017, it will benefit some 5.7 million people in the central district and more than one and half in west. So we can safely claim that it would be the recovery of sewerage and storm-water drain for some seven million people of Karachi,” he added.
Published in Dawn, November 21st, 2016