KARACHI: Prime Minister Imran Khan announced on Saturday an ambitious Rs162 billion package from the federal government for the development of Karachi, and said that his government had decided to allow construction of high-rise buildings in the metropolis in an effort to save the remaining green areas.
In the same breath, he criticised the Pakistan Peoples Party for “ignoring” the urban areas despite ruling the province for a third consecutive term.
Presiding over a meeting of the Karachi Transformation Committee at Governor’s House, the prime minister sought details and progress of the Centre-funded projects in Karachi and issued directives for their early completion.
18 mega projects
The meeting later announced 18 mega projects for the city, including an interest-free loan system for transporters to bring 500 buses on the city roads over the next six years.
The PM also announced multiple transport projects for Karachi, pledging Rs2bn funding from the Centre. The other key projects included the city’s sewerage system.
Hints at encouraging vertical expansion of the city, slams the PPP
“We are bringing in projects for the supply of clean water and a good transport system to the city,” said the prime minister.
“Karachi is the country’s business capital, but it’s unfortunate that the governments here never took care of this megacity. We as the federal government are worried about the current state of the city. It needs to be fixed immediately and at a faster pace.”
The Karachi package included Rs8bn for the Green Line BRT project. During the meeting, PM Khan issued directives for the Karachi Circular Railway’s revival, asking the authorities concerned to approach the Japan International Cooperation Agency for assistance in that regard.
Bagh Ibne Qasim
Later, the PM inaugurated the newly-revived Bagh Ibne Qasim, said to be the country’s biggest park, spread over 130 acres.
He appreciated efforts of Karachi Mayor Wasim Akhtar for restoring the mega recreational facility in the city. “I am amazed to see this park. Wasim Akhtar has done commendable work by restoring this park,” the prime minister said.
“We need to save green areas in Karachi and there should be grounds here for children to play.” He, however, lamented the fast-disappearing greenery in Karachi.
“Parks have been disappearing in the city,” he said while addressing the inauguration ceremony. “If you take an aerial view of the city, it looks like a concrete jungle. We need to plant trees and bring back greenery which we have lost.”
He said that forest land in Sindh and Punjab had been encroached upon and the business entities had occupied it in the name of leases.
“We need to save green areas in the cities so our future generations can be given a good environment. We owe them a better place to live,” said the prime minister.
He said it had been decided to encourage more vertical buildings in the cities to prevent them from expanding and taking over land that could be used for tree plantation.
Mr Khan said that constructions on the remaining open places where trees could be planted should be stopped immediately to make cities greener. The prime minister said that the target of 10 billion trees in the next five years would also include planting of more trees in Karachi and other cities of Sindh.
He said that he had asked his adviser on climate change to take the city and provincial governments on board to achieve the target of 10 billion trees.
Mayor Akhtar thanked the prime minister for opening the iconic park. He said that all efforts would be made to make the city green.
Published in Dawn, March 31st, 2019