KARACHI: Karachi Commissioner Iftikhar Shallwani and Railways official Syed Mazhar Ali Shah have claimed that an 8.5-kilometre portion of the over 40km-long tracks of the Karachi Circular Railway (KCR) — from City Railway Station to Baldia Town — has been cleared of all encroachments and is good to go.
They said this during a test run of the said portion of the KCR tracks on Saturday.
Although there are still plenty of areas with heaps of trash and reeking putrid water with people, children and animals crossing the tracks here and there, all wild plantation, branches and makeshift structures, called “soft” encroachments, on and along 50 feet on either side of the track have been cleared.
Mr Shallwani and Mr Shah travelled the distance themselves on a rail trolley along with a media team.
Of the over 40km-long KCR tracks, ‘soft’ encroachments have been removed along 8.5km tracks; resettlement of affected persons to take one year
Briefing journalists, the commissioner said that they were glad to say that the work was going on according to plan and on schedule.
“The work that we have taken on in compliance with the orders of the Supreme Court and with the cooperation of Pakistan Railways and under the supervision of the DIG Railways Police is going well,” he said.
The Railways official also said that it was all possible thanks to the teamwork of the Railways administration, the commissioner office and the Railways police, which had been working together with a single aim — restoration of the KCR.
“We started our work soon after the Supreme Court’s orders of May 9, after meeting on May 14 to discuss our strategy. It is a jointly coordinated serious effort to make the track functional,” he said.
Removal of concrete encroachments to take time
To a question about the concrete encroachments along or over the lines, Commissioner Shallwani said that they already cleared the “soft” encroachments but the concrete ones will take longer.
“We also cleared the huts and shops including the Gilani furniture market that was built on the tracks in Gulshan-i-Iqbal,” he said. “As for the concrete houses built too near along the tracks, well the people there will first have to be rehabilitated. The resettlement process is expected to take about one year.”
To another question having to do with putting up fencing along the lines to keep the people and animals off the track after the KCR becomes operational, the commissioner said that was also being looked into but it was a Sindh government project.
About how much area they would be clearing next, Mr Shah of the Railways said their focus now lay on the area starting from Tower to Nazimabad and covering the Drigh Road tracks.
“That is the main KCR route. We are to clear district East, district West and district South to make the KCR operational. Then in the next phase, we will turn our attention towards the main line from Karachi to Peshawar,” he said.
He added that while they were inspecting the tracks around City Station, Mauripur, Machhar Colony and Baldia, the clean-up operation was still under way in district East as most of district Central had also been cleared.
Published in Dawn, May 19th, 2019