KARACHI: As the federal government had given another deadline for opening of the Green Line bus rapid transit system (BRTS) project in July-August, any relief in the transport sector seems a distant dream for Karachiites who have been waiting for the project’s completion ever since its groundbreaking was performed by former prime minister Nawaz Sharif on Feb 16, 2016.
The recent announcement came from Federal Minister for Planning and Development Asad Umar, who earlier this month had said the prototype for a bus for the Green Line project would be completed by March and delivery of the buses would begin from June. He had expressed the hope that Green Line would start functioning by July-August.
However, shifting deadlines are not new for the people of Karachi who badly need a proper mass transit system in their city.
Despite fresh assurances, questions hover over the project five years on.
Karachi’s major public transport project, which was estimated to be completed by the end of 2017, keeps getting new deadlines. Since the launch of the scheme, the battered roads on either side of the route have turned into a great source of nuisance for the commuters and for the shopkeepers doing their businesses.
Asad Umar claims the project will start functioning in July-August
In February 2016, then prime minister Nawaz Sharif had inaugurated work on the Rs16.85 billion federal government-funded bus project by performing the groundbreaking. Later, the project was extended by another 10 kilometres as initially sought by the Sindh government and the estimated cost crossed the figure of Rs24bn.
Starting from Powerhouse Chowrangi in Surjani Town, the bus service was to terminate at Merewether Tower after passing through Nagan Chowrangi, North Nazimabad, Nazimabad and Gurumandir, with more than 20 stations on its route to cater to 300,000 passengers on a daily basis.
At a sanitary ware market near Nazimabad Chowrangi, several traders had moved their shops during the construction of the project which left behind mounds of rubble.
Sajid Naeem said he preferred to shut his shop in 2017 and moved to a rented space nearby, thinking he would move back shortly.
“But it took almost three years,” he said. “I incurred losses and bore extra cost to run my business. It is so disappointing that the cities like Lahore, Rawalpindi, Multan and Peshawar are serving their people much better transport facility than this commercial capital [Karachi] of the country.”
The people of Karachi know the misery the lack of a comprehensive public transport system in their city causes. These miseries have been chronicled in a 2015 report by renowned city planner Arif Hasan with Mansoor Raza and the Urban Resource Centre.
Titled Karachi: The Transport Crisis, it highlights the sorry state of the public transport sector of the country’s largest city, which is on the verge of collapse due to a history of failure, negligence, inefficiency and lack of follow-through in both government and public-private partnership projects.
Similar facts were mirrored in a 2015 report of the DIG-Traffic which revealed that more than 50 per cent buses, minibuses and coaches in the city had disappeared from roads with some 200 routes being shrunk to only 80 over the past decade mainly due to an “increase in fuel prices and government apathy”.
Published in Dawn, February 28th, 2021