KARACHI, Feb 2: Lack of awareness and corruption are two major factors responsible for public transport problems in Karachi, speakers at a seminar said on Thursday.

The workshop on “Solution to Our Public Transport Problems” was organized by the Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF) at its library.

The Deputy Inspector-General Traffic, Karachi, Falak Khursheed, speaking then, said his department was the chief target of criticism from every corner regarding traffic problems, maintaining that his department lacked the required manpower and resources to fully cope with all traffic problems of the city.

He said some 1,200 traffic police officials worked daily in two shifts in four zones, and on the average, every traffic cop in Karachi had to man a road distance of 19 km and supervise 413 vehicles, daily.

He lamented that all over the world, a road-crossing with a working traffic signal did not need the deployment of a traffic cop, but here people did not obey traffic signal lights and a traffic sergeant had to be posted on every road crossing with a traffic signal to control the traffic manually.

Khursheed said that without raising the general awareness of the public regarding obeying traffic rules, nothing could be done in this regard.

He said the issuance of traffic routes to public transport was the responsibility of the regional traffic authority (RTA). The traffic police had no representation in the RTA in the past, he said, adding that now that it was given representation, it could, however, do nothing with public transport routes issued in the past.

He said on average, the serviceable age of a public transport bus was 20 years, but in Karachi even 35-year-old buses were still plying on roads. He said he favoured restricting the usable age of buses to just 10 years.

Regarding the congestion of traffic, he said due to the liberal policy of leasing companies some 400,000 new vehicles had been registered in the city in just the past three and half years.

He said the city government should decide about the fate of the Mass Transit System soon, so that work on the vital project could start.

To a question regarding the corruption of traffic cops accused of letting go violator minibuses and other vehicles after taking bribes of Rs10 to Rs20, he said that it was the public who “gave” bribes to the traffic cops and “if the citizens stopped giving them (bribes) this matter can be easily resolved”.

However, Syed Irshad Bukhari, President of the Bus Owners Association and Karachi Transport Ittehad, was more open. He said it was a bitter fact that drivers and conductors gave bribes to the traffic police, who took it winningly.

Bukhari said the salaries of traffic police should be raised to discourage them from indulging in corruption, quoting the example of the motorway police.

He said after empowering traffic cops with ticket-issuing power, their teeth had been “sharpened” further.

He lamented that despite a fall in fuel prices in the international markets, no such relief was given to the people of Pakistan. He said there was no check on the price of spare parts.

He said there was not even a single bus terminus for some 300 routes of public transport in Karachi.

He said in the past, the Sindh government had assured them that a raise of Rs0.5 in fares would be allowed to transporters on every raise of Rs2 in a litre of diesel, “but this promise was not watered”. He said they had called a strike in the past against the rising fuel prices, but the government was not moved.

Bukhari said the traffic congestion in Karachi was due to encroachments on roads, adding that a “bhatta mafia” was against the removal of encroachments from roads. He welcomed the recent operation against encroachments in Saddar Town and urged for its sustainability.

Captain Khawaja Riffat Zaheer of the Association of Road Users of Pakistan (ARUP) said on average one person was killed in a traffic accident in Karachi every 14 hours, while one person was injured every 11 hours.

He strongly recommended the revival of the KCR and bringing more wide-bodied buses on the roads.

He called for introducing an integrated urban transport plan for Karachi, and said that the first phase of the Mass Transit Plan should be implemented without further delay.

Mirza Arshad Ali Beg, the team leader of a study group on air pollution and environmental degradation created by the private and public transport, said according to a survey of his team, 60 per cent of citizens living near 26 busy road intersections of Karachi suffered from hearing problems, and 55 per cent of them suffered from ENT allergies as well.

He said the amount of nitrogen oxide in the air on MA Jinnah Road was double the maximum limit of the World Health Organization. He said the MA Jinnah Road had a capacity of passage of 750 vehicles per hour, but presently, some 11,000 vehicles passed through it per hour.

Dawood Khan, CEO of a transport company, said public transport should be durable and economical. He said a public transport system was the bloodline for any nation’s economy.—PPI