KARACHI, June 6: Despite the fact that Karachi lies in a seismic zone, dynamite is being used in a section of the Manghopir-North Nazimabad Hills for the construction of a bypass project for which an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) has not been carried out, Dawn has learnt.

Project director Rauf Akhtar Farooqui stated that there was no need for such “time-consuming exercises” when the aim was “rapid development.”

The dynamiting in the Gora Khori Hills is in context of a tunnel for the Qasba-North Nazimabad Bypass, near Ship-Owners’ College. The bypass is being constructed by the city government under its Tameer-i-Karachi Programme (TKP) and will link North Nazimabad with Qasba, Manghopir and Orangi. It will also serve as an alternative to the Banaras Chowk route for commuters between Orangi, Manghopir, Qasba and Metroville via Union Council No.5 of SITE Town.

The Pakistan Environment Protection Act (PEPA) makes an EIA mandatory before any such project is initiated. According to TKP project director Rauf Akhtar Farooqui, however, “On the one hand, we want rapid development and, on the other, we want to waste our time in such exercises.”

An engineer by profession and also chief controller of the Karachi Building Control Authority, Mr Farooqui said that “being an engineer, I strongly defend my views that an EIA of this bypass project was not necessary.”

The contract for the construction of the bypass has been awarded to the National Highways Authority (NHA) and sources in the CDGK’s Works and Services Department say that the land required for the project has already been acquired under the Sindh Land Acquisition Act. Citizens affected by the land acquisition have been compensated, they said.

Asked why the bypass tunnel is not in line with the Ship-Owners’ College roundabout, which goes straight into the North Nazimabad Hills, the sources said that the alignment of the 100-foot Qasba Road, with which North Nazimabad was being linked, had to be kept in mind and a diversion was therefore necessary.

Mr Farooqui said that once the project is commissioned in December, the area’s large number of residents will benefit from the alternative to the congested Banaras Chowk route. He added that plans for a flyover at Banaras Chowk have not been shelved and the project’s stone-laying ceremony will be held this month, after which construction will be accomplished in 8-9 months.

While waiting for the promised benefits, residents of the areas around the bypass, particularly in North Nazimabad Block I, are being severely inconvenienced. A number of people complained about the noise caused by the dynamite blasting, and the dust that the air has become laden with.

A resident of Block I expressed the fear of noise pollution that will be inevitably increased when heavy traffic starts using the bypass. “We already face high levels of noise and air pollution while driving on the city roads; we will get no respite even in our homes,” complained the resident.

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