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KARACHI, Dec 7: By authorising a builder to construct a high-rise structure on a huge plot reserved for Corridor-III of the Karachi Mass Transit Plan (KMTP), the Karachi Building Control Authority (KBCA) has dealt a severe blow to the anxiously-awaited KMTP and the integrated plan of the Karachi Circular Railway (KCR), Dawn has learnt.

The authorisation, which has been granted in violation of the city’s master plan, refers to a ground-plus-14 storey building (with a penthouse) on a one-acre plot next to the Major Arshad Shaheed Nazimabad Bridge, in front of the Nazimabad Telephone Exchange.

The proposed project is named Saima Bridge View and will have showrooms on the ground floor with luxury apartments on the upper storeys. Once completed, the building will face the busy Board Office intersection and all vehicles commuting to and from Saima Bridge View will use the intersection as the entry and exit points.

Inside sources told Dawn that the plot on which Saima Bridge View has been approved was earlier acquired by the now-defunct Karachi Development Authority from the Board of Revenue and the same plot was later notified as reserve land for the KMTP Corridor-III by the government of Pakistan in June 1995. Furthermore, a chapter concerning city transport in the city government’s Karachi Strategic Development Plan-2020 also specifically mentions this portion of land as having been reserved for Corridor-III.

Elevated rail plan

Sources pointed out that with the construction of Saima Bridge View, difficulties will arise regarding the alignment of the proposed mass transit rail system. The elevated rapid light rail is to ply between Surjani-North Karachi and Nazimabad, with branches to Banaras Chowk, Liaquatabad, the Mangophir Road bridge along the 15.4 kilometre Corridor-III.

Pointing out that a KCR station is located near the site of Saima Bridge View, sources said that upon the revival of the KCR and its integration with the station, the proposed elevated rapid light rail plan of Corridor-III will be jeopardised once the high-rise building goes up in the vicinity.

Independent sources within the KBCA claimed that the Saima Bridge View building plan had been approved in favour of the plot in question after the builder had obtained approval for the project’s layout plan from the City District Government Karachi’s master plan department. The CDGK permission is a pre-requisite for having building plans approved by the KBCA. “If the plot had been reserved for Corridor-III, it was the CDGK master plan department’s responsibility to check before approving the layout plan,” maintained the sources.

Blame game

Dawn approached the KBCA controller of buildings (town planning) Ali Zafar Qadri and asked whether the plot for which a KBCA approval had been granted for Saima Bridge View was actually reserved for Corridor-III. Mr Qadri said only that the project’s layout plan had been approved by the CDGK master plan department. Refusing to provide any further details, he added that “it would be much better if you were to contact the CCOB in this regard since he may know about the project’s building plan.”

When CCOB Rauf Akhtar Farooqui was contacted, he said that the land in question had not been reserved for the KMTP Corridor-III project. “As a matter of fact, the plot belongs to a private party which also, in the past, gave some land from the same plot when it was required for the extension of Nazimabad Bridge,” he stated.

Residents of North Nazimabad Block B told Dawn that they had raised objections over the proposed high-rise building by submitting an application to the KBCA on behalf of a forum called Bazm-i-Hamayun. However, they said, the KBCA had not entertained their request to withhold the building plan. They added that the KBCA has not only approved the building plan for Saima Bridge View, it has also issued a no-objection certificate for the sale of showrooms and flats in the proposed building.

The residents of the area expressed the fear that the deep excavation work that would have to be undertaken to raise a ground-plus-14 building may also weaken the foundations of the nearby North Nazimabad bridge.