Civil society, residents fear massive displacement due to Malir Expressway project

Showing their concerns over the displacement of families because of the ongoing anti-encroachment drive along the Gujjar Nullah and Mehmoodabad Nullah in Manzoor Colony, the construction of the Malir Expressway, and expansion and reconstruction of ML-1, a group of urban planners, civil society activists and residents said on Wednesday the federal and Sindh governments had been committing human rights violations by demolishing homes of working class people.

This observation was made at the Karachi Press Club at a news conference, held under the banner of the Joint Action Committee Karachi, an alliance of civil society groups.

Among the speakers were noted urban planner Arif Hasan, Human Rights Commission of Pakistan co-chair Asad Iqbal Butt, Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research executive director Karamat Ali, Urban Resource Centre joint director Zahid Farooq, Aurat Foundation’s resident director Mahnaz Rehman and Technical Training Resource Centre director Sirajuddin.

Hanif Dilmurad, a leader of the Indigenous Rights Alliance representing people affected people by the Malir Expressway, Shazia Zafar, a woman representing people affected by anti-encroachment operation along the Gujjar Nullah, and others also spoke.

Hasan said the displacement of people because of the construction of the expressway and in the name of an operation against encroachments had been adding to the misery of people by increasing unemployment and poverty.

“In the name of development, the government has been occupying land from low-income people and using it for benefiting the rich and influential people and builders,” he said. “Also, the government did not carry out any consultation with residents before carrying out operations and constructions in their areas.” Butt demanded of the federal and Sindh governments to ensure the relocation, rehabilitation and compensation before any eviction.

Malir Expressway

Dilmurad, a social activist and researcher who has led protests against the construction of the Malir Expressway in recent weeks, said that the provincial government had not consulted with the residents or the elected representatives of the area about the construction of megaprojects that would destroy their homes and livelihoods in over 26 ancient villages and localities.

In December, Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari had performed the groundbreaking of the expressway project, terming it the “biggest civic infrastructure project ever done by any provincial government in Pakistan under public-private partnership”.

The Malir Expressway will be built as an access-controlled 38.5-kilometres-long high-speed toll expressway to connect Karachi’s centre to the M-9, a motorway between Karachi and Hyderabad.

However, Dilmurad said the construction of the expressway would demolish over two dozen older villages, displace a large number of people and destroy cultivation.

Samoo Goth, Old Shafi Goth, Lasi Goth, Lasi Goth, Magsi Goth, Thadoo Goth, Nai Abadi, Shafi Goth, Dad Muhammad Goth, Gulshan-e-Maryam, Mulla Essa Goth, Nasir Town, Jam Goth, Shahu Bagh, Fazal Bagh, Malir Bungalows, Yaar Muhammad Jokhio Goth, Rasool Bux Khaskheli Goth are among the localities that would be demolished, according to Dilmurad.

“We have already seen the destruction during the construction of the Lyari Expressway. The people displaced because of that project are still homeless and their suffering hasn’t stopped despite the passage of 17 years,” he said.

Gujjar, Mehmoodabad Nullahs

Shazia Zafar, a woman from Haji Mureed Goth, said that despite having lease documents, authorities had been demolishing their houses in the name of removing encroachments from along the Gujjar Nullah.

Speakers demanded the Sindh government to act on Bilawal’s September 5 address to rain-affected people at KDA Chowrangi, where he promised to not evict the people living around the Gujjar Nullah without providing alternative accommodations.

They said that in both nullahs, the authorities did not make any efforts to clean the choked storm water drains, and instead they demolished the houses of the people living there for more than four decades.

ML-1 project

Speakers also discussed the upgrading of the Mainline-1 (ML-I) Peshawar-to-Karachi railway track. Media reports citing the railway minister said that 1,872km-long track would be laid out in addition to the existing one – turning it into a double-track route. “But no survey has been made about the demolition of the houses because of the ML-1 project and rehabilitation of the affectees because of it,” said Butt.

No EIA

Speakers also said environmental impact assessments were not being carried out before constructing the Malir Expressway and ML-1 projects or before carrying out demolition campaigns, resulting in further deterioration of the city’s environment. They demanded from the government to conduct EIAs immediately at the project sites.

Published In The News By Zia ur Rehman 11 February 2021

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