EIA report on KCR criticised for no resettlement plan for affected families

EIA report on KCR criticised for no resettlement plan for affected families

The extent of seriousness of political parties regarding development projects of Karachi reflected on Wednesday when, during the Sindh Environmental Protection Agency’s (Sepa) public hearing about the mega project of the Karachi Circular Railway (KCR) at the Cantt Station, there was zero representation of any political party of the city.

If that was not enough, Sepa director general (DG) Naeem Mughal was also absent in the public hearing about the project, in which around 42,000 people have to be resettled. No Sindh government official either, other than Sepa deputy director Imran Sadiq, was present at the event, during which many concerned residents raised several issues related to environmental and humanitarian aspects of the projects.

The KCR project comprises a 29.41-kilometre-long two-way loop along with the provision of a 13.69km-long two-way dedicated track along the Pakistan Railways’ mainline that stretches from the City Station to the Drigh Road Station.

A major issue raised at the public hearing was that of the resettlement of the projected-affected people (PAP). It was said that the authorities had failed to take the resettlement of PAP into account in the proposed KCR project.

Another issue that was highlighted was that the authorities had reportedly put on the backburner the plans to get rid of encroachments on the Pakistan Railway’s lands.

“Currently, the remaining closed KCR sections have been increasingly occupied by squatters and the Right of Way (RoW) has been drowned out by the surrounding housing development,” reads the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) report of the KCR. However, the report had no mention of any framework for the resolution of the issue and nor such housing projects were named.

Many PAP made hue and cry for not rehabilitating them before destroying their houses for the project. Absence of the Sepa DG, Karachi commissioner and other Sindh government officials, and no representation of the political parties were repeatedly pointed out by people during the hearing.

The EIA report of the project was prepared by the EA Consulting along with the EMC Pakistan. The federal government had hired the EY Ford Rhodes as their financial consultant, EA Consulting and AI Engineers as their technical consultants, and Exponent Engineers as their traffic consultant, which would also look after the project’s commercial aspects. The Haidermota & Co would be the government’s legal consultant.

The KCR Mutasirin Action Committee, a body of the PAP, pointed out that in a report based on a survey carried out by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) in 2009, it was estimated that 4,654 residential structures would have to be demolished for the KCR project, which would affect more than 42,000 persons, but the EIA report of the project surprisingly did not even contain the number of people who would be displaced, not to mention the absence of any concrete plan or framework for their rehabilitation.

The EIA report touched vaguely on the issue of the resettlement of PAP. It read: “A Resettlement Action Plan (RAP) was made by the Karachi Urban Transport Corporation (KUTC) – company made for the revitalisation of the KCR in 1984. The RAP was made in association with a reputable consultant developed in lines with JICA and World Bank guidelines. Implementation on this resettlement plan may be done by the Pakistan Railways and Sindh government after ascertaining the current extent of resettlement needed, to adhere to the resettlement of affected persons in association with local government. Relocation of squatters will also be necessary when acquiring the space for station plazas.”

The PAP committee pointed out how the EIA report mentioned that the project was being carried out in compliance with the Supreme Court’s (SC) order, but it overlooked that the SC order had also directed the authorities to rehabilitate the PAP.

Revenue exploitation

The KCR may turn into a white elephant due to heavy subsidy requirements. The EIA report mentions 37 acres of open land of the Pakistan Railways with a high potential for real estate development that could be used to support the project’s operations.

“These 37 acres of land constitute 10 different plots that have been identified by the consultant as ‘open land’ where Pakistan Railways can construct commercial, residential or mixed land use buildings and generate profits from them to support railways operations,” the report reads.

According to the report, the Pakistan Railways has 4, 3.5, 1.2 and 9 acres of land for such use near the Gilani Station, 3.5 acres in Liaquatabad, 3.5 acres in North Nazimabad, 2 acres in Orangi, 2.5 acres in Manghopir, and 4 acres each near the Wazir Mansion and Drigg Road stations.

To this proposal, however, the KCR Mutasirin Action Committee pointed out that the Supreme Court had barred the Pakistan Railways from using its land for commercial purposes other than its operational use.

KCR Project Director Amir Daudpota shared how the project would have 25 electric trains, which would be brought in by the private operator. He added that each train would have the capacity to carry 814 passengers at a time and the circular railway was expected to facilitate the commute of 475,000 passengers a day.

He said a train would come every five to seven minutes up and down, generating 590 trips daily. Daudpota explained that the six planned Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) lines in the city would also be connected with the KCR. “The BRT will feed passengers for the KCR,” he said, adding that the provincial government was on board with the federal government regarding the KCR.

He assured that the affected persons would not be deserted by the government. The Sepa deputy director ensured the participants of the KCR Mutasirin Action Committee that a grievance committee would be constituted to address their reservations and concerns.

Published in The News By Oonib Azam November 11, 2021

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