Affectees to drag Malir Expressway into court

Muhammad Aslam, an agriculturist by profession, cannot focus on earning bread for his family as they have been living in a fear of getting their ancestral land destroyed.  A land that has been under their possession for over 60 years.

The agriculturist is now leading the anti-Malir Expressway committee which says the project is not a “development” but a “gateway to facilitate” the elite class.

Malir Expressway (MEX), a 39-kilometer corridor linking DHA with Karachi-Hyderabad Motorway, is a six-lane expressway that will be built along the Malir River in the Korangi district and traverse agricultural lands in Malir. It will also lead to the demolition of at least 447 houses in the suburban areas.

“The basic aim for MEX construction is to facilitate the builder mafia and elite class residing in DHA, Bahria, and Clifton,” Aslam said while addressing a press conference at Karachi Press Club on Friday.

He was flanked by other affectees, social activists and Kazim Hussain Mahesar, Sindh High Court advocate, saying that they will file a petition against the construction of the Malir Expressway at the Sindh Environment Protection Tribunal and Sindh High Court.

“We have decided to switch on legal options in order to challenge the construction of Malir Expressway, as the fundamental rights of the citizens are being violated,” the advocate said.

He described the construction of the project as a “sheer violation” of the Environmental Act 2014. The project Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report was approved without redressing the issues of local residents.

“We will raise our voice against the project at every platform,” he maintained.

Meanwhile, Pakistan Mahooliyati Tahafuz Movement head Ahmad Shabbar revealed that they will file a case against the project within two weeks.

The environmental activist said the expressway is being constructed right at the Malir riverbed, which will cause “massive destruction” for adjacent locals during monsoon rains.

Karachi Urban Lab’s Dr Nausheen Anwar said the project will increase global warming. “Eradication of green spaces is a dangerous sign for Karachi and its people,” she added.

‘Builder mafia would be the beneficiary’

Two of the affectees of Malir Expressway put forward their concerns before the media during the press conference.

The anti-MEX committee head said the cost of different housing schemes established around the project would be increased. “The EIA-approval by Sindh Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) without redressing the issues of locals is nothing but a mockery with the people,” he added.

“We have already informed SEPA about the dire consequences which would be faced by the locals after the construction of expressway at Malir riverbed, but they do not pay any heed towards our concerns,” Aslam said.

He further added that the “builder mafia and few corrupt PPP ministers” would be the real beneficiary of the project.

Aslam maintained that the Defence and Clifton residents would be affected too with the construction of the Malir Expressway, as the water flow of other small rivers and lakes will not enter into Malir River.

“During monsoon rain, this water of small rivers and lakes may return and enter into the Karachi posh areas,” he said. “The residents of Bahria Town and DHA would be facilitated by the expressway; adding over 1000 local people are being affected through this project.”

Aslam said an estimated 162-acre of agricultural land is being affected by the project, adding the local people are strongly condemning this stubborn act of the Sindh government.

“The Karachi is unhappy with the Sindh government, as the PPP is always getting votes by the citizens of Malir and its outskirts but never serve the people,” he jibbed.

Aslam said the EIA report was presented after a year of project construction work started, which showed the mala-fide intention of the environmental watchdog.

He made an appeal to Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah to change the design of the project.

Another victim Hafeez Baloch said the federal and provincial governments are doing nothing against those who are implementing this project, adding that the core aim of MEX is to link DHA with Bahria Town.

“What the people of Malir will get by this project,” he asked the authorities.

If the Sindh government, he said, is willing to construct Malir Expressway, then they should change the route and bring it to the left bank of the Malir River.

It is pertinent to mention here that the locals of Malir came up with suggestions over the MEX construction during the project public hearing held on March 9.

The government official penal comprised of the MEX project director, SEPA deputy director and Nespak officials have left the public hearing without answering the people’s queries.

The ground-breaking of the Malir Expressway project was held in December 2020 by PPP Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto Zardari.

The estimated cost of the project is Rs29billion with the proposed duration of 30 months to complete. The construction work at the first phase from Korangi Jam Sadiq Bridge to Quaidabad is currently in progress.

Recently, the Sindh CM directed the MEX authorities to complete the first phase by December 2022.

Published in Samaa.TV by Sohail Rab Khan 07 May 2022

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