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Big business destroys Karachi landmark space

by Mahim Maher

March 20, 2014 | 7:04 am

Just like any other city, Karachi too suffers from the disease of big business interests. I am writing this here because it is not possible to criticise this particular big business in most newspapers.

Bahria Town is a real estate business run by tycoon Malik Riaz. Most of the Pakistani media has been virtually bought out by him. Advertisements run on television and in the newspapers. This is why no one has been able to properly report on what he's doing to one of Karachi's old neighbourhoods: Clifton.

Malik Riaz's Bahria Town is infamous for building gated communities in Pakistan. They are multi-billion-rupee projects. His latest venture is Bahria Icon tower,a 68-storey building next to the shrine of revered Sufi saint Abdullah Shah Ghazi.

The road past the shrine is a relatively narrow one. Once this tower is built, though, the traffic volume will go up by the thousands. This is why Bahria Town held up to 13 secret meetings wtih the Karachi city government's administrator to build a flyover and an underpass through the area. Bahria Town said it would pay for it: Rs1.89 billion.

The project involves a flyover, two underpasses and a pedestrian subway that will cut through the historic Jehangir Kothari Parade and Lady Lloyd Pier that the British built. Essentially, an entire neighbourhood is being destroyed to accommodate one real estate project. This is not long-term urban planning. This is not part of the master plan.

I received a press release from the non-government Shehri-Citizens for a Better Environment, that has long fought for urban equity, in Karachi. (It could not be published). Shehri has written a letter to the chief justice of the Sindh High Court, Maqbool Baqar.

“[W]e draw your judicial attention to this blatant illegality where corporate greed is trumping environmental concerns,” the NGO writes in a letter signed by Amber Alibhai, Roland deSouza and other prominent members. It was released to the media on Monday.

Shehri writes that the city government did not carry out the mandatory environment impact assessment for the project, which goes against the IEE & EIZ Regulations 2000, Section 4 read with Schedule 2(D) 2.

“The Sindh Environmental Tribunal has upheld this requirement for flyover road work costing more than Rs50 million.” The Sindh Environmental Protection Agency upholds the same rules.

Shehri points out that a detailed traffic study was not carried out for the entire area. Additionally, the proposed underpasses and pedestrian bridges will encroach on or damage the Ibn-e-Qasim Park and the Jehangir Kothari Parade (1919) which are protected under the Sindh Cultural Heritage (Preservation) Act of 1994.

The scheme will adversely affect residents of the area, consulates and visitors to Clifton beach from all over the city, Shehri writes, “destroying the beauty of one of the few recreation spots available to the poor”.

“The mala fide [intention] of the KMC is obvious from the breakneck speed at which the mechanical excavation work was started on the evening of March 13,” the letter states.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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I am a 33-year-old journalist in Karachi, Pakistan where I work as the city or metropolitan editor for The Express Tribune, a daily national newspaper in English affiliated...

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