Citizens brave traffic jams as roadside encroachments stay

Karachi: Crippling traffic jams that last for many hours have become routine in busy areas of the city as their roads and streets have narrowed due to roadside encroachments. Everyday many precious hours of citizens are wasted due to these traffic jams but the government authorities are not ready to remove the illegal encroachments.

The severely affected areas include I I Chundrigar Road, Arts Council Chowrangi, Saddar, Empress Market, Zainab Market, Regal, Lucky Star, Shara-e-Faisal, M A Jinnah Road, Cantt Station, New Preedy Street, Banori Town, Lasbella, Nazimabad and Liaquatabad, where bumper-to-bumper rows of vehicles wait for long due to daily based traffic jams. The basic reason of the traffic jams is narrowed streets due to encroachments. In Saddar and Regal areas almost whole footpaths and 40percent space of roads are occupied by pushcart and roadside vendors. This huge flea market spanning on dozens of roads and streets is the clogging trigger for traffic jams in central parts of the city.

Blocking roads and streets with encroachment is a crime but the perpetuators of this crime are not bothered in Karachi due to two factors. The first factor is “bhatta culture”. Each and every illegal encroacher and roadside vendor pays local police and city government officials ‘bhatta‘ on daily basis. This amount runs in hundreds of thousands of rupees per day in Karachi and for the beneficiary officials this is a windfall which they would never want to let go. If these encroachments are removed it means no bhatta for police and local government officials. This is why the illegal encroachments stay in Karachi as the encroachers and officials are hand and glove in this regard.

The second factor is political patronage of encroachers. The roadside encroachers not only give bhatta to police and administration, but also to the political parties of their locality. In many cases the recipient political parties are of ethnic origin and they give full protection to the encroachers belonging to their ethnic and linguistic background. This is why the entry of City Wardens is banned in Saddar and Empress Market areas. The police and local administration even cannot think to disturb the vested interests of their political and ethnic groups.

Illegal bus terminals in the city areas are also responsible for growing traffic jams. Two main illegal bus terminals in Saddar and Cantt Station areas have become a nuisance for citizens but they could not be removed despite passage of decades. The projects of bus terminals in Superhighway and National Highway areas were swept under the carpet after the end of City Nazim Niamatullah Khan tenure.

Mahmood Hamid, president All Pakistan Organization of Small Traders and Cottage Industries (APOST&CI) Karachi chapter said traders face a lot of problems as customers avoid visiting the market areas with chronic traffic jams. He said the government has built multi-million parking plaza in Saddar area to help reduce traffic congestion in the locality, but illegal parking could even be witnessed in front of this parking plaza. He said the worst example of bad governance could not be found. He demanded to remove all encroachments from the market areas and ban strictly wrong parking to get the citizens rid of perpetual traffic jams in busy areas.

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