Karachi: Encroachments remerged in Saddar, Empress Market and surrounding areas creating traffic jams and causing problems of pedestrians who are forced to walk on roads as 90percent area of footpaths and 80percent area of roads is occupied by the encroachers.
Tackling encroachment has become a nightmare for Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC) as its anti-encroachment cell removes squatting and next day they emerge at same location by the same encroachers. However, the citizens have to face immense troubles, which they suffer silently.
In busy market areas like Empress Market, Regal, Saddar, Preedy Street, New M A Jinnah Road, Liaquatabad and old city areas, almost whole footpaths and two-third area of roads are encroached by pushcart men and other vendors. Even bridges, like Teen Hatti Bridge, are encroached by pushcart vendors and the KMC despite court orders has failed to devise a strategy how to solve this issue on permanent basis.
Pedestrian rights campaigners have suggested to install grills on footpaths, so that they could be used only be pedestrians. In areas like New M A Jinnah Road, where extra wide footpaths have been constructed to facilitate car dealers to park their cars on them, should be curtailed in size by making service roads and installation of iron grills, but the KMC is not ready for these measures. The then commissioner Karachi Roshan Ali Sheikh had ordered to make New M A Jinnah Road, a charged parking area, but this very good idea was withdrawn on the pressure of strong encroachment mafia.
Pedestrian rights campaigners said there is an inbuilt handicap to remove squatting on roads and footpaths, because encroachers pay bribes locally called Bhatta to black sheep in KMC, district municipal institutes and traffic police. When these departments face pressure, especially court directions, they carry out cosmetic anti-encroachment operations to show their performance; however, these lukewarm operations do not give the desired results, as there is lack of strong will, due to bribery factor and political pressure, as local office-bearers of different political parties are also beneficiary of bhatta factor and they give protection to squatting in their areas. Dozens of such one day and three-day operations have already been carried out in areas of Empress Market, but to no avail. Empress Market and surrounding Saddar area even today is tamed with patharas, despite these operations.
The government should implement its minibus re-routing plan, reactivate the idle project of Saddar Car Parking Plaza and declare the whole area from Mazar e Quaid to Burns Road as no parking area, besides installing iron grills on footpaths of the whole region and also fitting surveillance cameras to monitor traffic flow and encroachment situation.
Taking an anti-encroachment operation is relatively easy, but ensuring that the removed encroachments not re-emerge is really a difficult task, a presently a nightmare for the KMC. However, the anti-encroachment cell officials with the support of police should not only continue its anti-encroachment operations, but also take steps to make the operations sustainable and result oriented to facilitate general public.
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