KARACHI: Encroachments have surrounded the historic building of Empress Market in Saddar area and once a beautiful tourist attraction now the whole area depicts a mess.
Roads, streets and open spaces around the Empress Market are occupied by vendors, pushcart men, and hawkers selling secondhand clothes and junk items. The employees of Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC), Saddar town administration, city wardens, Karachi police and traffic police are there getting regular salaries from the government kitty but not discharging their government duties to remove encroachments from the area and make it open for pedestrians and motorists.
Besides roadside vendors another major issue of the area is illegal bus terminals. An illegal bus terminal of G-3 route minibuses in front of historic Jahangir Park is the main cause of pollution, road blockages and traffic jams, while the biggest illegal inter-city bus terminal is also present in the area, where hundreds of buses and vans occupy roads and streets, causing problems for people.
A special scheme of Sindh governor was announced in past to make this area free for pedestrian movement and re-route public transport buses and minibuses from the area, but no practical steps have been taken to initiate work on the scheme, saving erection of some banners. Years back the then commissioner Karachi had also announced a Saddar Pedestrianization Plan, but despite spending huge sums on feasibilities and studies it was silently shelved.
Government sources said there is a very simple solution to the Saddar encroachment problem, which is make functional the multi-storied car parking plaza erected by the city government with a cost of hundreds of millions of rupees. They said everything is there to make this car parking plaza functional but it lacks political will. They said the senior government officials are against making this car parking plaza functional as it would irk shopkeepers and vendors of the area.
There is a dire need to free the surroundings of the historic Empress Market building from all sorts of illegal encroachments. The historic building itself needs a facelift. The clock of its tower has been dysfunctional for decades but it is yet to be repaired or replaced. If the Empress Market building and nearby Jahangir Park are taken care of they could become a favorite hangout of tourists.