KARACHI: Karachiites have been facing immense problems due to lack of an urban public transport system, which is not only necessary to facilitate millions of commuters but also to help in rapid uplift of the city.
For decades the successive administrations have opted to keep the vital urban public transport system of the city neglected. Two different city governments brought green buses on Karachi roads but due to neglect and corruption not a single of them runs in the city. Even the ‘Green Buses’ of Karachi Metropolitan Corporation KMC are seen anywhere. The public-private partnership program of Karachi Public Transport Society also looks in shambles and they have closed down their many routes. Hundreds of millions of rupees of public exchequer spent on these projects have failed to facilitate Karachi commuters. There is also no audit and accountability mechanism of this huge public spending.
Presently, the Karachi commuters have no option but to travel in makeshift motorcycle rickshaws called Chingchis or to commute dangerously sitting on the roofs of overcrowded minibuses. The Supreme Court of Pakistan months back had instructed to remove the roof-racks from Karachi minibuses but no authority took interest to implement it.
The Sindh government has yet to bother to even appoint a proper transport minister, which depicts its priorities in the public transport sector. During the last five years of the provincial government also led by chief minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah nothing was done to improve the public transport sector in Karachi, while his counterpart in Punjab Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif succeeded in giving Lahore a modern bus transit system.
It was heartening to know that prime minister Mian Nawaz Sharif during his recent visit to Turkey has initiated talks on metro bus projects for Karachi and other cities; however, it is to be seen that when these projects are actually started.
The vital project of revival Karachi Circular Railway KCR is in doldrums despite the Japan International Cooperation Agency JICA is willing to invest in the project on very soft terms.
The Sindh government and the KMC should give the public transport sector of Karachi due priority and ensure that all Green Buses run on streets, besides issuing new routes for wide-bodied public transport buses and phasing out small capacity minibuses and coaches to facilitate commuters. It also needs to rationalize bus fares as the public transporters are fleecing commuters, charging fares from them on the basis on diesel consumption, while actually burning cheap compressed natural gas CNG.