KARACHI: Karachi has been witnessing a robust drive against illegal encroachments and recently a 14-acre government plot at Chakra Goth has been freed from the land grabbers however despite the orders of Supreme Court of Pakistan to remove encroachments from railway lands in Karachi, vast areas of Karachi Circular Railway (KCR) are still in possession of land grabbers and a comprehensive and sustainable drive was needed to retrieve these lands.
Last year Sindh Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah approved a plan to revive the KCR at an estimated cost of over $2.6 billion, which was earlier estimated at $1.58bn. It has jumped to $2.6 billion because this project was delayed due to lack of political will.
It was decided to remove all encroachments on the land of KCR route, but the government later dragged feet when it was learnt that powerful land grabbers were involved in occupying the KCR land, especially in the Gulistan-i-Jauhar, Gulshan-i-Iqbal and Liaquatabad areas. Removal of these encroachments means demolishing thousands of structures and it is a big political issue as the dwellers of these illegal structures are also voters of different political parties.
The revival of the KCR could not be initiated till the government and political parties are on one page to remove illegal encroachments on the railway land in Karachi, particularly the loop of KCR.
It is said the land grabbing mafia has constructed even apartment buildings and flats on the KCR lands and already sold them to citizens.
The government bureaucracy is fully aware of the situation but they opt not to intervene as big stakes are involved.
However, these illegal structures could be removed if the administration requests help from the rangers.
In Karachi the Rangers are mainly busy in maintaining law and order situation, but the administration as per rules can seek the help of police and Rangers.
The government could also arrange alternate plots for the displaced families on the lines of rehabilitation plans for Lyari Expressway and New Preedy Street plans.
Historically, the KCR project was started in 1964 and it was a huge success financially.
The revival of KCR is overdue and the provincial government is fully aware of the importance of giving Karachi a respectable urban public transport system. The successful running of Metro bus project in Lahore and initiating of work on Rawalpindi Metro Bus project have put huge political pressure of the government of Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) led government of Sindh to modernise public transport infrastructure of its main cities, especially the mega city of Karachi which has become virtually a Chingchi City due to dearth of public transport. The revival of KCR is the basis of modernising public transport sector in Karachi.
It is learnt the issue of removal of encroachments from the KCR route is under discussion at governmental level and efforts are made to win accent of some political parties that have reservation on displacement of their voters living in illegal residential areas and slums on the KCR land.
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