KARACHI: The Sindh government’s approach to ignore some important stakeholders and start road-related works in haste in the city may lead to continued sufferings to public even after completion of some projects, it emerged on Sunday.
In addition, according to sources, important factors such as creation of proper diversions/alternative routes and taking care of existing government assets on the roads prior to initiating road development schemes have been given little attention during the conceptual stage of the city’s development projects.
In fact, some sources said, the cost of reinstalling pedestrian bridges and bus shelters was not included in the Karachi development package. Lack or absence of proper alternative routes on under-construction roads had become a leading cause of fatal traffic accidents in recent weeks.
“The absence of a protective mechanism through a proper alternative route is a major reason for increasing road injuries and fatalities these days. Take, for instance, the example of a patch from Karachi University to Safoora Goth. Drivers are forced to choose the wrong-way since no alternative route has been created, increasing the risk for a head-on collision” said Prof Shabar Ali, the chairman of the department of urban and infrastructure engineering at the NED University of Engineering and Technology.
The development works should be carried out in coordination with all relevant agencies, he said.
A department that could have played a central role in designing and implementing a development plan for the city is the Traffic Engineering Bureau (TEB). It is a key body assigned the advisory role for agencies concerned on how to safely carry out any construction/development related to roads under an act.
Established under the Karachi Division (Traffic Engineering Act) 1985, the bureau was set up to define, design standards, specifications and lay out plans of roads and convey the same to the agency or authority undertaking construction or repair of roads or bridges.
Under the act, it has some 22 functions that include to advise the agency or authority concerned (undertaking development/construction) to turn, divert or close any road or part of road either temporarily or permanently.
The sources said that the department played an active role for many years, not just as an advisory body but also provided facilities like bus shelters and pedestrian bridges. For the past six to eight months, however, no development funds are available to the department, which was completely ignored during the preparation of the multi-billion development package for the city.
“All over the world, the traffic engineering department is given a lot of importance. Unfortunately, this is not so in our country,” senior TEB director Qazi Abdul Qadir said.
When asked whether any recommendation was sought from the bureau, Mr Qadir, who has been with the TEB for over two decades, said: “They neither asked for advice [before launching the mega city development package under which many roads are being repaired and widened] nor have responded to our letters based on our concerns regarding government assets on these roads.”
These assets, he said, included bus shelters and pedestrian bridges.
“A lot of money was spent on these infrastructures. They should be safely dismantled, redesigned and re-installed,” he said.
The sources said there was no prior consultation with the Karachi Water and Sewerage Board (KWSB) for the development works on the University Road and Manghopir Road. Besides, the actions decided in consultation with the KWSB were not implemented in the ongoing works.
According to sources, both roads have vital water and sewerage network. Lines under the University Road supply water to many parts of the city.
“The water lines, which earlier came under the service road on the University Road, now stand exposed in the middle of the road as it is being widened
“Heavy traffic passing through the road will be a serious threat to the safety of these lines and it is likely that incidents of pipeline leakages and bursting will increase in future if they were not laid properly at a certain depth,” an official said, adding that the lines were decades old, some required replacement and others relocation.
Upon contact, KWSB chief Misbahuddin Farid said: “Vital corridors of water exist under the University and Manghopir roads and caution is needed in relocation and replacement of old lines. We have conveyed our concerns and project director Niaz Soomro has assured us that the utility would be consulted in all matters.”
Sami Khan, who has been awarded the contract of development works including of the University Road, blamed the recent traffic accidents on the bus drivers, insisting that “proper alternative routes have been provided where the possibility for the same existed”.
“The sections of the University Road where work is being completed are being opened for traffic. The public should also realise that development work is going on and exercise caution,” he said.
On the line safety, he said that it was the responsibility of the KWSB and the utility was working on it.
Project director Soomro stated that all relevant agencies were consulted before launching the projects. “Once repaired, these roads can be safely used for 25 to 30 years. All kinds of costs included those of relocating pedestrian bridges have been included in the project,” he said.
He justified repair of Sharea Faisal and was of the opinion that it had completed its life.
Recently, the DIG-traffic stated in a letter to the Karachi commissioner that his department was not consulted before launching the development projects in the city, which were not only a source of frequent traffic jams but also increasing road injuries and fatalities.