Karachi, the world’s third-largest metropolitan city has again come into the limelight after Bloomberg published an article earlier last week, about the worsening public transport structure of the city.
Today, we are going to analyze the deteriorated public transport of Karachi and the unwillingness of stakeholders to resolve this issue, in the reflection of ground realities and the study of car-parts company Mister Auto about the city.
Initiating with Muhammad Ali Jinnah Road, the road holds significant importance as it connects the central part of the city to its major port. With thousands of daily commuters, MA Jinnah road usually sees massive traffic congestions.
The road is also occupied by an inaugurated overhead bridge constructed for the federal government project, Greenline BRT. The project was supposed to be completed in 2018 but lack of coordination, budget restraints, and the unwillingness of the ruling elite have delayed the project for an unspecified duration.
As per the research conducted by car-parts company Mister Auto in 2019, the city has been ranked as having the worst public transport system globally. The study considered around 100 major cities. Around 42% of commuters of the city use public transport as their mode of daily commutation. However, the overcrowded and decades-old buses, habitual violation of traffic rules, unpaved roads, and unprofessional drivers are the real and everyday threat to the safety of citizens. The country’s first capital and the major taxpayer city is the home of the country’s major ports and regional offices of several multinational corporate giants.
Unfortunately, despite paying a hefty amount of taxes, the city is derived from the essential facilities for living. The funds generated by the city get utilized in other parts of the country. As per Mr. Waseem Akhtar, who recently completed his tenure as the Mayor of the city, only 12% of the city’s administration is under his control. The number of cantonments boards, various federal government institutions, and other unnecessary authorities divided the authority of the city to various stakeholders instead of the Mayor.
The most recent exhibition of poor urban planning in the city was observed during the monsoon rain back in August this year. The city suffered from severe urban flooding after record rainfall and many areas were flooded for over a week. With 64 casualties and thousands being rescued, the flooding left many citizens trapped without electricity, mobile phone service, cash as most of the ATM links went down.
After the monsoon destruction in the city, PM Imran Khan decided to visit the city with an announcement of a development package worth 1.1 trillion rupees. The package was announced in collaboration with the provincial government including the circular railway system and bus project. The amount announced by the government is actually more than the $6 billion bailouts Pakistan agreed from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to avoid bankruptcy.
The practicality of accessing those funds is totally a different argument. The Sindh government’s transport department has already admitted that they cannot afford to complete large projects on its own. Despite Prime Minister Imran Khan announced 162 billion rupees for mega projects in the city, the city didn’t receive any funds earlier this year as per officials. According to the federal government, it has spent around 24.65 billion rupees till June. However, an allocation of another 17.9 billion has been made for the current fiscal year.
The federal and provincial governments announced several transport projects over the years in order to tackle the worsening transport issue of the city, but those projects were restricted to announcements only. Most of the projects never started, while few are unable to sustain for more than a few years. On the other side, Lahore has started a train service earlier this month as they already have similar kinds of bus projects running for the last seven years at least.
Karachi, the most populous city of Pakistan was once well connected by the trams and circular railway, but corruption, mismanagement, and transport mafia in the disguise of local buses unions have gradually destructed the transportation sector of the city in the late 90s. Major railway tracks of the circular railway system have become illegal slums with people moving from villages or smaller cities to Karachi in order to improve their income and lifestyle. The stations which were operational once, have now become a hub for drug addicts and dealers for their illegal activities. The previous federal government announced to restore the circular railway project in 2017. The constant pressure from courts forced the officials to make efforts in order to restore the city’s historical mode of transport. The Karachi Circular Railway (KCR) is expected to resume its operations this week on 16th of November.
Karachi’s most talk-about project, Greenline BRT was announced back in June 2014. The project miserably failed to meet the deadlines and surpassed the estimated completion date many times. As per the latest update, the federal planning minister said that project is expected to be completed near mid of the next year.
For every problem of the citizens, there’s a mafia who is beneficiary of these issues. They earn millions and billions annually through cashing the problem of a common citizen. Due to these mafias and their mouthpieces in the government institutions, delays in the projects have become the fate of a city for a long time. KCR progressed after a discussion of at least 15 years, Water Supply project took 18 years. The posh area of the city is still deprived of the water pipeline and residents rely on water tankers aka ‘tanker mafia’.