PPP MPA Saeed Ghani's constituency to be affected
KMC plans to raze 850 illegal houses in a major operation to clear land on both sides of one of Karachi’s main stormwater drains, the Mehmoodabad Nullah. The operation was supposed to take place Thursday but violence was expected and so the city has enlisted the help of the police and rangers.
Updates on the operation: Karachi’s Mehmoodabad anti-encroachment drive postponed as residents stage protest
The work will be undertaken by the National Disaster Management Authority, the East district administration and Karachi Metropolitan Corporation from Manzoor Colony Fire Brigade Station to Korangi Road. It was planned at the start of last week but put off till the Pakistan Super League.
KMC Metropolitan Commissioner Afzal Zaidi was initially supervising the work (he was transferred out on Wednesday night). The houses run on a 3.5km strip on both sides of the nullah. KMC did give leases for land but at a distance of 100, 150 and 200 feet from the nullah’s edges. Those houses are part of a notified KMC katchi abadi that was formed up until 1987. The problem is with houses that have been built right at the edge of the nullah.
“They are un-leased housing construction and people are living without any documented proof,” he said.
KMC plans to bring the nullah back to the shape as specified in the 1987 Master Plan. Usually when land is left over or vacant around a nullah, a “revised” or “part” plan can be made so people can build on it. But Zaidi clarified that this was not the case.
The encroachment removal will be done according to a 1987 KMC Katchi Abadis notification in which the actual status of the nullah has to be restored according to a Supreme Court order. The width of the Mehmoodabad drain varies by 100, 150 and 200 feet from Manzoor Colony Fire Brigade Station to Korangi Road. Its original width from Manzoor Colony Fire Brigade Station to Bismillah Bridge is 100 feet but this has shrunk to 10 to 12 feet right now.
There are un-leased houses on the left of the drain at Manzoor Colony, Sector 1.
The width of the drain is supposed to be 150 feet wide in the strip from Bismillah Bridge to Akhtar Colony but here too it has shrunk to 12 feet or so. Illegal housing has come up here as well.
On the left, un-leased houses stretch from Bismillah Bridge to Awami Chowk in Manzoor Colony, Sector1. The actual width of this portion is 150 feet. It is much the same near Rehman Colony Extension on the left too.
There is a slight encroachment on the right bank at spots in Azam Town and on the right at Akhtar Colony. From Akhtar Colony to Korangi Road it was supposed to be 200 feet wide but is now just 50 feet. Squatters have come to live here as well. in the portion at Akhtar Colony and from Kashmir Colony to Korangi Road.
“We surveyed the entire site to three to four times in recent days to figure out the numbers of illegal constructions on both sides,” Zaidi added.
Metropolitan Commissioner Zaidi explained that Mehmoodabad nullah falls in KMC’s control as opposed to the city’s other stormwater drains on whose land leases have been given by other land owing agencies. For Mehmoodabad nullah, KMC’s Katchi Abadi department gave all the leases and hence it is easier for it to get the work done.
“It is a test case for KMC and other departments as removing encroachments from Mehmoodabad stormwater drain is comparatively easy than for others in Karachi,” he added.
KMC Katchi Abadis Senior Director Mazhar Khan said that KMC and the East district administration closely surveyed the illegal constructions over the nullah.
“They appeared after 1990 without getting a lease from KMC, as they are on stormwater drain land,” he said. The people who took over this land and made houses rented or illegally sold them to others.
The people who unknowingly were duped into buying illegal land will suffer. Some of them said that they expected the market price for the value of their property. They said they did not accept the government’s Rs0.3 million per person compensation.
KMC’s Mazhar Khan said, however, that the government was bound by law to give market value for only leased property and not un-leased ones.
They said that they had been living there for years and had put their life savings into building their houses on that land. The KMC is expecting resistance and has called in police and Rangers for the operation.
The work to clear illegal houses on one side of Mehmoodabad nullah from Korangi road to Shaheed-e-Millat in Karachi will be a political challenge for the PPP’s Saeed Ghani as the operation will take place in his constituency of PS-104.
The encroachments are in Manzoor Colony Sector I, Azam Town, Rehman Colony and Kashmir Colony.
The other side of the nullah is PTI Bilal Ahmed’s PS-103. This is Liaquat Ashraf Colony, Mehmoodabad No 5 & 6. These areas are leased by the KMC Katchi Abadis Department according to the 1987 Master Plan, according to Senior Director Mazhar Khan. An anti-encroachment operation on this side of the nullah was undertaken in 2016.
Muhammad Anwar, a resident of Liaquat Ashraf Colony, said that KMC removed leased houses in 2016. “The residents went to court against KMC and the court was gave a verdict in favour of the residents,” he said. A year later, former Mayor Wasim Akhtar visited the area and allowed residents to construct their houses again, as the land was leased by KMC, he added.
PTI MPA Bilal Ahmed told SAMAA Digital that PPP MPA Saeed Ghani was not in favour of the operation. This much is self-evident given the political fall-out from any demolition in Karachi. Saeed Ghani could not be immediately unreached for comment.
Sources said that Ghani had expressed his unhappiness at meetings over the plans to raze houses in his constituency. Why could the authorities not go after the much larger and more problematic Gujjar Nullah? The only problem here is that KMC only has jurisdiction on Mehmoodabad nullah and that too only up to Korangi Road.
Another question raised during meetings was why DHA was not going to widen the nullah in its jurisdiction. The nullah flows into DHA after Korangi Road but roads have been built, reducing its width there.
The people who live in these areas have been raising this question. Asif Kashmiri, a resident of Azam Town for the last 13 years, felt that it would be useless to just widen the nullah half-way. He said that the authorities should widen the nullah in DHA where it is just 80 feet. “It is useless to widen the nullah by 200 feet at the Korangi Road end without broadening it in DHA which connects it to its end point.”