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Karachi’s Malir Expressway to uproot ancient goths, farmland

After Lyari Expressway disaster, people fear displacement

SAMAA | - Posted: Feb 8, 2021 | Last Updated: 4 weeks ago
SAMAA |
Posted: Feb 8, 2021 | Last Updated: 4 weeks ago

People in 24 goths (villages) on the left bank of the Malir River in Karachi are bracing for bulldozers, as the Sindh government prepares to build an expressway.

“I will die but I won’t give up my house,” said Zareena, who says she has lived in Shafi Goth for fifty years.

Locals estimate that some 700 acres of farm land will also be razed. The villagers sell what they grow there. Take Azeem Dahkan for example, who has a 1.75 acre patch, where he grows spinach, tomato, radishes and carrots.

The Sindh government laid the foundation stone for the expressway in November. The 39km-long, six-lane carriageway starts at the KPT Interchange at Qayyumabad and ends at the Karachi-Hyderabad Motorway near Kathore. It will have six interchanges: at Korangi Road near Defence View; EBM Causeway; Shah Faisal; Quaidabad near Anwar Baloch Hotel; Memon Goth; and Dumba Goth in Kathore.

The project is a public-private partnership in which three companies, JN Company, Habib Construction and NKB Constructions, are working with the provincial government.

Preliminary design papers say it will have three flyovers and eight underpasses. It will take three years to build (but this could change). Debate continues on the design, say sources privy to those meetings. It could, for example, be on both banks and cross over in a bid to displace as few people as possible.

The general suspicion is that this route, which has a long history of surfacing in real estate marketing campaigns, is being built to get people from DHA Phase VIII faster to Bahria Town and DHA City. “The expressway is being built to facilitate Bahria Town and Malik Riaz,” said Ghulam Muhammad Kamrani of Lasi Goth. “Take your gold but don’t turn out us poor folk from our homes.”

An official on the project who could not be named, said, however, that this is a misconception. He argued that the expressway was not being built for such specific gated communities, which had long sold their plots and could not care less for how people commuted there. It was the Sindh government that knew such a connection was inevitable because of the growth in the city’s population and residential sprawl. The expressway is also ostensibly being built for trucks from the port that need to go upcountry.

Critics point out, however, that the Lyari Expressway was supposed to do that but failed. That mega project led to massive displacement of people.

Hanif Dilmurad Baloch, a researcher from Shafi Goth, said that these goths are over 100 years old and it would be a big cultural loss if they are razed. People said trees, ancient shrines, mosques and graveyards have been marked.

He said the goths are: Old Shafi Goth, Lasi Goth, Memon Goth, Sammoo Goth, Lasi Goth, old thana, Magsi Goth, Thadoo Goth, Nai abadi, Shafi Goth, Dad Muhammad Goth, Mulla Essa Goth, Nasir Town, Jam Goth, Shahu Bagh, Fazal Bagh, Malir Bungalows, Dumllottee Wells Nos 3, 6, 7 & 8, Yaar Muhammad Jokhio Goth, Rasool Bux Khaskheli Goth and Hoth Bazar Goth.  

For his part, Project Director Niaz Soomro said there is nothing wrong with the construction of the Malir Expressway.

“Not that many houses of poor people and agricultural land would be affected by the construction,” he said, adding that the Sindh government would compensate the victims.

Soomro said Sammo Goth and Lasi Goth are two settlements which were regularized by the Board of Revenue through the Gothabad scheme. “The rest of the goths are not regularized,” he said.

Sammo Goth will be the only regularized goth affected by the construction and to a lesser extent Lasi Goth. The Sindh government would resettle the displaced families, he said.

The government survey shows there are records of 127 acres of agricultural land of private owners affected by the construction. The government would compensate them after assessing the area and cost of land. The villagers are skeptical because of how the government handled the displacement of the Lyari Expressway.

According to Soomro, the Environmental Impact Assessment study has been conducted by NESPAK on the World Bank’s recommendation. However, the project was rolled out before the environmental study was finalized.

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