For Karachi tackling encroachment has become a nightmare for the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC) as despite the removal of squatting they end up at the same place with the same people the next day. In busy market areas like Empress Market, Regal, Saddar, Liquatabad and old city areas, almost all of the footpaths and two-thirds of the area of the roads are encroached by pushcart men and other vendors despite court orders.
Pedestrian rights campaigners have suggested to install grills on footpaths, so that they could be used only by pedestrians. They claim that there is an inbuilt handicap to remove squatting on roads and footpaths, because encroachers pay bribes, locally called Bhatta, to people in KMC, district municipal institutes and traffic police. When these departments face pressure, especially court directions, they carry out cosmetic anti-encroachment operations to show their performance, however, these lukewarm operations do not give the desired results as there is a lack of strong will due to the bribery factor and political pressure as local office-bearers of different political parties also benefit due to the fact that they receive protection from such activities as well.
The government should implement its minibus re-routing plan, reactivate the idle project of Saddar Car Parking Plaza and declare the whole area from Mazar-e-Qauid to Burns Road as a no parking area, besides installing iron grills on footpaths. Fitting surveillance cameras to monitor traffic flow and encroachment situation could also be a preventative measure.
Taking an anti-encroachment operation is relatively easy but ensuring that the removed encroachments do not re-emerge is really a difficult task and presently a nightmare for the KMC. However, the anti-encroachment cell officials with the support of police should not only continue its anti-encroachment operations, but also take steps to make the operations sustainable and result oriented to facilitate general public.
BISMA ABDUL LATIF,
Karachi, November 15.