KARACHI: The Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC) has a stake in 31 per cent of the areas in Karachi when it comes to taking action against encroachments. The remaining areas, and the decisions pertaining to removing encroachments, come under, and are divided between, the Pakistan Railway, cantonments spread across the city, Karachi Port Trust, Lyari Development Authority, Malir Development Authority and Sindh industrial areas. The respective authorities in these areas have their own encroachment cells to look into the matter of encroachments, which they do, depending on the manpower that they have. This was said by KMC director Mazhar Khan while speaking at a consultative meeting organised by Shehri, an advocacy group on environment and development, on Monday.
Speaking about the kinds of encroachments, Mr Mazhar said there were two prominent kinds usually witnessed in Karachi. He specifically pointed out the illegal space taken up by shopkeepers and vendors outside shopping malls and footpaths, which, he said, were an “increasing menace.”The second kind, he said, was the one witnessed in the form of double parking, also seen within commercial areas, outside shopping malls, and around offices. When it came to taking action against such encroachers, he said the capacity of the KMC was restricted.
“In the past, the KMC used to have its own security force which used to carry out vigilance work for it. But the corporation does not have this facility now. We are dependent on police officers at present. And they don’t consider this [going after encroachers] a matter of priority,” he said.
Speaking about the areas worst affected by encroachments, he said district South was “a troubled area where encroachment issues have been dragging on for years”.
Activists call for end to encroachments
Attended by police officers and members of Shehri, the meeting began with an introductory speech by Amber Ali Bhai, a senior member of Shehri, who argued that the purpose of calling a meeting between the authorities and rights activists was to not insult or point fingers at the authorities but instead to have an “open dialogue”.
She added that the “citizens are not exempt from sharing responsibility when it comes to being silent about increasing encroachment across the city and choosing to not file a complaint.”
Taking the same point forward, another member of Shehri, Sameer Hamid Dodhy, spoke about the necessity of speaking up when one witnesses either double-parking outside one’s own streets or about charged parking. Focusing specifically on places in Saddar and all the way to Imtiaz Store in Bahadurabad, where charged parking is rampant, Dodhy said that it was not legally supported and was running with the connivance of both police and those who ‘own’ those charged parking spaces. As a result of this, millions of rupees were being made through charged parking spaces.
“Recently, the Sindh Assembly stated through a notification that charged parking will be a one-off thing. It also said that the parking fee will go to the provincial assembly rather than the municipal authorities. We have a right to know where the said money would go,” said Dodhy.
The next speaker and a member of Shehri, Dr Syed Raza Gardezi, spoke about the ways to ask questions by contacting the right people. He said that through Shehri members and rights group activists could raise questions and ask people to read the existing laws. “But beyond that, the ultimate decision of speaking up rests on the people which unfortunately not many people do as they feel it doesn’t concern them,” he added.He also spoke about the bane of increasing billboards in the city and argued that the June 30 deadline given by the Supreme Court for taking down billboards across the city “will not be respected”. He said that around “99 per cent of the billboards in Karachi were put up illegally with no due consideration given to public safety and traffic rules.”
As the temperature rises and billboards advertising upcoming lawn brands adorn the main arteries of the city, Dr Gardezi suggested that it would be appropriate to “file a complaint with the companies selling the products to tell them of the nuisance the billboards are creating”. He ended his presentation by concluding that big brands and companies were forced to take laws into consideration when people hit their pocket by boycotting their products.