Karachi: Lack of an action plan is resulting in non-utilization of Pakistan’s biggest car parking plaza in Karachi, while the provincial government of Sindh and Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC) are reluctant to take the responsibility of wastage of public money in paying salaries, huge electricity bills and other utility charges of this huge building while people suffer a lot illegally parked vehicles on the streets of nearby Saddar market area create immense traffic jams
The parking plaza completed with cost of hundreds of millions of rupees about half a decade back has the capacity of parking 700 cars and 500 motorbikes, but presently only a couple of dozen vehicles are parked here daily.
On one hand this huge facility remained unused and on the other hand about 12000 vehicles are parked daily on the streets of Saddar, resulting in frequent traffic jams. The huge parking plaza was made to solve this problem, but the project failed miserably due to lack of an action plan to use it.
The 12-storey plaza – with eight floors for parking and two each for shops and offices – was constructed at a cost of Rs 650 million on a 35,654 square feet plot some four years ago. It has ample space to park 700 vehicles and 500 motorcycles, besides accommodation for 160 shops and 118 offices. However, this huge parking plaza remains unutilised due to bureaucratic apathy, clash of interests of stakeholders, provincial government of Sindh, Karachi Metropolitan Corporation and traffic police.
At the time of opening of this project, it was announced that parking of every type of vehicle would be banned in Saddar area. A shuttle bus service would be plied between the parking plaza and Merewether Tower to facilitate the people who park their vehicles in the plaza. However, neither vehicle parking was banned in the area on sustainable basis and nor any shuttle bus run to facilitate people.
Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) Karachi leader and ex-MPA Muhammad Yunus Barai said the administration has become a tool in the hands of ruling political parties; therefore, even the most pressing and genuine problems of Karachiites are not being resolved. He said not only the Saddar car parking plaza but scores of other completed projected are not being utilized or under-utilized purposefully to get political mileage, while ignoring the public interest. He said if there is a political will the Saddar car parking plaza could be made fully functioning in a couple of days.
Inner sources say these decisions were not implemented as the market associations of Saddar opposed the idea of banning parking in the area as it would mean fewer customers for them. Moreover, banning illegal parking was also not in the interest of traffic police, as illegal parked vehicles are considered main source of their revenue in the area. Another factor was the presence of thousands of roadside vendors and encroachers who also daily based bribes called bhatta to corrupt government functionaries and dominant political outfits of the area.
However, All Pakistan Organization of Small Traders and Cottage Industries (APOST&CI) Karachi chapter president Mahmood Hamid says the solution to traffic jam issue in Saddar area would actually benefit the shopkeepers. He said due to acute traffic jams good buyers especially families have stopped visiting the area, which is a big loss for traders. He said the government should take efforts to get the car parking plaza fully utilized.
Interestingly, the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC) is constructing another five-storied car parking plaza at Shahabuddin Market near the unutilized 12-storied CDGK parking plaza. The failure of CDGK parking plaza is a lesson that only provision of modern infrastructure is not sufficient to solve the civic problems. Multistoried parking plazas are useless if the administration lacks capability to stop illegal parking on streets.
Altaf Shakoor, president of Pasban, a citizens’ rights organization, said traffic jams and illegal parking are amongst the major issues of Karachi, but they are not being resolved due to inefficient bureaucracy and corrupt politicians. He said the lanes of London are narrower as compared to the streets of Karachi, but traffic jams are unheard in London due to better city management and efficient traffic policing. He said the Karachi traffic police is efficient to get bribe from overcrowded minibuses which allows passengers to sit on rooftops, but it is totally paralyzed when it is the matter of facilitating citizens. He said similarly, the KMC is not being run on merit and political appointments of non-professional people in it are the main reason why the civic infrastructure of Karachi is in shambles. He said the provincial government is run by Waderas who have no vision how to run efficiently the mega urban cities.
Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM) MPA and the leader of the opposition in Sindh Assembly Faisal Sabzwari recently spoke about the Saddar car parking plaza issue on the floor of Sindh assembly. He said the car parking plaza could not be utilized because the traffic police is not under the city government. He said the KMC wants to get utilized the car parking plaza by getting banned parking in Saddar area but the traffic police is not cooperating in this regard.
This multistoried car parking plaza, first of its kind in Pakistan, would continue to be remained unused/ underused till an action plan to get it properly utilized is not implemented and traffic police, Sindh government and KMC not joining hands to facilitate Karachiites, keeping behind the petty political interests.