The people inhabiting and making a livelihood on either side of the road claim to be affected by the project
The environmental impact assessment report of EMC Pakistan on the proposed M-9 motorway reveals that 95 per cent of the affected structures on both sides of the road are unauthorised.
At a public hearing in Hyderabad on Tuesday, the stakeholders gave vent to their apprehensions before the officials of the National Highway Authority (NHA), Frontier Works Organisation (FWO) and Sindh Environment Protection Agency (Sepa). The issues unnerving them include compensation, resettlement, relocation and land acquisition, besides the commutability problem of the communities across the motorway due to the fencing.
Some owners of fuel stations and hotels complained that the project is encroaching upon their premises. “They have not bought land from the private owners yet, there has been no mutation [of property] in their name,” claimed Noor Mohammed Khoso, a resident of Kathore.
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However, Saquib Ejaz Hussain, the head of the environment section of EMC Pakistan, dismissed their ownership claim, citing the West Pakistan Highways (Sindh Amendment) Act, 1973, section 3 (b). This legislation allows the NHA to utilise 220 feet in the middle, 450 feet from middle to the right side and 220 feet from middle to the left side of the Super Highway for any construction.
The width of the motorway including the six lanes, the fences and the service lanes is 650 feet with some 450 feet portion on one side and 220 on the other. “We are expanding the road within the land owned by the highway. Actually, their real problem is that the motorway’s fencing will end direct access to their businesses,” Hussain noted while talking to The Express Tribune.
“What are you going to do with the inhabitants and their livelihoods? The people are worried because the government hasn’t clarified its policy so far,” Fayaz Palari, a member of the highway stakeholders, asked the panel of the officials at the public hearing.
Dr Khan Muhammad Brohi, the director of environmental engineering and management at Mehran University of Engineering and Technology, requested the NHA and FWO officials to interact with the local community. “They are not against this project but you need to satisfy the stakeholders’ concerns,” he said.
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The highway, which connects Karachi with Hyderabad and the upcountry, is being converted into a motorway at a cost of Rs44.25 billion. Its completion time is 24 months but the project is yet to start after Sepa’s approval. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif performed the ground-breaking of the project, which is part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, in March this year.
The construction of the motorway will affect 89 petrol and CNG stations, 70 hotels, 86 mosques, 160 tyre shops, five residential colonies, six graveyards and nine orchards, according to EMC Pakistan’s environmental impact assessment (EIA) report.
The EIA report also observed that 95 per cent of the affected structures on both sides of the road are unlawful. At least 300 acres of land will be acquired for building of the service areas, eight interchanges and other facilities. The project is sited in the seismic zone ranging in magnitude between 5 to 6.5 on the Richter Scale. The estimated population of the areas in Malir, Thatta and Jamshoro districts, from where the motorway passes, is around 330,000.
Last week, the Palari community protested on the highway near Karachi claiming that they are being evicted from villages such as Dumba Goth, Jummo Jokhio Goth and Goth Noor Mohammed Kathore. The local people have also filed a petition in the Sindh High Court, Karachi, over these issues.
Sepa director-general Naeem Ahmed Mughal, who presided over the hearing, suggested the NHA to provide proper compensation to the affected people “even if it leads to an increase in the project cost”. He stressed that resettlement and compensation are real issues. “You need a good plan to satisfy the stakeholders who are considered partners in the projects in developed countries,” he said.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 28th, 2015.