Riddle of the Malir Highway – Latest News – The Nation
Pakistan’s infrastructure and investment policies suffer from a major flaw – while the cost-benefit analysis of major development projects inculcates benefits, impact on economy and GDP, social and environmental aspects of potential projects have been neglected. This results in a situation where billions of rupees and investments are poured into a project, only for the project to be caught up in litigation and bureaucratic hurdles to get environmental stage approvals.
The problems with the proposed Malir highway project in Sindh show that this is not just the scourge of one political party, but a fundamental flaw in our administrative policy. Once again, work on Malir Expressway, a Rs 27.5 billion, 39 km long project that would start from KPT Interchange, Qayyumabad and end at Karachi-Hyderabad Expressway near of Kathore, started before the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) of the project. The report was approved by the Sindh Environmental Protection Agency (Sepa), despite the mandate of the provincial environmental regulations that no construction could be started unless the developer had received a report of EIA.
The guaranteed outcome is the same consequence that has plagued other similar large infrastructure projects – residents who are affected by the project are protesting because of very valid concerns about the environmental and social impact of the project. Like the Lyari highway, the Orange line train and several CPEC projects, there is a risk that the Malir highway will be locked in public interest litigation, when funds and contracts have already been concluded, resulting in losses.
The irony of sidelining environmental regulations from development projects, in favor of economic measurement, is that it can result in the entire project being abandoned at the final stage, leading to massive financial losses. More than that, it leads to poorly designed cities, with chaotic and arbitrary development projects that ignore established methods of urban planning and end up worsening living standards. There is a need for greater transparency in project approval and construction – strict compliance with environmental and social regulations, before the start of construction, is required, in the interest of the city, its inhabitants and developers of the project themselves.