Either as a cost saving exercise or a profit making one, Karachi’s already subpar infrastructure has now become the victim of average quality raw material, which is being used to construct the city’s roads.
While asphalt is the go-to material for building roads, those in charge of Karachi’s development have now resorted to a cheaper alternative – paver blocks. However, in doing so, they are putting the lives of commuters at risk.
Recently, the small brick-like flat blocks, which are cemented together to lay a pavement or road, were used for the Johar Chowrangi underpass, which came at a cost of Rs 2.1 billion to the public kitty.
The underpass – one of the longest ones in the metropolis – connects traffic from Johar Chowrangi via Habib University to Samama Apartments, a private apartment complex. And commuters who have started using it regularly are now complaining about it.
“My motorcycle broke down on the underpass due to its almost rugged surface and now I have to take the rickshaw everywhere,” complained Mohammad Atif.
However, it is not just motorcycle owners that feel victimised by the underpass. “This road was supposed to be a shortcut for my daily commute to home but now I actively avoid using it because it might wreck my car,” informed Faisal Aziz, who lives in a nearby residential society.
Read Climate-resilient infrastructure
Bushra Waqar, who also lives nearby the underpass, recently found out that rickshaws and cabs charge extra for using the underpass or avoid using it altogether. “I was shocked when my rickshaw driver said he would charge me Rs 100 more for using the new road as it was difficult to drive on. Whereas, a taxi driver refused to use the underpass altogether despite it being a shortcut,” said Waqar while talking to The Express Tribune.
“Complaints about the newly built Johar Chowrangi underpass are not unusual for those who study urban design. If our urban planners had taken the time to do some research they would have found that our next neighbours in Mumbai had used paver blocks to construct major roads in the city a few years ago. However, soon after the blocks were banned due to poor quality and severe criticism,” remarked Muhammad Toheed, a Karachi-based urban planner.
Toheed further said that paver blocks are meant to be used for footpaths or for streets which do not have a heavy flow of traffic. “The underpass will likely exacerbate traffic problems rather than solve them. Paver blocks do not allow vehicles to drive fast as they are not as smooth as asphalt roads,” the urban planner predicted.
Given the mammoth amount of money that was spent on the road, the Express Tribune asked Shabih-ul-Hasan, the Special Secretary for Sindh Local Government Mega Projects, about the project’s potential failure. “The use of paver blocks in major highways is common in western countries as they are much stronger than asphalt. Therefore, claims of asphalt being better are false,” the Special Secretary claimed while talking to The Express Tribune.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 6th2023.