KCR: Going round in circles for 7 years


In an attempt to extract political mileage, the Sindh chief minister on Thursday claimed the much-awaited Karachi Circular Railway (KCR) project has been ‘slightly’ delayed due to some ‘debt issues.’
Facing continuous delays for the past seven years, the $1.58 billion Japanese-funded project has not been started since it was decided by the previous government to revive the KCR in 2004. In its ‘three-year performance report,’ the provincial government has claimed that the KCR was facing delay over debt issues raised by the Finance Ministry that ‘will be resolved soon to get the project restarted.’ The ground realities regarding the KCR, however, show that multiple issues including ‘re-lending’ of funds; resettlement of thousands of affectees; and evacuation of encroached Pakistan Railways (PR) lands, hinder the project and need immediate attention of the government.
The seriousness of provincial and federal governments can be judged by the fact that the transfer of land – currently in possession of Malir Development Authority (MDA) – from the Federal Board of Revenue to the KCR project could not be take place during the past almost one year, despite all prerequisite arrangements being completed, well-placed sources told Pakistan Today.
Besides, the issue of re-lending around $1.58 billion by the Japanese government has remained unresolved despite being discussed at Economic Affairs Division (EAD) meeting in Islamabad held on December 18, 2009.
Furthermore, according to a survey, almost 72 percent of the area on either side of the KCR tracks is occupied by commercial plazas, multi-storied residential apartments, bungalows, institutional buildings, shopping centres, factories, warehouses and petrol pumps. The remaining 28 percent has been occupied by low-income settlements and katchi abadis.
Sources in the Karachi Urban Transport Corporation (KUTC) say that the KCR has been through some studies like Environmental Impact Assessment Study (EIAS), resettlement action plan etc, under the aegis of Japan External Trade Organisation (JETRO), and also approved from various departments and government bodies during the last couple of years. The KUTC has also been able to amicably resolve the dispute between MDA and the PR for clearing a location to resettle of thousands of project-affectees.
However, the continuing delays in solving the rest of the issues are feared to derail the project as its cost has already increased from earlier estimates of $872.316 million to $1.58 billion.