KARACHI: Lyari Expressway officials claim that the stagnation of the expressway’s project came down to the Sindh government’s “lethargic attitude” while the communication standing committee bashed the builders for using “substandard materials” on roads.

On Thursday, the Senate standing committee on communication met with Senator Wali Muhammad Badini at the National Highway Authority (NHA) office to discuss the project that is meant to connect Mauripur Road to the Super Highway.

The project’s general manger, Tufail Ahmed Shaikh, alleged that the people living on Lyari River’s north bank were not willing to evacuate from their homes as the government has not given them new plots or any compensation. “Our role is to do with the construction of the expressway,” he said. “It is the Sindh government’s responsibility to allot the land and to convince people to evacuate the area spread over approximately 5.3 kilometres.”

The GM told the gathering that 16 kilometres of the road – south from Mauripur to Sohrab Goth – has been completed. Now, heavy traffic has been diverted from the inner city areas of Karachi to the Super Highway, easing the traffic on the roads. “The vehicles coming from Sohrab Goth can easily reach Mauripur within minutes,” he said with pride. “If the north-bound section of the expressway is completed, it will really bring a drastic change in traffic congestion.” Six kilometres of the north section has been completed, the rest of the work however, has been stalled by encroachments.

The project kicked off in 2002 and was meant to be completed by 2007 at an estimated Rs21 billion, explained Shaikh. The federal government is meant to contribute Rs12 billion while Sindh must make up the rest – Rs9 billion, including the price of resettling the people affected by the project.

Plots in Hawkes Bay, Baldia and Taiser Town were set aside for these people. “The remaining part of the project will cost us around Rs3.25 billion.

Meanwhile, the Sindh government has to spend Rs4.5 billion for the re-settlement of the people,” he said. He claimed that the project officials have approached the Sindh government many times, only to be told that there are no funds.

For his part, committee chairman Wali Muhammad Badini made it clear that unnecessary delays will not be tolerated. Later, the committee decided to visit the Lyari Expressway site before meeting with Sindh Governor Dr Ishratul Ebad Khan.

“We will try to meet the governor and government representatives to speed up the work on the project,” he said.

As far as funds and delays go, the officials blamed the federal government for also delaying the release of the budget. “There are around 13 mega projects of roads, but work has been delayed because of the release funds,” he said.

The committee, however, had its own complaints and expressed its dissatisfaction with the construction of the Larkana-Khairpur Road and the substandard material used to build the bridge linking cities on the River Indus.

The chairman, who is with the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid, told Federal Communication Minister Dr Arbab Alamgir Khan Khalil to take action against the contractors and officials involved with the project. “I am really worried about the pathetic condition of the road and bridge which was inaugurated about two and a half years ago,” he said.

The federal minister, in turn, pegged the delay and shortage of funds on the recent floods. However he said that the government is now directing its attention to construction projects. He assured the meeting that, not only the Lyari Expressway, but all ongoing NHA construction projects across the province would be completed with international standard quality.

“We have released around Rs2 billion,” he said. “I assure you that these projects will be completed by March next year.” Moving on to other endeavours, the minister said that the government was planning to upgrade the Karachi and Hyderabad Super Highway and convert it into a motorway within 15 months. “Two Malaysian companies are willing to invest on the project,” he said. The project’s contract would be awarded by the end of this year, he added. “Around 21,000 vehicles travel on the Super Highway daily, of which 60% are heavy vehicles.”

Senator Humayun Mandokhail, Senator Naeem Chattha, Senator Muhammad Ismail Buledi, Federal Communication Secretary Anwar Ahmad Khan, NHA Construction Member Aurangzeb Khan, Operations Member Chaudhry Mujeeb Qadir, Nazeer Ahmed Bhayo, general managers of all ongoing projects in Sindh and Lyari Expressway General Manager Tufail Ahmed Shaikh attended the meeting among others.