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UPDATE (Pakistan): Violence imminent over Lyari Expressway construction in Karachi

As reported in our January appeal (HA-01-2006) the Lyari Expressway, which will be 16 kilometres long and is expected to bring in Rs. 400 million of revenue, was originally proposed to alleviate several problems including the erosion of the Lyari riverbeds and traffic congestion in the area. But at what cost? Owing to the construction of the expressway, thousands of people have already been forcibly evicted from their homes, with few having received appropriate alternative living arrangements or compensation for their loss. As a result, thousands have been forced onto the streets without adequate food, shelter, heating or water.

UPDATE ON URGENT APPEAL UPDATE ON URGENT APPEAL UPDATE ON URGENT APPEAL

ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION - URGENT APPEALS PROGRAMME

Update on Hunger Alert

10 April 2006

[RE: HA-01-2006: PAKISTAN: City government forces eviction leaving thousands homeless and without food in Karachi]
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UP-073-2006: PAKISTAN: Violence imminent over Lyari Expressway construction in Karachi

PAKISTAN: Forced eviction; right to housing; right to life; abject poverty
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Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received further information regarding the current status of the Lyari Expressway Project, due to render over 250,000 people homeless when completed. It is believed that the expressway construction will recommence by the end of April 2006, however there has been no notice given to the affected households and no rehabilitation plans have been proposed. The project will most likely also ensue violently, as military and police officials will be present to ensure the demolition is carried out.

As reported in our January appeal (HA-01-2006) the Lyari Expressway, which will be 16 kilometres long and is expected to bring in Rs. 400 million of revenue, was originally proposed to alleviate several problems including the erosion of the Lyari riverbeds and traffic congestion in the area. But at what cost? Owing to the construction of the expressway, thousands of people have already been forcibly evicted from their homes, with few having received appropriate alternative living arrangements or compensation for their loss. As a result, thousands have been forced onto the streets without adequate food, shelter, heating or water.

In the latest development in this case, the city district government of Karachi and other military agencies plan to demolish a further 14,000 houses (on top of the 11,394 already demolished) at the end of this month, or in the first week of May, to make way for further construction on the Lyari Expressway. It is believed that with the demolishing of the approximately 25,000 houses, a total of 250,000 people will be rendered homeless at the completion of the expressway. There is also grave fear that the evictions will turn violent, particularly as there are more than 4,000 houses which are centuries old and the inhabitants are adamant that they will not leave their ancestors¡¦ land.

Of further concern is that the project has demolished many homes that do not even fall under the path of the expressway. This is being done simply to take control of prime land to facilitate the ruling janta and land mafia.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION:

Controversy has surrounded the Lyari Expressway Project since it first began in 2002. Opponents maintain that the development of the road will not only displace thousands of people and affect 50 communities but also only add to the traffic congestion problems in the city. Additionally, it is expected that up to 100,000 children will be deprived of education as several schools will also be demolished. Since the demolitions by the Karachi City Government began, surveys report that approximately 11,000 houses and 3,100 commercial buildings have been destroyed. No compensation or alternative land was given to the commercial units, the destruction of which has left approximately 30,000 people without work.

One reason for the project going ahead, despite the controversy, is the approval it has received by General Musharraf. Owing to this the project did not require any approval by any elected forum. The federal cabinet did not need to approve it, nor did the elected local councils, despite the expressway being constructed directly within the bounds of seven town councils and several union councils. In fact no government authority has consulted with the communities who have been directed affected by the project. Any distribution of compensation or resettlement has been the direct result of continuous peaceful movements and protests by citizens with the help of political parties, civil society organisations and the media.

The military government has violated many domestic laws and provisions of the constitution in regards to right to shelter. The government has ignored the Land Acquisition Act, through which the government is bound to conduct proper surveys on affected houses. The government also never conducted an Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) which is mandatory under the constitution and laws of the land. The Environment Protection Act (EPA) 1996 was also ignored.

The constitution of Pakistan confers on the government and the state the duty to provide all basic facilities for a comfortable life for its citizens. This includes the provision of food, shelter, clothing, education and health. This is to be provided to all citizens irrespective of gender, race, caste or language and includes those who are unable to make a living due to illness, disability or due to temporary loss of income. Further, no citizen can be deprived of his land or property for public purposes. If this cannot be guaranteed, the citizen must be paid compensation.

The Action Committee for Civic Problems (ACCP) has designed an alternative proposal for the construction of the expressway with the help of prominent town planners. However, the government has shown no interest in this proposal given that the expressway is being constructed by an army organisation, Frontier Works Organsiation and because the contractor is a semi-army organisation called the National Highway Authority.
  

SUGGESTED ACTION:
Please write to the relevant officials below, urging them to stop the demolitions along the Lyari River immediately until rehabilitation plans and programmes are finalised for the affected communities, as per the Sindh High Court decision of June 2003. The project must have full approval from the elected assemblies and counties, and must be go through an environmental impact assessment before it is to continue. Furthermore, the expressway project must not include the destruction of centuries old villages outside the Lyari River area. Finally, a survey of the affected communities should be conducted, under the Law of Land Acquisition Act 1884, to realise fully the adverse affects it will cause.

Suggested letter:

Dear ____________,

PAKISTAN: Violence imminent over Lyari Expressway construction in Karachi

I have recently learned of further developments regarding the Lyari Expressway project in Karachi and the city district government¡¦s plan to demolish an additional 14,000 homes. I believe that despite no notice having been given to the affected households and no rehabilitation plans having been proposed, the government authorities plan to recommence the construction of the expressway by the end of April 2006, rendering thousands of people homeless and depriving them of their rights. The project will most likely also ensue violently, as military and police officials will be present to ensure the demolition is carried out.

I am aware that the Lyari Expressway was originally proposed to alleviate several problems including the erosion of the Lyari riverbeds and traffic congestion in the area. But I ask you at what cost? Owing to the construction of the expressway, approximately 14,000 houses have been demolished forcing thousands of people onto the streets, with few having received compensation for their loss. It is believed that by the time the project is completed a total of 250,000 people will have lost their homes and livelihoods.

I would like to remind you that the demolition procedures are in complete violation of previous commitments made by the city government. In a letter to the UN commission on housing rights written by the previous city district government, the local administration assured the UN agency that they would not proceed with the demolition of houses unless a 15 day notice and appropriate compensation was given to the victims. Additionally, on 14 October 2003, the High Court of Sindh directed the National Highway Authority, Government of Sindh and the City District Government of Karachi to review the design of the Lyari Expressway so as to minimise the number of people to be affected by this project. Despite this, I am aware that the government has shown no interest in an alternative proposal designed by the Action Committee for Civic Problems which would have alleviated the need for the demolition of so many homes. I am also aware that only 400 houses have received some compensation and the local administration has completely ignored the court order.

It is inexcusable that in the name of development, the city government has destroyed the homes and livelihoods of thousands of people, without providing any notice, compensation or alternative land to the victims. Despite the fact that the project will affect more than 50 communities and render approximately 250,000 people homeless, the city officials are not deterred and continue to push ahead. It is also disturbing that city officials have acted violently and callously towards all the victims, and even more poorly towards the Hindu minorities who live in the affected areas.

Owing to the devastation that the expressway has already caused, I write to you now pleading with you to take action to ensure that the demolitions along the Lyari River be immediately stopped until rehabilitation plans and programmes are finalised for the affected communities, as per the Sindh High Court decision of June 2003. The project must have full approval from the elected assemblies and counties, and must undergo an environmental impact assessment before it is to continue. Furthermore, the expressway project must not include the destruction of centuries old villages outside the Lyari River area. Finally, a survey of the affected communities should be conducted, under the Law of Land Acquisition Act 1884, to realise fully the adverse affects it will cause.

I trust that your intervention will precede the destruction of any more homes.

Yours sincerely,
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PLEASE SEND YOUR LETTERS TO:

1. Mr. Syed Mustafa Kamal
City Mayor (Nazim)
Karachi City District Government
Karachi
PAKISTAN
Fax: +92 21 923 2406
PLEASE SEND COPIES TO:

2. Mr. Ishrat-ul- Ibad Khan
Governor
Government of Sindh
Governor House Karachi
PAKISTAN
Tel: + 92 21 920 1201
Fax: +92 21 920 5043

E-mail: governor@governorsindh.gov.pk

3. Mr. Fawazi Yousef Al-Huanif
Director of Operations
Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development
E-mail: Operations@Kuwait-Fund.org

4. Mr. Barakzai
Project Director
National Highway Authority (Sindh)
Shah Rahe Faisal
Opposite Regent Plaza Hotel
Karachi
PAKISTAN
Fax: +92 21 923 2348

PLEASE SEND COPIES:

1. General Pervez Musharraf
President
President¡¦s Secretariat
Islamabad
PAKISTAN
Fax: +92 51 922 4768/ 920 1893 or 1835
Email: CE@pak.gov.pk

2. Dr. Arbab Ghulam Rahim
Chief Minister of Sindh
Chief Minister¡¦s House
Dr. Ziauddin Road, Karachi
PAKISTAN
Fax: +92 21 920 2000

3. Mrs. Saira Karim
Joint Secretary for Law, Justice and Human Rights
Islamabad
PAKISTAN
Tel: + 92 51 920 2819
Fax: + 92 51 920 3119

4. Mr. Miloon Kothari
UN Special Rapporteur on adequate housing
Att: Ms. Cecilia Moller
Room 4-066/010
UNOG-OHCHR, CH-1211, Geneva 10
SWITZERLAND
Tel: +41 22 917 9265
Fax: +41 22 917 9010

5. Mr. Farouk Tebbal
Chief Shelter Branch
UNCHS ¡V Habitat
One United Nations Plaza
21st Floor, Rom. 2160
New York, NY 10017
USA
Fax: +1 212 906 6379
E-mail: Farouk.Tebbal@unhabitat.org

Thank you.

Urgent Appeals Programme
Asian Human Rights Commission (ahrchk@ahrchk.org)

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