Karachi’ Deadly Construction to “Clean Indus”; Infocus Weekly Briefs

by M. Wasim

15 October 2023

Deadly Illegal Construction haunts Karachi

Karachi’ Deadly Construction to “Clean Indus”; Infocus Weekly Briefs

Illegal constructions of multi-storey buildings on small residential plots in Karachi continually taking deaths one after another with each passing day. As five people have been killed and four others injured this week when an under-construction building collapsed in Shah Faisal Colony. Though, the superior courts have been hearing many petitions against this menace, but the role of Sindh Building Control Authority (SBCA), the regulatory body to keep check on it, remains questionable. This is not the first case as many similar incidents have taken place in the past in which scores of people were killed. According to the reports labourers were laying reinforced cement concrete (RCC) roof on the third floor over plot No.1191, Block-5, measuring 80 square yards, Shah Faisal Town, Korangi when the building collapsed as apparently the structure could not withstand the weight of two RCC roofs on first and second floors.

Later it was further revealed it was an 80-sq-yd plot, which was illegally bifurcated into two plots of 40 square yards each and the builder sold one of the plots and started raising upper floors on the other plot that had old construction on the ground floor. The ABAD has termed the three-storey building, which was being constructed on a 40-square-yard plot, as “illegal” and asked the government to take action against responsible builders and contractors. While the interim Sindh Chief Minister retired Justice Maqbool Bagar questioned the role of the SBCA and suspended its four officers while setting up an inquiry committee to probe into the incident. The SBCA on the orders of the chief minister has constituted a broad-based inquiry committee to probe the tragedy.

“Clean Indus” Drive kicks off

The “Clean Indus” campaign has been launched this week by the United Nations in Kotri near Jamshoro. The massive community-driven cleaning campaign of the banks of the River Indus in Jamshoro, a point where the peripheries are heavily populated by rural communities, marks the World Food Day, the theme for which this year is “Water is life, water is food”. The theme has been aligned with the goals and objectives of the “Living Indus Initiative” which recognises the significance of water resources in addressing climate challenges, particularly in Pakistan. This year`s Food Day spotlights the plight of 2.4 billion people in water-stressed countries and 600 million reliant on aquatic food systems who face pollution, ecosystem degradation and climate change impacts. The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations, which leads the World Food Day observance, says the cleaning campaign is the first awareness raising event of a year-long drive to restore the Indus Basin ecosystem.

Florence Rolle, the FAO Representative in Pakistan, said that if the Indus had a voice, it would underscore its central role in shaping Pakistan`s population, economy, food, music, and culture since the beginning of Pakistan civilization. “Pakistan`s agriculture sector benefits greatly from its abundant natural resources, water and soil. The country has the largest integrated irrigation network in the world, serving 13.8 million hectares of contiguous cultivated land”, she adds. Recognising the urgency posed by climate change and its effects on the Indus River`s water system, Living Indus initiative is a collaborative venture between Pakistan and UN agencies, dedicated to repairing and restoring the ecological health of the Indus River Basin, especially in the face of pressing climate challenge.

Property Tax Survey in Karachi will start in March 2024

A 12-member World Bank delegation led by its country director Najy Benhassine called on the CM this week to discuss WB-assisted programs in the province. In the meeting, the caretaker Sindh Chief Minister retired Justice Maqbool Baqar was informed that the property tax survey in Karachi would be started in March 2024 with the assistance of the World Bank. As a part of the Competitive and Livable City of Karachi (Click) project, the meeting participants were told that the much-delayed property tax survey in the city will be launched by the next year when the procurement of the satellite imagery data and development of the software required for the property tax survey will get completed in March.

At present there are 13 major World Bank-sponsored projects of $3,218.3 million in progress in Sindh against which so far 29% or $947.8 million has been released. Another project that came under discussion was the Karachi Mobility Project under which the Jam Sadiq Bridge would be constructed. The meeting was told that financial proposals were under evaluation. Besides, the procurement notice for the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) Yellow Line has already been advertised and proposals will be received by Nov 15. The meeting participants decided to complete the design and bidding document for 10 km long corridor of BRT Yellow Line by the next month.

Steel Prices finally falls

At last the price of steel bars have decreased considerably following the federal government’ crackdown on iron scrap smuggling and the devaluation of the dollar. It’s worth noting that steel bar prices have declined by PKR 50,000 per ton, reducing the price per ton to PKR 240,000 from PKR 290,000. Traders believe that lower production costs may lead to reduced prices for ordinary consumers. However, they also expressed concerns that consumers have yet to experience significant relief, especially considering the rising costs of electricity and gas bills.

It is important to mention that the cost of construction materials has surged significantly across the country this year, pushing the construction industry to the brink of collapse. Prices of essential construction materials like gravel, bricks, and cement have also soared. In August, steel bar makers had increased the rate by Rs10,000 per ton attributing rupee depreciation and rising energy cost. However, despite the substantial decreases in Steel prices in October, the Pakistan Association of Large Steel Producers General Secretary fearsthat the prices “may bounce back” in case the rupee loses its strength against the dollar.

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