By Owais Mughal
While Lahore is getting known for its underpasses, Karachi takes its pride from an ever burgeoning infrastructure of flyovers.
But since 2005, when Karachi took a go at underpasses, it seems to fail miserably. First of all there is not enough plannig done for water drainage out of the underpasses. Second, underpasses are not easy to expand for future demands. While Karachi roads go through regular expansion every few years, these 2-lane underpasses are bound to become a bottle-neck.
Thus in my opinion Flyovers are the answer for Karachi’s traffic problems and not the underpasses.
Underpasses have only one advantage over flyovers and that is aesthetics. Since they do not climb out in the air 40-50 feet therefore they are not an eyesore, do not block light and do not add to the noise level. Karachi now has a fully built (Clifton) and two under construction (Ghareebabad and Nazimabad) underpasses. Few months ago I heard that planning should be done for drainage before the monsoon season starts this year. Monsoon season has started and within two days, all three underpasses now look like lakes with water level anywhere from 14-18 feet in them.
For Clifton underpass 3 fire-engines are working round the clock to pump water out but to no avail yet. There is just no proper drainage where water should be spilled. Being lowest surface in the area, all underpasses become a natural collection point for rain water from all around the area. Gharibabad and Nazimabad flyovers have become lakes before they are even completed. It will become clear in few days as to how much delay will be added to their completion time because of this calamity.
Today’s newspapers are full of blame game stories where different city agencies are going at eachother for not providing drainage infrastructure around the underpasses. This underpass at Clifton has built-in pumps to drain water out so it needs to be seen why those pumps got overwhelmed and failed.
I am not a civil engineer but growing up in Karachi and being familiar with its infrastructure, I want to say that underpasses are not for Karachi, flyovers are. Build more flyovers which are less constrained by space and land problems and are easy to expand in the future.
Owais Mughal grew up in Karachi and is an Electrical Engineer now living in St. Louis, Missouri.