Underpasses are not for Karachi. Flyovers are!

Posted on August 3, 2006
Filed Under Economy & Development
Total Views: 22511

By Owais Mughal

Underconstruction Ghareebabad UnderpassWhile 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.

Clifton UnderpassThus 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. Nazimabad Underpass after monsoon rains 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.

11 responses to “Underpasses are not for Karachi. Flyovers are!”

  1. Sajjad says:

    I also have to agree with Aziz sb. A functional basic infrastructure of the city is a prerequisite to any development project. Both underpasses and flyovers are common in some very crowded cities (such as Tokyo), but they are designed to tolerate everything from flooding to earthquakes and that is due to an effective sewerage/drainage system as well as proper planning.

    Wasn’t a mass transit system for Karachi under the wraps? I heard something about it like 10 years ago, yet haven’t seen anything on it lately.

  2. Aziz Akhmad says:

    Isn’t it a terrible irony that a stinking open sewer in Clifton, Karachi is named Nehr-e-Khayam? As Mark Twain’s would say, what overwrought reverence that shows for a sewer, and what callous disrespect for Omar Khayam!

  3. owaism1971 says:

    The latest news is that Clifton underpass has been cleared of water. About Gharibabad underpass the news is that it flooded because of a sewrage line burst underpressure there. An organization called SHEHRI is going to do demonstration at Clifton underpass to protest against the misuse of public funds.

    Today I also read that nehr-e-Khayyam (Khayyam Canal) in Clifton was supposed to be the drainage for the area as well as for Clifton bypass. This canal is supposed to bring drainage into Boat Basin, but those who have seen nehr-e-Khayyam may know that it is now a pool of stagnant sewage. Its water level is probably lower than boat Basin therefore Boat Basin drains into it instead of otherway round. The designed width of nehr-e-khayyam was 100 feet but due to land grabbing it is now down to 15 feet and then the whole canal drains into Boat basin via 36 inch diameter pipe. How can it bear the rain drainage ?

    That is why i said that Karachi should opt out of building anymore underpasses and build flovers instead. Except for an occasional bump on Liaquat flyover and some potholes on Karsaz flyover, Karachi flyovers seem to hold their ground better

  4. Naveed says:

    I agree with Aziz sb…the issue is about basic infrastructure projects carried out by FWO/KPT etc; institutions run amok with incompetence & lack of accountability….. KPT was responsible for the ship wreck that resulted in the worst pollution on the Karachi Seashore two years ago. Any project that is headed by the KPT is doomed from the start…The much publicized water fountain built with millions of rupees is also down for maintenance..therefore i absolutely agree that the basic problem is that of a non existant drainage system…forget about rain…last year a taxi carrying a family with young children plunged into the “island” sidewalk of the major thoroughfare…in the dark, the driver could not see that the “island” was actually a sewege drain and a portion of the fast lane caved into the sewege drain & killing 3 people…utter contempt for citizens is what our rulers are best adapt at…the power play is on…the minister fo communications feigning innocence today & promising action against those responsible for the underpass imbroglio, the same gent was not interested in visiting the affected areas yesterday before president musharaf commits to another tranche of favors to their party

  5. Aziz Akhmad says:


    If you cannot successfully build an underpass it is unlikely that you would be able to build and maintain flyovers. Even the people of Mohenjo Daro, four thousand years ago, knew that drainage was vital for a city to function. It is no rocket science — simple common sense. But, somehow, the successive administrations in Karachi don’t get it.

    The construction of the Clifton Underpass was talked about and advertised as as if they were building the eighth wonder of the world. It’s a crying shame that only 22 mm of rain (less than one inch) has turned it into a canal in full flood!

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