**When Pakistan People’s Party chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari laid the foundation for the Malir Expressway (MEX) in December 2020, there was a fear amongst locals living along the Malir River that they may end up losing their homes when the government would inevitably come knocking to acquire their land for building the 39-kilometer corridor linking DHA with Karachi-Hyderabad Motorway. **
But now, it seems, their fears will be addressed with the government deciding to spend millions in taxpayers’ money to save some 400 houses from being demolished.
The houses are located in the Sammo and Lassi Goth in Malir. Should the government have stuck to its earlier plan, these houses would have been destroyed. But miracles do happen or maybe political pressure worked, and the Sindh government has decided to instead build a two-kilometer-long elevated expressway over the two settlements.
Last month, Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah convened a meeting of the Sindh Policy Board which reviewed minor adjustments in the Malir Expressway (MEX) design and alignment.
To minimize the damage from the construction of the expressway, the Sindh government approved the changes to the design and alignment.
Changes in Malir Expressway
In a departure from its past design, the Sindh government has decided to construct a 2 kilometer-long elevated expressway over Sammo Goth and Lassi Goth to protect the houses of locals who stood to be impacted by the MEX route.
The development was confirmed to SAMAA TV by MEX Project Director Niaz Soomro.
However, the construction of the elevated expressway over Sammo Goth and Lassi Goth would increase the cost of the project by a whopping Rs4 billion.
The core objective of this “minor” re-alignment is to save some 400 houses of locals who have been living there for decades.
Authorities are convinced that after the latest changes, none of the houses in these two settlements will be affected.
Moreover, the new alignment will mean that only 10-acres of agricultural land will be impacted as opposed to earlier estimates of 148 acres.
“The authorities have reviewed the design, again and again, to mitigate the damage as well as saving the exchequer in terms of compensation,” they added.
Flyover will help save money
The officials argued that constructing the flyover was cheaper compared to acquiring land for building the MEX along the ground.
“As per the survey conducted by officials of the Board of Revenue, the estimated compensation amount to be paid for acquiring required land would have been Rs10 billion,” they added.
The cost of land acquisition is higher as the government would have to pay affectees market rate for their land.
Politics of MEX alignment
PPP’s Yousuf Baloch was only recently elected from the area, PS-88 Malir-II. He swept the elections whilst competing against some 16 other candidates in February 16, 2021, by-elections.
Of the 145,627 registered voters in the constituency, the two villages which stand to be affected cumulatively make up for less than 2,500 voters.
In Sammo Goth, there are four census block codes registered and the total number of registered voters here number 1,959 voters.
In Lassi Goth, there are 392 voters.
Government reclaimed military land
Officials privy to the matter said that some military land on the route of Malir Expressway has been reclaimed by the government.
The authorities said there are around 81.77-acres of military land on the MEX route, of which 39.14-acre was with the Pakistan Army and 42.63-acre belonged to the Pakistan Air Force.
It starts in Korangi and ends at ‘chakra point’. The whole area is covered with wild bushes and ‘Hathi Ghans’.
This is a type of grass that is usually used to feed elephants. That is where it gets the name ‘Hathi ghans’. This grass is being exported to Dubai.
Brief history of MEX:
The Malir Expressway is an 18-feet high elevated way that starts from Korangi KPT Flyover and ends at Kathore (M-9) Superhighway.
The total length of MEX is 39 Kilometer with an estimated cost of Rs27billion. This does not include the cost proposed overhead bridge.
The project concessionary is Malir Expressway (Private) Limited.
It is designed by Loya Associates and Zeeruk International (Pvt) Limited while the audit of the project is to be conducted by A.F. Ferguson & Co.
The technical consultants for the project are Engineering Consultants International-ECIL, AA Associates (Pvt) Limited and Exponent Engineers (Pvt) Limited.
The environmental consultant for the project is EMC Pakistan (Pvt) Limited.
The government equity in the project is Rs4.25billion. The Malir Expressway (Pvt) Limited is contributing Rs5.75billion, while the rest of the project cost is to be provided by a consortium of five banks on a loan basis.