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A new expressway threatens Karachi’s largest green space



The Malir Expressway will destroy much-needed green space and worsen the risk of floods and extreme heat in Pakistan’s largest city.

As the impacts of climate change are being increasingly felt around the world, the situation is made worse by bad urban planning. Pakistan is no exception, as unplanned urban sprawl is eating into many of the country’s green spaces and natural waterways.

The under-construction Malir Expressway in Pakistan’s largest city, Karachi, is a part of this sprawl. A public-private partnership project of the Sindh Government, the six-lane, 38.75-kilometre-long expressway is to be built on the floodplain of the Malir River, running along its left bank. The route will connect the new urban communities of Bahria Town Karachi on the north-east periphery of Karachi — both elite and middle-class gated housing estates built on land that was once home to low-income communities — to the older and established Defence Housing Authority in the south. But all this comes at a cost to the city on many levels.

wrote: “As a result of permission for the building of real estate along the corridor, this lung of the city will be wiped out forever.”

A comparison of two Google Earth images of the Malir riverbed, one from February 2021 and another from April 2023, reveals major changes in the area. The former, captured before excavation began, is lush with greenery, while the latter is reminiscent of a barren wasteland.— Photo courtesy: Sadya Siddique

Destroying green space can make extreme heat more dangerous. When Karachi experienced an intense heatwave in 2015, the Ministry of Climate Change’s technical report on the crisis stated that the ‘urban heat island effect’ was a compounding cause, a phenomenon in which urban areas are warmer than their surroundings owing to built surfaces absorbing heat, and a lack of the cooling effect of vegetation. If the Malir Expressway is built, it will inevitably be followed by urbanisation of the surrounding countryside, which will fuel the urban heat island effect.

While many cities around the world are taking steps to help improve air quality and cool the urban environment, such as by planting trees, installing green roofs, adding green spaces and improving layouts of cities — in Pakistan we see the exact opposite happening.

Eliminating green spaces also hurts biodiversity. Writing for Dawn, Muhammed Toheed notes that the Malir Expressway EIA report claims the project site lies in a “landscape with poor ecosystem”, suggesting that ecological damage from the project will be limited. But ecologists and wildlife experts have said that the Malir area is rich in wildlife, being home to 176 species of birds — biodiversity that could be lost to development.

key causes of urban flooding in the city, and experts say that climate change will likely make incidents of heavy monsoon rainfall more frequent in South Asia. According to Belgaumi, the expressway, which is being built on the Malir River’s floodplain, will block the natural flow of rainwater during heavy rainfall, reducing the river’s capacity to carry rainwater away.

While the city has promised to construct drainage channels and culverts for the Malir Expressway, Belgaumi says these will not be enough, and that the consequences of an actively blocked drainage channel will be nothing less than catastrophic.

Route of the under-construction Malir Expressway in Karachi, Pakistan.— Photo courtesy: Government of Sindh, Graphic: The Third Pole

Karachi is not alone in this, with the expressway representing a microcosm of a bigger problem arising across South Asia. For example, when monsoon rains caused devastating floods in Bengaluru, south India, in 2022, meteorologists said that poor urban planning was largely to blame for the damage.

Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report for the Malir Expressway, conducted by a contracting company, was submitted for approval to the Sindh Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) in October 2021.

Under the Sindh Environmental Protection Act, 2014, in the course of reviewing an environmental assessment, SEPA must invite members of the public to comment on any EIAs conducted. Yet while many concerned citizens, environmental experts and local farmers have submitted written objections against the Malir Expressway project’s EIA, and participated in a public hearing, these objections were never taken into consideration by SEPA.

Additionally, according to the 2014 Act, no proponent of a project can commence construction or operations before filing the necessary environmental assessments. But the EIA report for the expressway was published months after the project was initiated.

The EIA report mentions the presence of Sindhi and Balochi tribes that identify as Indigenous, who would be displaced from their intergenerational land. But so far, SEPA has not publicised a Land Acquisition and Resettlement Policy. This suggests the project is being undertaken in a way that is not only against the law, but also in contravention of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Article 10 of which states that Indigenous peoples shall not be relocated “without their free, prior and informed consent”.

The lack of public participation also goes against the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, Principle 10 of which states that environmental issues are “best handled with the participation of all concerned citizens”, and that at the national level, “each individual is to have the opportunity to participate in decision-making processes”. In failing to take into account the voices of local farmers, the state is demonstrating that it considers the rights of some more significant than others.

Much of Pakistan has seen the land-use profile of agricultural districts changing from agricultural to urban. In a petition against the Ravi Urban Development Project in January 2022, the Lahore High Court observed that while unregulated urbanisation of agricultural and cultivated farmland and forested areas has been taking place since 1972, no rules have been implemented to control the acquisition of agricultural land for the purposes of urbanisation. While development brings advantages, these must not be brought at the cost of devastation to local communities.

This article was originally published on The Third Pole and has been reproduced here with permission.


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Pan helps China light up pool after first eSports medals



HANGZHOU: Teen sensation Pan Zhanle swam a freestyle leg at world record pace to drive China to the men’s 4×100 metres medley relay gold at the Asian Games on Tuesday after the hosts claimed the first title at eSports’ official debut in the multi-sport event.

Two nights after becoming the first Asian swimmer to break the 47 seconds barrier in the 100 metres freestyle, 19-year-old Pan clocked an incredible 46.65 as China threatened the United States’ world record.

Pan’s time was 0.21 seconds faster than the 100m world record held by another 19-year-old wunderkind, Romanian David Popovici.

With world champion Qin Haiyang swimming the breaststroke leg in 57.63 seconds — faster than the Asian record — China won in three minutes 27.01 seconds, just outside the US world record of 3:26.78 from the Tokyo Olympics in 2021.

“We thought we would have to wait until next year to come close to the world record, so tonight we put in a really good performance,” said Qin, who owns the 50, 100 and 200 breaststroke world titles. “There must be a higher goal. Our goal has always been to win the gold medal at the Paris Olympics next year.”

China have ruled the Hangzhou pool — and the Games in general. Olympic bronze medallist Li Bingjie won the women’s 400m freestyle to add to the medal haul.

However, Hong Kong’s Siobhan Haughey has been a bulwark of resistance to China’s dominance.

The former British colony’s first Olympic swimming medallist stormed to victory in the blue riband 100m freestyle with an Asian record swim of 52.17 seconds, a day after taking the 200 title.

“I haven’t swum a [personal] best time since Tokyo,” said 25-year-old Haughey, who took the 100 and 200 silvers at the Olympics. “It just proves that I’m not at my peak yet.”

China took four of the six golds on the night. The other went to Tomoru Honda, who stunned exhausted Japanese team-mate Daiya Seto in the 400m medley.


Gaming is making its debut as a medal event in Hangzhou in what is seen as a major step towards Olympic status one day.

Audiences of overwhelmingly young spectators have packed out the 4,500-capacity Hangzhou Esports Center in the hope of catching one of their heroes, especially South Korea’s Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok.

He will lead the Koreans in League of Legends — and controversially earn an exemption from military service if they win gold.

Medals are up for grabs in seven gaming titles, with China grabbing the first gold when they defeated Malaysia in the final of smartphone game Arena of Valor. Malaysia take home silver and Thailand bronze

“The audience who loves eSports and the veterans in the eSports industry have been looking forward to this for a long time,” China’s captain Luo Siyuan said after his team’s historic victory. “I believe that eSports will develop more and more in the future.”

Underlining just how popular eSports is at the Games, it is the only competition in Hangzhou where tickets were allocated through an initial online lottery.

China’s place in the Games record books helped the home nation stretch their lead atop the medals table with golds in their usual strengths of gymnastics, table tennis and shooting to increase their overall tally to 53 at the end of three days of action.

They are way ahead of South Korea (14 golds), Japan (eight) and Uzbekistan and Hong Kong (both five).


China’s all-powerful table tennis squad swept past rivals Japan 3-0 in the women’s team final. They also claimed men’s team gold over South Korea by the same scoreline.

In artistic gymnastics, home favourite and twice world champion Zhang Boheng grabbed his second gold, adding the all-around individual title to his men’s team triumph on Sunday.

Unbeaten in every rotation, Zhang stuck the landing in the horizontal bar to finish with a total score of 89.299, over two points clear of Japan’s runner-up Takeru Kitazono.

But China were dethroned by Japan in the men’s team sprint at the Chun’an Jieshou Sports Centre Velodrome on the first day of action on the cycling track.

Japanese rider Yoshitaku Naga­sako said his team thrived on the partisan crowd. “When I heard ‘China’ I just thought ‘Japan’. So the crowd was amazing,” he said. “I’m really proud to win this one.”

China’s women made no mistake in their team sprint final, beating South Korea to the title.

In other action, Hong Kong retained their men’s rugby sevens title when they beat South Korea 14-7 in the final, as hosts China won the women’s gold.


The Games had a royal touch when Thailand’s Princess Sirivannavari Mahidol rode in on a horse named ‘Es Fangar’s Samba King’ in the dressage team event.

With Thailand finishing fifth — behind gold-winning India — the 36-year-old daughter of King Vajiralongkorn was unable to add a medal to the crown jewels

“Luckily our father is supporting us,” said the princess, who pla­yed badminton at the 2006 Asian Games and competed in equestrian at the 2014 edition. “He knows that what drives my heart is horses and badminton.”

Published in Dawn, September 27th, 2023


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India resumes internet ban in restive Manipur after protests



India has reimposed an internet ban on the restive Manipur state after violent protests erupted following the circulation of photographs of two dead students killed during the months-long conflict, officials said.

More than 150 people have been killed in the remote northeast state since armed clashes broke out in May between the predominantly Hindu Meitei majority and the mainly Christian Kuki community.

The far-flung state has fractured on ethnic lines with rival militia groups setting up blockades.

A nearly five-month-long internet ban was lifted last week, but was reimposed late Tuesday after dozens were injured during violent protests in the state capital Imphal.

On Tuesday, police fired tear gas as hundreds of angry students marched following the release of photographs of two dead bodies on social media, a 17-year-old woman and a 20-year-old man from the Meitei community, local media reported. The pair went missing in July.

The internet was then cut to curb the “spread of disinformation, false rumours, and other types of violent activities through social media platforms”, a government order read.

Biren Singh, the state’s chief minister, said on late Tuesday that officers were investigating the deaths.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been criticised for his administration’s failure to end the violence in the state, which is governed by his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Human Rights Watch has accused the Manipur authorities of facilitating the conflict with “divisive policies that promote Hindu majoritarianism”.

Mallikarjun Kharge, leader of the opposition Congress party, on Wednesday accused the ruling party of turning Manipur “into a battlefield”, in a post on X.


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Avastin use banned for indefinite period



LAHORE: The Punjab government has slapped a ban on the use of Avastin injection for eye patients for an indefinite period across the province, besides launching a portal to collect data of the patients affected by the drug and provide them treatment facilities.

The data collection through the portal launched by the Primary and Secondary Healthcare Department will help the government prepare a policy regarding the use of the injection.

Provincial health ministers Dr Jamal Nasir and Dr Javed Akram said this while addressing a joint press conference here on Tuesday.

They said the ban was imposed as a high-level inquiry was underway to find out the prime factors leading to vision loss among patients administered the injection in Punjab.

68 affected patients have surfaced in Punjab so far

They asked the affected patients to provide necessary information on the portal to get treatment and help the government in assessing the true impact of the drug’s reaction.

They said that so far 68 patients affected by this injection have been reported in the province, for whom special beds have been allocated in the Holy Family Hospital Rawalpindi, Mayo Hospital, Lahore and Nishtar Hospital, Multan.

The ministers said a new 10-member committee has also been constituted by Punjab Chief Minister Mohsin Naqvi to analyse the situation caused by Avastin injection’s reaction.

The committee will point out deficiencies and weaknesses at various levels in handling and use of the injection and prepare a comprehensive action plan to prevent recurrence of such incidents in future.

Primary Healthcare Minister Dr Jamal Nasir said this injection, available in the market in 100mg pack, was primarily meant for the treatment of colon cancer and its use for the treatment of eyes in diabetic patients falls under the category of “off-label” use, adding that the injection was neither fake nor locally manufactured.

“The diabetes patients require only 1.2mg dose and some people sell this injection in small syringes for this purpose,” Dr Nasir said.

He said the injection should be kept at 2 to 8 degrees Celsius temperature and administered to the patient within six hours of opening the pack. However, he said, apparently due to increase in temperature its chemical composition changed and this might have happened because of not maintaining the required temperature during its transportation.

Dr Nasir said that efforts were under way to arrest those who sold this injection in small syringes illegally, adding that the Punjab Healthcare Commission (PHC) has also been directed to trace the doctors and hospitals involved in this issue.

The minister said that 11 drug inspectors in eight cities of Punjab have been suspended from service and an inquiry has been ordered against them for failing to check the illegal sale of the injection in small doses.

Punjab Specialized Healthcare Department Minister Dr Javed Akram said new members have been added to the committee constituted by the chief minister, including Professor of Microbiology Dr Sidra, Professor of Ophthalmology Dr Moin and Professor of Forensic Medicine Dr Allah Rakha.

He said the committee would also inspect the premises where the injection was being packaged in small syringes and determine whether those places were suitable for the process or not.

Apart from this, he said, the record of temperature maintained during shipment, off-loading and transportation etc of the “contaminated” lot of the injection would also be sought from Switzerland-based company.

Dr Akram apprehended that it seemed good clinical practices had not been taken into account while using this injection for eye treatment. He said it was mandatory to seek consent of the patient in local language before administering the injection, adding that those responsible for this episode would be held accountable without any leniency.

PHC: The Board of Commissioners of the Punjab Healthcare Commission (PHC) has directed the senior management of the commission to be prepared for special inspections of the hospitals where eye infection cases were reported due to the administration of Avastin injection to the patients.

The directions were issued in an emergent meeting of the PHC Board of Commissioners (BoC) headed by chairperson retired Justice Muhammad Bilal Khan.

A representative of the PHC, who had attended the meeting of the recently formed committee by the government also attended the BoC meeting.

He briefed the BoC regarding the proceedings of the meeting convened by both interim health ministers – Prof Javed Akram and Dr Jamal Nasir.

The BoC was informed that the issues related to import, compounding and dispensing of the dosage for eye patients will be investigated by the committee, while the PHC was asked to investigate the practices in the hospitals where the injection was administered.

After deliberations, the BoC directed the PHC senior management to make preparations for any action, especially, the inspections of the hospitals where the infections have been reported.

The BoC also ordered inspections of these healthcare establishments to ensure implementation of the minimum service delivery standards, especially pertaining to infection protection and control, medication management, qualifications of the medics, and sterilisation of operation theatres.

The BoC also ordered issuance of an advisory for the affected patients to initiate complaint about these incidents. For this, they can also WhatsApp their complaints at 0306 0843500, for initiation of investigation by the PHC.

In a related development, the Lahore police arrested a suspect, Bilal, from Arifwala, in connection with Avastin injection scam.

The police said a case had been registered against the suspect by Faisal Town police.

A special police team investigating the case traced the location of the suspect at Arifwala and arrested him in a raid on a premises, with the help of local police, sources said.

Published in Dawn, September 27th, 2023


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