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Saturday, 6 February 2016
Restricted access: Authorities disregard special needs by demolishing ramp
One of the few ramps built for wheelchair-bound residents of the city on University Road was demolished on December 9, last year, despite a court order to ensure it stays put.
One of the few ramps built for wheelchair-bound residents of the city on University Road has recently been demolished, restricting access to people with physical disabilities.
The ramp near federal Urdu university was demolished on December 9, 2015, despite a court order to ensure it stays put.
The spokesperson of the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC), Bashir Ahmed, insisted that none of their departments are involved in dismantling the ramp. But he also admitted that they have yet to lodge an FIR regarding the incident.
The ramp was built by Armada On Road Advertising (Pvt) Limited. Talking to The Express Tribune, the firm’s CEO Irfan Hashmi said they built the ramp in 2004 on the basis of Built-Operate-Transfer model and were glad as it was being used by deserving citizens.
Hasmi explained that when he recently heard about the plan to dismantle the ramp, he approached the Sindh High Court as his agreement with the government [regarding the ramp's operation] expires in 2018. As a result, the court issued a stay order restricting the authorities from demolishing it, he said.
According to Hashmi, a member of the Association of Builders and Developers (ABAD), Ibrahim Habib, contacted him to leave the matter aside when he went to court. “He [Habib] told me the ramp is of no use and I should let it be dismantled but I refused,” said Hashmi.
Following the destruction, Hashmi filed a contempt of court application against ABAD’s Habib, KMC’s anti-encroachment director Mazhar and several other officials. Hashmi states in his petition that the relevant officials violated the July stay order and should be prosecuted for contempt of court.
Curious case of a letter
In May 2015, structural consultant Mohammad Usman sent a letter to KMC’s transport and communication department. The name of ABAD member Habib was mentioned on the letterhead, a copy of which is available with The Express Tribune. It stated that there is no harm is dismantling the ramp. Akhtar Rizvi, the department’s additional director, however, said no such opinion was ever demanded from anyone since the ramp was technically perfect and they had no plans to demolish it. When contacted, ABAD chairman Asif Sumsum said he has no knowledge of any such letter and only Habib can respond to this, who is out of country these days.
Riaz, a resident of the area, said, “This ramp was a blessing for many people, especially worshipers, as the Baitul Mukaram mosque is a hub for many worshipers of the area”.
Shamim, an elderly man coming out of the mosque, said “I have to take a rickshaw just to cross the road and come to the mosque. I am sick and cannot take the staircase of the pedestrian bridge [located adjacent to the ramp] as the road median barricaded with iron rods restricts access to it”.
Another resident, Waseem, said I used to take my grandfather on his wheelchair with the help of the ramp but since the ramp has been dismantled, I use a motorcycle.
KMC’s Rizvi lamented that “only three such pedestrian ramps have been left in the city now, all on Sharae Faisal”.
Amber Alibhai, general secretary of SHEHRI – Citizens for a Better Environment, said “KMC must be involved in such acts for some vested interest,” adding that “it is unfortunate that we have failed to facilitate the city’s disabled citizens “.