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Friday July 19, 2024

KMC has liability of Rs6.5bn, trying to increase revenue, says mayor

By Our Correspondent
June 23, 2024
Karachi Mayor Murtaza Wahab addresses a press conference on December 31, 2023. — Facebook/Barrister Murtaza Wahab
Karachi Mayor Murtaza Wahab addresses a press conference on December 31, 2023. — Facebook/Barrister Murtaza Wahab

The Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC) has a liability of Rs6.5 billion, and the municipal body is trying to increase its revenue streams, said Mayor Barrister Murtaza Wahab on Saturday.

Wahab said that unfortunately, no previous mayor focused on improving the revenue collection system in the KMC. The last auction of lands in the KMC was held in 2008, he pointed out.

He said that an institution’s income depends on how its assets are utilised. The city’s decline occurred because we made unnecessary recruitments instead of strengthening our institutions, he added.

“We are working on a 10-storey parking plaza project at Boulton Market, which will have the capacity for 250 vehicles,” said the mayor, adding that in order to resolve traffic issues in Karachi, “we have approved 13 projects in the upcoming budget of the KMC”.

He said that the completion of these projects would facilitate intra-city commuting, and reduce travelling time. He was speaking with business reporters and media representatives from various TV channels and newspapers at the head office of the KMC.

During the conversation, the mayor discussed various issues of the city, as well as deliberated upon the future measures to address those issues.

Wahab said that although the city government system introduced in 2001 is presented as the best local government setup, the fact is that while the then mayor had powers, the city government was dependent on federal and provincial packages. “No attention was given to improving the institution’s revenue sources.”

He said that at that time, urban institutions were merged to form the city government, but today, merging these institutions would not solve urban issues, but it would instead create more complications.

He also said the KMC currently has a liability of Rs6.5 billion, while the liability of the Karachi Development Authority is also in billions, and the same is true for other institutions. Therefore, each institution needs to be individually focused upon for stability, he added.

The mayor said that after taking charge of the KMC, they ensured the better use of its assets in the city’s broader interest, and brought transparency to the records and recovery of assets.

He said the KMC receives a rental income of Rs180 million from 9,000 shops, and their target is Rs325 million. Additionally, there are 263 huts at Hawkes Bay from which they used to get Rs16,000 annual rent, he added. “We have increased this to Rs360,000 annually.”

He also said they located a building for parking at the Boulton Market to address the haphazard parking on MA Jinnah Road. The project had been started in 1976 for this purpose, he added.

He explained that this building has 200 shops and 50 offices. After checking its structure, a 10-storey building would be constructed there that would include parking space and offices, he pointed out. He said the rent of Rs70.8 million for this building, deposited in court, would also be received by the KMC.

The mayor said that the water shortage in Karachi is a genuine issue. The daily water requirement of the city is 1,200 million gallons, while only 550 million gallons is provided to the city, he added.

He said that to address this shortage, a 12-billion-rupee project has been approved, under which a new canal would be laid alongside the existing canal from the Hub Dam, and this project would be completed in 12 months.

He also said that a desalination plant with a capacity of 500,000 gallons is being set up in Ibrahim Hyderi. He added that they have not been able to achieve the recovery target of Rs3 billion in the Karachi Water & Sewerage Corporation (KWSC), so meters have been installed on all the seven hydrants to monitor water usage.

Wahab said that an estimated 5,000 water tankers operate in the city, of which 3,200 are registered with the water corporation. “We have approved regulations for the use of subsoil water.”

He said that after July 31, no factory would be able to use subsoil water without a meter, adding that this measure would increase the water corporation’s income from Rs50 million to Rs1 billion.

He also said the court has ruled in their favour regarding the collection of municipal tax through K-Electric’s bills. As for the disputes with KE, he pointed out that all issues have been mutually resolved, except one. KE is unwilling to pay rent for the poles installed on KMC land, so this matter will also be decided by court, he added.

The mayor said the Malir Expressway would significantly resolve traffic issues by accommodating heavy traffic. He said the Lyari Expressway should also be used for heavy traffic. A bridge is being constructed over the Malir River, and 13 more projects have been approved to facilitate people’s movement, he added.

A day earlier, the leader of the opposition in the KMC City Council, Saifuddin Advocate of the Jamaat-e-Islami, had called Wahab the worst mayor in the history of the city.

Saifuddin was addressing a press conference at the KMC Building. Mubashir Hassan Zai, the parliamentary party leader of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) in the council, the JI’s Qazi Sadruddin and others accompanied him.

Saifuddin had chaired a meeting of the opposition’s representatives before the media briefing to examine the one-year progress of the mayor.

He said that defying all traditions and customs of the City Council, the opposition parties were totally neglected in the preparation of the municipality’s budget. He added that the “self-imposed” mayor just shared a few statistics with him at the eleventh hour instead of taking suggestions from all parliamentary leaders.

Discussing the one-year performance, the JI leader said Wahab had promised to provide 75 sewage covers to each union committee and created hype around it, but he failed to deliver on this promise, providing only 15 covers to each committee.

He added that the mayor still needed to provide development funds to the union committees from the KMC’s kitty.

Karachi generated the largest chunk of tax for Sindh but the Pakistan Peoples Party government never owned the city, he remarked.

Saifuddin said that everything in the city, be they hospitals, parks, playgrounds or libraries, were in a shambles. The sewerage system had failed and most of the people of Karachi had no other option but to purchase water, he added.

He demanded the devolution of the KWSC to town and union committee levels. He also demanded the devolution of the Sindh Solid Waste Management Board to town level.

The JI leader called for a forensic audit of the Competitive & Liveable City of Karachi (CLICK) project, expressing his belief that corruption of unimaginable magnitude would be unearthed as a result of the audit.

The opposition leader also demanded the inclusion of a stakeholders committee in the water corporation’s management. Saifuddin said that the local bodies department had become a hub of corruption.

He said that the motor vehicle tax should be given to Karachi and no new tax should be imposed on the people of the city.