KARACHI 24th June: In November last year, the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC) demolished over 1,700 shops built in and around the iconic Empress Market structure. The action was taken on the orders of the Supreme Court, which had called for restoring ‘Karachi to its former glory’.
For the Empress Market at least, the KMC says it has a plan. It says it will start the repair and renovation work of the structure after consultation with archaeological experts, urban planners and heritage consultants. The problem, however, is that neither the KMC nor the Sindh government has any funds to do so.
The provincial government, for its part, had kicked off a rehabilitation project to revamp the surroundings of Empress Market. Special Secretary to the Local Government Department and project director Niaz Soomro told The Express Tribune that almost Rs1 billion have been spent from the original PC-1 amount of Rs.1.006b allocated for the project. The project envisaged the reconstruction of Jehangir Park, Mansfield Street, Mir Karam Ali Talpur Road, Raja Ghazanfar Ali Road, Sarwar Shaheed Road, and Shahrae Iraq. These have all been completed.
With regard to the Empress Market itself, KMC Municipal Commissioner Dr Saif-ur-Rehman said that archaeological knowledge and expertise is necessary to ensure the historical appearance and preservation of the market’s iconic structure. To that end, the PC-1 of the project is currently being prepared.
Owing to its age and absence of care, the structure of Empress Market has been dilapidated because of natural wear and tear, while its windows and roofs also need extensive repair. The building’s historical wall clock also needs to be repaired.
“The renovation work will incur millions of rupees and the actual cost of the project will be estimated after the finalisation of the PC-1,” said Dr Saif-ur-Rehman. “At the moment, the KMC does not have the requisite financial means to carry out this development work, therefore, we will request the Sindh government to fund the project.”
He further said that at present, that Sindh government is in the process of constructing a boundary wall around the market and after its completion, the KMC will utilise its own funds to construct a park around the market to beautify the area.
While the KMC seems to have positive plans for the historic structure, shopkeepers whose shops were demolished in the market have strong grievances against the move.