A Development Plan for Karachi

The purpose of a development plan is to create a physical environment and support structures that promote social harmony, economic betterment, and improved health conditions. An understanding of the city and its trends is a pre-requisite to preparing such a development plan. A lot of material on the city is already available. However, gaps have to be identified and for that further research is required. A synopsis of what we know is given below.

1. Demographic Trends

An analysis of the 1998 census tells us that the vast majority of Karachiites are young, literate, increasing unmarried and increasingly unemployed. Studies reveal that they are also alienated from mainstream politics and consider the absence of entertainment, culture and employment to be their main problems.

2. Employment

About 75 per cent of Karachi’s working population works in the informal sector. Over the years this sector has developed strong links with the formal economy. Structural adjustment and globalization of the economy are having an adverse effect on the informal economy. Unless this economy is supported and or the formal sector expands through local and global investment, unemployment is going to increase. Absence of physical infrastructure and reliable utilities, corruption and insecurity are some of the reasons that prevent the formal sector from expanding.

3. Physical Environment

3.1 The Housing Supply Gap

About one-third of Karachi’s housing demand is met through the formal sector. This demand supply gap is densifying existing settlements, creating katchi abadis and vulnerable populations, pushing the poor to the city fringes and increasing the rich-poor divide. It is also increasing transport problems and creating difficulties for the poor in accessing health and education facilities.

3.2 Sewage

Most of Karachi sewage has been planned informally (and also formally in most cases) to dispose into the natural drainage system. Government plans however, are for taking this sewage to the sewage treatment plants through trunks laid along the main roads. Government plans conflict the reality on the ground and as such treatment plants receive no more than 20 per cent of the sewage. Raw sewage thus pollutes the sea. This has caused immense environmental degradation and ecological damage. Alternative to government plans have been presented by NGOs which can solve this problem effectively in economic and technical terms.

3.3 Water Issues

40 to 50 per cent of water leaks out of the system in Karachi or is tapped illegally. Valves have been removed from the system, pumping stations are not maintained or there is a mismatch between pump sizes and the pumps, leakages have not been identified and a system of management at the Union Council (UC) level has not been developed. The physical rectification of the system and its management cannot take place without mapping the existing infrastructure. This work too has been done for certain areas of the city and pilot projects for rectification have been initiated within certain UCs.

3.4 Solid Waste Management

Solid waste does not reach the existing land-fill site for two reasons. One, that there is only one land-fill site and as such it is too far away from most of Karachi. Two, that the recycling industry is located within the city and as such garbage is sorted within the city for recyclable material and is then transported to the recycling units. Detailed studies of this problem and its financially viable solutions have been prepared both by NGOs and by government agencies.

3.5 Transport Issues

Karachi’s major problem is transporting people from the suburbs to their work areas. More specifically from North Nazimabad, Orangi, Baldia, Landhi-Korangi and Gulshan to the Central Business District, Saddar, SITE, Landhi-Korangi Industrial Estate and the Steel Mills. This can be done through the circular railway and its proposed extensions. If this is done, the nature of inner city mass transit required for Karachi will be very different from what has been previously proposed. Also, commuters have increased to an extent that a exclusive right of way for mass transit vehicles is required. Protected bus lanes have therefore become a necessity for the main corridors of the movement. In addition, bus depots, bus terminals and bus workshops are required for both intra-city and inter-city buses.

3.6 Traffic

There is a need for a larger traffic plan for the city which segregate through and local traffic not only at the city level but also at the sector and neighbourhood levels such as Saddar, Napier Quarters, Old Town Quarters, Khadda, Lyari, Sher Shah. The Northern Bypass which is being built will take port traffic out of the city. However, the wholesale markets (Dhan Mandi, Chemical Market, Metal Market) and small scale industrial activity which exists between M.A. Jinnah Road and Estate Avenue will continue to generate heavy traffic in its narrow lanes. These activities are also increasing and further densifying already heavily dense areas. In addition, these activities are building their warehouses in various Karachi katchi abadis which in the long run will create further congestion and traffic problems. It is necessary that the wholesale markets and industrial activities are shifted to the Northern Bypass. However, for that to happen, the original plan of the Northern Bypass (68 kilometres) will have to be restored. The present modified plan is hardly a bypass and it opens up very little land for Karachi’s increasing needs.

3.7 Built Heritage

Karachi’s rich built heritage is located in the areas which have been taken over by small scale industrial activity, wholesale markets and warehousing. Thus, this heritage is rapidly disappearing in spite of attempts at identifying and listing buildings for protection. If the proposed traffic and transport proposals are implemented, the possibility of salvaging Karachi’s heritage will become easier.

3.8 Absence of a Shared Space

The city desperately needs the creation of a space of entertainment and culture that can be shared by all classes. If such a space is not created, nurtured and institutionalized, the ghettoization of the rich will continue with the demand for an increase in security services and armed guards. This will further utilise the city.

3.9 Noise and Air Pollution

The implementation of the transport and traffic proposals will help minimize air and noise pollution. What is required further is a financial proposal for facilitating the introduction of CNG as an alternative fuel for all public transport.

4. Social Sectors

4.1 Health

With the increasing withdrawal of subsidies, curative health care has become out of reach for the vast majority of Karachiites. Preventive health programmes therefore are a priority and need to be funded and promoted. NGO programmes point a way out. In addition, most of Karachi’s preventive health institutions consist of small private clinics for whose provision no building rules and regulations exist. Thus, strictly speaking they are illegal and many of them provide health service by paying bribes to government agencies.

4.2 Education

Like health, subsidies on education have also been withdrawn. The vast majority of Karachiites receive education through formal and informal private schools and tuition centres. These institutions exist in people’s homes which have been converted for education purposes. They too are strictly speaking illegal because they violate government land-use regulations.

4.3 Culture

There are many Karachi events which the state can support and convert into multi-class events. In addition, there is a need for a proper zoo, a metropolitan museum, a contemporary art museum and the linking up of these institutions with the educational institutions (especially schools) to create a Karachi identity and culture.

5. Institutional Issues

5.1 Karachi Master Plan Department

It is necessary to create an effective planning agency for Karachi. Proposals for such an agency have already been put forward and have been notified. This should be a priority.

5.2 Building and Zoning Regulations

Karachi’s building and zoning regulations have been derived from the post-Second World War urban development model based on the welfare state. As such, they are anti-pedestrian, anti-mixed land-use and do not have the possibility of supporting the manner in which health, education and small scale commercial activities are delivered in Karachi. As such, they are irrational and will always be violated or will result in gross injustices, further fragmenting society.

5.3 Integrating Formal and Informal

It is important that the formal and the informal (planned and unplanned) are integrated. This integration cannot take place without a documentation of both. Such a documentation is missing and a special department needs to be created within the planning agency to carry out this work with help from relevant NGOs and citizen’s groups.

5.4 Transparency and Consultations

Karachi is a city littered with failed developed projects. It is interesting to note that professionals and citizen’s groups had predicted the failure of these projects for the very reasons for which they failed. These projects include the Metrovilles, the Greater Karachi Sewerage Plan, the Lines Area Re-development Project, the ADB funded Baldia Sewage Project and the Karachi Mass Transit 1992 Proposal. To avoid such failures it is necessary to: i), advertise all projects at their conceptual stage and exhibit them at a central place; ii), establish a steering committee of interesting groups to study the concept and invite public opinion on them; iii), project development and implementation should take place under the supervision of the steering committee; iv), accounts of the project should be made public every three months; and v), one government official should be in-charge of the project from its inception to completion. In addition, the government agencies should publish a list of their real estate assets along with their land-use every year.

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