A Note on Criteria for Listing Historic Buildings in Karachi and its Relationship to a Larger Conservation Plan

1. Issues Related To Preparing Criteria For Listing Historic Buildings

Criteria for the final listing of historic buildings have to be prepared as a part of a larger conservation plan and have to be derived from the research work that is required for the preparation of such a plan. The manner in which the conservation law is applied and the incentives and support mechanisms that go with it, also have to be part of the conservation plan. For the development of such a plan there are a number of activities that are necessary. These include a cost benefit analysis of conservation from the point of view of the owners of the buildings that are to be conserved; public hearings; formation of neighbourhood support groups; and on the basis of an analysis of the results of these activities, the formulation of incentives for conservation. Usually the final listing of buildings and service of notices to the owners takes place after these requirements have been fulfilled. In the absence of incentives and neighbourhood and/or public support, it may be difficult to prevent the demolition of listed buildings and large scale litigation by owners against the Sindh Ministry of Culture.

2. Process and Measures Requied for the Formulation of a Conservation Plan

2.1 Short-Term Process/Measures

A) Establishment of a Conservation Cell

A small Conservation Cell should be established. A trained conservationalist should head the Cell and should be supported by two architects who have some knowledge of conservation and/or community participation issues. The Cell will carry out the activities listed in the paragraphs below.

B) Cost Benefit Analysis

A cost benefit analysis related to the conservation objective should be carried out for selected listed buildings in different areas. This analysis will determine

  • Affect on land values as a result of conservation;
  • Profits possible for selected owners in different locations as a result of demolition and reconstruction;
  • Estimated losses that will be incurred by selected owners in different locations as a result of conservation;
  • Economic feasibility of re-use of selected buildings in different locations and its impact on land values, landuse and sociology of the areas where the buildings are located.

The above investigations will be based on the existing KBCA bye-laws and zoning regulations.

C) Public Discussions and Hearings

All the areas in which Karachi’s historic architecture is located have social welfare, community, trade related and/or youth organisations. Most of these organisations are extremely active and also very concerned about their physical environment. A list of such organisations should be prepared and discussions with their office bearers should be held. In addition, some of the owners of the listed buildings should be contacted and discussions should be held with them as well. A very positive response is expected from the area organisations and if proper incentives are offered, then from the majority of building owners.

This view is based on a follow-up by the Urban Resource Centre on the demolition of Palia House. A number of local organisations have got together and formed the “Save Protected Heritage Structures Committee”. The Committee has been convened by Abdullah Khattri who is a resident of Lyari and has a general store on Ghazanffar Ali Khan Road. The Committee plans to stop demolitions and wants to know in what manner the government can be of assistance to it. Similar concerns are voiced by a large number of neighbourhood organisations that are struggling to survive in an increasingly hostile physical and social environment.

D) Categorisation of Buildings According to Styles, Periods and Sociological Aspects

A study of clusters of buildings in selected areas will have to be carried out to determine the above. These will be fed into a computer programme and analysed. Information that will be required for each building is given in the attached form market Appendix – 1. Information on about 300 buildings is available in this form with the Historic Support Cell (HSC) of the Architecture Planning and Education Forum at the Dawood College. On the basis of this study values for each aspect of the building will be developed and fed into another attached form which has been prepared by the HSC and is marked Appendix – 2. This form will need further refinement on the basis of the analysis of information collected during the study.

E) Incentives for Conservation

Based on an analysis of the results of a, b, c, and d above, incentives will have to be worked out for building owners so that they can conserve their buildings. These incentives may include tax rebates or remission; technical support in design for conservation and/or re-use; low interest building improvement/conservation loan; and/or support for the purchase of the building for conservation purposes by private or public sector agencies or entrepreneurs.

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