Access To Shelter

The OPP-RTI methodology and SKAA’s programme requires a very different mind-set from that of conventionally trained professionals and administrators. However, the OPP-SKAA model is increasingly being accepted and the two organisations regularly present their work before relevant university departments, the National Institute of Public Administration, and before various government task forces on the subject. It is hoped that this interaction and debate will lead to the development of a more rational and sustainable shelter model, complete with appropriately trained professionals and administrators.

The Land Issue

As is obvious from what has been said before, the major problem for low income groups both in the urban and rural areas is access to land. Location determines the value of land and value in turn determines who lives on it or the nature of development that takes place on it. Due to this the lower income groups in the urban areas are pushed to the periphery of the city or in locations that are not easily accessible. As a result, they are far from their places of employment, health and education facilities, and cultural and recreational areas. The only manner in which this serious problem can be addressed in the urban areas is through the development and implementation of a land-use plan in which social and environmental conditions and not land value determine land-use. However, the development and implementation of such a land-use plan is difficult in Pakistan because of weak civic institutions and because of a powerful politician-bureaucrat-developer nexus which is able to make a mockery of land-use and city structure plans. Not only does land value determine land-use but eviction of poor communities from land desired by the nexus is common in Pakistan. These evictions create shelter problems for tens of thousands of poor families every year. There are no statistics regarding these evictions except for Karachi where the Urban Resource Centre (URC) monitors evictions (see Box – 5: Evictions and Burning of Settlements).

Box – 5:  Evictions and the Burning of Settlements

Press reports and URC investigations show that more than 18,270 houses and shops were bulldozed by various government agencies (including Karachi Development Authority, KMC, Defence Housing Authority and Civil Aviation Authority) in the last six years and over 25,000 houses in various other low income settlements are under threat of eviction.

In the last two years, over 1,270 houses and shops were bulldozed by government agencies in Garam Chashma Goth, Manghopir, Junejo Town and other settlements, causing an estimated loss of Rs 150 million to the urban poor. In all these settlements no compensation was paid to the victims. The authorities did not even bother to serve prior notices to these communities as required by law, warning them of the planned evictions.

List of Recorded Evictions in Karachi:

Total number of houses bulldozed since January 1997     6,270 units

Cumulative cases from 1992-96         12,000 units

Total number of houses bulldozed since 1992     18,270 units

Estimated loss to the urban poor       Rs 2.5 billion

Note: These are only reported cases and do not include the shops, businesses, schools and dispensaries which were also demolished. In addition, there are numerous cases that are unreported.

Huts on Fire:

There has been a significant increase in incidents of fire in katchi abadis of the city. Since January 1997, a total number of 602 huts were gutted in different settlements. These incidents have rendered more than 5,117 people homeless, with an estimated loss of Rs 255.85 million (US$ 5.69 million) to the urban poor. Five minor children and a 45-year old man were also burnt alive in these incidents.

Two main causes are identified for these incidents; one natural and the other planned. Investigations show that almost all incidents have occurred in settlements whose land was coveted by land grabbers and developers. The people in these settlements firmly believe that these incidents are not accidents but have been planned after all attempts to force them off their land have failed.

Huts Gutted in Karachi:

Number of huts gutted since January 1997   :    602

Cumulative cases from November 1995 to December 1996 : 2,488

Total number of the huts gutted since November 1995  : 3,088

Note: These are only reported cases. There may be many others which remain unreported.

Reasons for Evictions:

There are many reasons for evictions.

  1. i) Development projects are planned insensitively causing dislocations. Many NGO alternatives to such projects have not only prevented evictions but also reduced project costs substantially.
  2. ii) Evictions become possible because developers and land grabbers are supported by politicians and bureaucrats. Because of this support land record tempering, denial of new entries in the land records and thefts of files creates land tenure disputes making police pressure on low income settlements possible. This happens most in locations where commercial development is lucrative.
  3. iii) Badly planned urban renewal also causes evictions. For example, the residents of Lyari Niazi Colony were evicted for the widening of streets in 1996. There was no reason for the streets to be widened and since then, the widened streets have not even been paved.
  4. iv) Evictions also take place because of the selective application of incomplete legal decrees. Often residents are not able to furnish legal proof of ownership due to ignorance and absence of legal support and so cases are decided against them. After such a decision, the government agencies simply attack the settlement without following the required legal procedures.

(Source: Urban Resource Centre and Noman Ahmad, DAP)

Even at the periphery of urban areas land is far too expensive for poor families to purchase in one go. Saiban is a Karachi based NGO that has developed a process whereby poor communities can have access to land at an affordable price. Saiban’s process also promotes the incremental development of physical and social infrastructure that is compatible with the paying capacity of poor families. So far, Saiban has provided land and shelter to over 6,000 families in Karachi, Kotri and Gharo. In addition, it is developing schemes in six urban areas of Sindh (see Box – 6: Saiban’s Incremental Housing Scheme).

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