Scaling Up of the Orangi Pilot Project Programmes: Successes, Failures and Potential

This arti­cle is an excerpt from the first chap­ter of this seminar paper. The full paper can be down­loaded as a PDF file (125KB).


The Programmes of the Orangi Pilot Project (OPP) institutions are well documented through books, reports and monographs. It is not the purpose of this paper to describe them or their methodology in detail. These programmes have influenced a number of government and donor projects and CBOs and NGOs in Pakistan who are in the process of replicating them. In Karachi, where Orangi is located, the OPP, on the basis of its 20 years work with communities, has become involved in developing city level alternatives to government plans and is pressing for these alternatives to become policy. This paper, after briefly describing the OPP experience will try and present the problems, success, failures and their causes in the scaling up of the OPP programmes.


Pakistan requires about 500,000 housing units per year for its urban population1. Not even one-third of this is provided through formal process. The demand-supply gap is met through the creation of illegal subdivisions of state land (known as katchi abadis); through the informal subdivision of agricultural land on the city fringes; or through densification of existing settlements. Most of these settlements are badly planned and acquire substandard infrastructure through political patronage or the bribe market over a period of 15 to 20 years. However, an adequate sewage system is almost never acquired. These informal settlements grow at a rate of about 8 per cent per year against an urban growth rate of less than three per cent2. Results of the 1998 housing census are still awaited, but one can safely say that over 60 per cent of Pakistan’s urban population lives in informal settlements.

The inner cities of Pakistan have also turned into high-density slums. The wholesale markets and related cargo terminals are located in these inner cities and were once surrounded by middle and high income residential areas. With an increase of over ten times in the urban population since 1941, these markets have expanded to engulf the whole inner cities, turning their narrow lanes into warehousing, cargo terminals and male only day-wage labour accommodation. The infrastructure in these inner cities has collapsed and families have moved out. These are probably the worst slums in Pakistan.

The government has a Katchi Abadi Improvement and Regularisation Programme (KAIRP). However, this is only for katchi abadis and not for informal settlements on agricultural land or for inner city rehabilitation. This programme consists of providing infrastructure and a 99-year lease to katchi abadi residents. Only one per cent of katchi abadis per year are regularised and improved through this programme3. Thus, it will take 100 years to regularise all of them and meanwhile new abadis are being created. The major reasons for the slow progress of this programme is the absence of correct plans with the communities (which prevents their equitable participation in the Programme); complex procedures which promote corruption; failure of government agencies to identify and accept existing infrastructure; and lack of recovery of development and lease charges. Where government agencies, such as the Sindh Katchi Abadi Authority (SKAA) in Karachi, have overcome the above constraints, the Programme has been successful.

  1. Gurel, Ahmad, Noor and Jamal: Housing Parameters: Dawood College-Aga Khan Programme, Karachi, 1991.
  2. Worked out by the author from government of Pakistan demographic data and census reports
  3. ADB: Pakistan Low Cost Housing Project: Report 1989

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