ISLAMABAD: The World Bank will launch a neighbourhood improvement project in Karachi in 2017 to improve urban living conditions and safety by improving citizen services in selected areas.

The $100 million Karachi Neighbourhood Improvement Project will be the first step in a multi-year World Bank group engagement. The executive board of the bank is scheduled to approve a loan of $80m for the project and the Sindh government will contribute $20m.

According to a World Bank report, a dual-track approach has been proposed in light of the depth and scale of the city’s challenges in terms of policy reforms, governance and infrastructure needs, which will require a longer time to design and agree on institutional reform measures.

The project will be implemented in the Pakistan Chowk, Korangi, Malir and Saddar areas, including Empress Market. These areas are heavily populated with mixed residential and commercial use. Several shops are located in the vicinity of roads and mobile vendors also ply their trade.

According to the World Bank, the location and scope of all investments are being finalised and a full assessment of the environmental and social impacts is being carried out.

The bank will conduct a detailed social assessment of the project-impacted areas. Once the interventions have been designed, environmental and social management plans and resettlement action plans will be prepared for each of them.

The bank’s engagement includes institutional reforms and investments across multiple sectors. As highlighted in the Karachi City Diagnostic Report and reaffirmed by stakeholders, reforms would need to focus on building a competitive business environment, improving governance performance of provincial public providers of municipal services such as Karachi Water and Sewerage Board and Sindh Solid Waste Management Board and improving the city governance and accountability, urban liveability and access to municipal services, as well as supporting better social inclusion.

According to the report, the city confronts severe environmental challenges. It has a high incidence of air, land and water, including marine, pollution, mostly resulting from inadequate management of solid and hazardous waste, including medical, raw sewage, industrial effluent and vehicular pollution.

Open burning of industrial solid waste and discharge of untreated liquid waste post a serious hazard for the city. In the absence of effluent treatment plants, industrial liquid waste containing oil, heavy metals and toxic chemicals is discharged directly into the rivers and has affected human and marine life considerably.

The detailed diagnostics was conducted over a year to provide a multi-sector assessment of the infrastructure, service delivery and institutional gaps.

The report, based on the framework of improving prosperity, liveability and social inclusion, found that the complex political economy and institutional fragmentation within the agglomeration of Karachi had led to poor liveability indicators for all segments of the population.

Only half of the city’s water needs are met by the utility network and the availability ranges from four hours per day to two hours every other day in some areas; less than 60 per cent of the population has access to sewerage, and almost all raw sewage is dumped untreated into the sea.

Nearly 60pc of solid waste is not collected and transferred to a dumpsite, 45 citizens compete for every seat on public buses and an estimated 50pc of people live in informal settlements.

The report showed that to close its urban infrastructure gaps, Karachi required large investments estimated at about $10 billion over the next 10 years, along with substantial institutional development and policy reforms.

Published in Dawn, December 1st, 2016