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Karachi diagnostic

Published Jan 08, 2017 12:59pm


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PROJECTS supported by international loans have a poor history in Karachi. The process of setting up the project after negotiating the loan follows a familiar pattern. A posh project office is established, expensive cars and equipment are purchased for it, and even more expensive foreign and local consultants and government officials are hired to research, plan and implement the project, which usually has socio-economic, physical and institutional components.

The consultants appointed are always technically competent but often know very little about the complex ways in which Karachi functions. Their conventional research methodology and dependence on questionable statistics and foreign examples, fail to establish it. In the end only the infrastructure-related hardware component is implemented. When the loan period is over, the project office winds up, the cars are distributed among departments and individuals, government officials return to their parent departments and the consultants start searching for other lucrative contracts. Things return to normal and the project is forgotten. However, where communities have been involved, activists do emerge who often form organisations working for change.

Foreign-funded water and sanitation projects have not solved our water and sanitation problems; the katchi abadi regularisation programme has not led to regularisation; and extensive studies on shelter have given us no shelter. Meanwhile, the Left Bank and Right Bank Outfall Drains have resulted in massive environmental damage and dislocation of communities and have huge cost overruns.

However, international agencies alone cannot be blamed. Equally (if not more) to blame is Sindh’s political culture and its conflict with what the city requires; the absence of continuity in government policies and institutions and meaningful involvement of civil society and academia in the design and implementation process.

Consultants often know little about the complex ways in which Karachi functions.

Where there has been such involvement, costs have been reduced to a fraction leading to project sustainability, such as in the case of the ADB-funded Orangi sanitation project. In the case of the design proposal for the Korangi Waste Water Management Project, costs, with OPP involvement, were reduced to one-third of what was estimated. The high cost was mainly due to not recognising the existing undocumented infrastructure and integrating it into the project design. Such non-recognition of the existing situation is common to most projects.

It is with this background that there are serious concerns about the proposed Karachi project for which the Sindh government has negotiated a World Bank loan of $80 million.

A presentation ‘Karachi City Diagnostic: The Way Forward’ has been prepared by the Bank and presented to civil society organisations. The presentation states that project’s objective is to transform Karachi into a ‘world class city’. However, except for some new ideas and the development of useful statistics, it says very little that has not been said before. Also, it does not tell us what constitutes a world class city.

Now that we have taken the loan, it is in our best interest to use it for the well-being of our rapidly changing city. The development of Bus Rapid Transits and the Karachi Circular Railway will have important repercussions for land use, especially along M.A. Jinnah road and Saddar. As a result of the enactment of the High Density Board Act, there are already over hundred 20-to 50-storey buildings under construction.

Due to an absence of badly needed warehousing, new areas are informally opening up for this function and the inner city, which contains our endangered built heritage, is being further utilised for this purpose. Because of a decline in transport services, motorcycles are increasing phenomenally and require space for movement and parking. Mean­while, in the absence of social housing, homelessness is rapidly multiplying.

The solution to all these issues is linked to land use, transport and traffic management and the changing sociology of the city. In addition, inner city katchi abadis have densified informally to over 2,500 persons per hectare and with unprecedented migration under way this is bound to increase. Land reclamation from a sewage-polluted sea and insensitive real-estate development on the periphery have already seriously damaged the ecology of the Karachi region.

No project, especially a time-bound one, can deal comprehensively with these closely interrelated issues. The fear is that some of them will be addressed as location-specific window dressing sub-projects and, in the absence of effective governance institutions, they will be swallowed up by a sea of expanding chaos. The question is, can this loan and its processes be utilised for establishing a desperately needed sustainable planning and management agency for the city? If yes, then the loan will be well spent.

The writer is an architect.

Published in Dawn, January 8th, 2017

The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

Comments (13) Closed

Zulfiqar Ali Qureshi Jan 08, 2017 02:56am

Neo liberal world give loans for 'DEVELOPMENT' while the government comes like a Tom for a Jerry and thus this cycle goes on.

Shahzad Jan 08, 2017 04:32am

Mr. Hassan has expressed the concerns that must be considered by the authorities before applying for such loans. I believe that it is the lack of such consideration which has amounted to the present poor state of the city , especially the drainage/sewage system.

Jamil Soomro, NEW YORK CITY Jan 08, 2017 09:12am

Mr.Arif Hasan is an Architect not an Administrator as such he has drawn a bleak and pessimistic picture of Karachi.In spite of the fact that the Chief Minister of Sindh Mr.Murad Ali Shah has finalized several developmental projects ready to be implemented for the betterment of the city of Karachi.Unfortunately the Writer is also apprehensive,for no apparent reason,of the utilization of the $80 million loan from the World Bank allocated for Karachi.

Ali S Jan 08, 2017 10:55am

In Karachi any project is only works if there are kickbacks involved, and it works as long as the kickbacks keep coming - let's not sugarcoat it with terms like "ground realities" and "dynamics", call it out for what it is, i.e. bribery and system rotten to its core.

Masood Jan 08, 2017 01:50pm

Karachiites know very well the sufferings they go through that have been caused by indifference and incompetency of Sindh government that is largely run by ministers having vote banks almost entirely from outside Karachi. Hence a city that generates most of the revenue for the country and province has little say in running its own affairs, what a pity!

Fus Jan 08, 2017 02:00pm

@Jamil Soomro, NEW YORK CITY, Seriously, your blind love to PPP is commendable. Murad Ali may be honest but still a pethoo of Zardari. Sindh has gone South Thanx to PPP and now sucking blood out of Karachi too. Can you list me give things that PPP had done to improve Sindh in last 30 years. People like you are probably the biggest enemies of ppl of Sindh. Instead of raising voice for them you just sing praises. Sad...

Jamil Soomro, NEW YORK CITY Jan 08, 2017 02:52pm

@Fus I am totally surprised at your controversial comment. You are calling Mr.Murad Ali Shah as being honest and at the same time you are using a derogatory remark for him,how illogical on your part? If he is doing a good job as the Chief Minister of Sindh you must evaluate him on his performance as an Administrator not on his affiliation with PPP. Karachi is a huge city of 20 million people and its problems are huge too. We must all appreciate whatever good is being done for the betterment of the city and its people who live here.

Ahmed Jan 08, 2017 02:56pm

Corrupt government and mafias will never allow any development in the city.

RIZ Jan 08, 2017 04:45pm

we need to listed this living legend,,

Citizen Of karAchi Jan 08, 2017 05:43pm

It is now only left to the international aid institutions: WB, ADB, CIDA, JICA and the like to refuse to aid Sindh for urban areas until the requisite fully empowered civic governance institutions are established. In the absence of such interventions, Sindhs cities especially Karachi will continue to rot with these agencies a partner in this crime.

Arshad Jamil Jan 08, 2017 10:01pm

Good article to address the issues. 80$ million is nothing, and will go down the drain, very soon. We have squandered even larger sums, and paying back dearly. To me, one of the biggest handicap is our lack of capacity and capability to spend. We can not identify our own problems, and never have a long term plan.

Alba Jan 09, 2017 01:03am

City planners from Karachi should travel to Mexico City and compare development and planning. They are cities of comparable size with tens of thousands of rural people gravitating to them and beginning life in slum areas. Similar size, similar growth. City planners from both cities could share ideas. Both also have some serious problems with crime. Both have transportation problems, poverty, health care, water resources, etc.

Alba Jan 09, 2017 01:14am

@Shahzad .... Believe Mister Hasan is saying there is always money in doing the studies, the planning and sharing fat contracts with "consultants", so that the system will continue to be self perpetuating and ineffective.