Karachi supports everyone but nobody owns the city, mayor laments

Published February 19, 2024
Panelists are pictured during the 15th Karachi Literature Festival at the Beach Luxury Hotel on Sunday. — DawnNewsTV
Panelists are pictured during the 15th Karachi Literature Festival at the Beach Luxury Hotel on Sunday. — DawnNewsTV

• Wahab says unlike Lahore and Islamabad, courts tend to intervene more in Karachi’s civic affairs
• Arif Hasan says despite years of work, issues still unsolved in metropolis
• Architects, environmentalists discuss city’s lingering problems on KLF’s concluding day

KARACHI: The city of Karachi has been facing various challenges for the past many years, particularly of water, sewerage, garbage and pollution, and unless every resident owns the city and makes a collective effort, its issues will remain unsolved.

These views were expressed by panellists at one of the sessions on the concluding day of the Karachi Literature Festival here on Sunday.

Renowned architects Arif Hasan and Tariq Alexander Qaiser, Mayor of Karachi Murtaza Wahab and environment activist Afia Salam spoke on the event titled “Urban Dialogues: Decoding Karachi’s Dynamics.” It was moderated by Clifton Urban Forest founder Masood Lohar.

Arif Hasan said huge changes had taken place in Karachi in terms of family structure as most people were now living as nuclear family and in terms of working women, whose number had drastically increased.

He added that all these changes would impact and shape Karachi in the years to come.

He said he was concerned about the issue of water, garbage and sewage, etc, and added that having spent decades in the metropolis and years of work for it, he would now leave the issues to his friends and referred to Murtaza Wahab while expressing the hope that he would solve those issues.

Addressing the audience, Mayor Wahab said Karachi was a city of ‘orphans’ as it gave shelter and opportunities to everyone. It owned everyone, but nobody owned this city, he added.

He said all Karachiites needed to take responsibility of the city’s issues and collaborate to work for their solutions as it could not be done by one single person.

Referring to the city’s problems, he said that he was a Karachiite himself and wanted to work on the city’s issues like transport, sewerage, garbage, green areas, etc, but there were various factors which intervened in the effective implementation of laws and policies.

He said in most cases, the courts interfered in their matters because of which implementation on policies was stopped.

As an example, he said that as administrator of Karachi, he had decided to put a complete ban on plastic bags in the city but someone approached the court after which the court struck down his [Wahab’s] decision.

And unlike Lahore or Islamabad, such interventions only happened in Karachi, he said, adding that because of such issues, the mayor’s decision-making process had been compromised.

While Mr Qaiser said that he loved Karachi, he added: “I ashamedly admit that I and my generation have failed to be custodians of this incredible city.”

A short video by him was played before his address, which depicted many areas of the city, mainly nullahs, full of solid waste and garbage. On the other hand, however, there was greenery and mangrove forests in parts of the same city, which could prove as a potential solution to most of the city’s problems, restore its wilderness and ecosystem.

But despite the fact that their cutting was illegal, mangroves and other trees were being cut and were near destruction, he said and emphasised they the illegal practice must be stopped and the forests be protected.

Afia Salam spoke about the importance of mangroves for Karachi and highlighted Tahir Qureshi’s efforts for planting mangroves in the city.

Mr Hasan also spoke about the issue of development projects in Karachi. He said that there was a strong anti-poor bias in planning and development projects in the city. He added that many such projects of the local governments had rendered over 200,000 families homeless in Karachi. Not only that, there were around a 100,000 students who lost their schools and education due to those projects.

Published in Dawn, February 19th, 2024

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