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Skyline von Schanghai

18.6.2007 | Von:
Arif Hasan

The investments have no bearing on the poor people

Arif Hasan, architect and planner, about the current challenges of Karachi

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bpb: Where do you see the most needed steps to develop Karachi? Especially with regard to the partly poor housing situation.

Hasan: Karachi is a city whose 75 per cent population is low and lower-middle income. Over 60 per cent of the population is below the age of 25 and its social indicators, especially related to gender and literacy are very different from that of the older age groups. Therefore, the needs of the low and lower-middle income and the young need to be taken care of. These needs relate to employment, education, housing, transport and recreation and entertainment. These needs are not being taken care of at present.

bpb: Almost five out of 11 million of Karachis citizens live in slum areas. What does this mean for the city life?

Hasan: Like in many other Asian cities, about 50 per cent of Karachi´s population lives in informal settlements. In sociological terms these are not slums. In physical terms the vast majority of these settlements have de-facto security of tenure, electricity, water and access to some form of education and health facilities. The major problem is that these settlements are increasingly far away from places of work, recreation, entertainment and the better health and education facilities.

This increasing distance means increasing division between rich and poor areas, difficulties for women to work, increased cost and stress due to bad transportation and a psychological division in society. Due to globalisation, the World Trade Organization regime and structural adjustment, unemployment in the informal settlements has also increased. Crime has also increased and the rich have ghettoised themselves surrounded by security systems and armed guards.

bpb: You consult the Orangi Pilot Project (OPP) which attracted international attention. Orangi is the largest "katchi abadi", an informal settlement, with a population of around 1,2 million. Mainly, citizens are provided with loans and technical assistance to improve the sanitation and housing by themselves. What are the results so far?

Hasan: With the help of the OPP the residents of Orangi have built their sanitation system, improved their homes and businesses, built schools which they operate and run complete with teacher´s training and parents and school owner´s associations. The results are impressive and can be looked at on the website of the OPP-Research and Training Institute (RTI). OPP´s documentation of the Karachi drainage system has led to rational and inexpensive solutions for Karachi´s drainage and sewerage problems.

However, the most important result is the creation of community organisations, awareness regarding local and city level issues, and a change in the political relationship between communities and the government.

bpb: Over centuries Karachi was missing a real city planning. For the first time now, a master plan will be installed by the city government. This "Vision 2030" is supposed to bring a new era of development. What are the main improvements?

Hasan: It is not true that Karachi has been missing real city planning. Pre-partition and Post-partition Karachi are beautifully planned. It is one of the best planned cities till 1982 in South Asia. The Karachi Master Plan 1975 - 1985 was unfortunately not fully implemented and the turmoil of the 80´s and early 90´s weakened city planning, management and monitoring institutions. As a result, ad-hoc development took place and the informal sector increased its activities. The Karachi Development Plan 2000 was not implemented fully either. The current Master Plan is all about real estate development, mega projects catering to the automobile, direct foreign investment that has no bearing on the lives of the majority of Karachiites and there is very little in the form of social housing and effective and efficient transport.

bpb: Is there a risk, that a newly booming Karachi will leave millions of poor citizens behind without any progress of their living conditions?

Hasan: Yes, there is a great risk of this. It seems that the beneficiaries of the new booming Karachi will be the World Bank, Asian Development Bank, national and international consultants developers, the rich and powerful and the multi-national and banking and leasing companies and their employees.

bpb: During years of disorder people in Karachi had to organize their daily life on a self-help basis. How can the city and the local government get back their confidence?

Hasan: Karachi has a very active civil society. This civil society has developed as a result of years of suppression by the American supported military and civil bureaucracy. Local government can only get back the confidence of this civil society if it consults with it seriously and makes its concerns and proposals a part of its development programme.

bpb: Mr Hasan, what do you like most about Karachi?

Hasan: Karachi is multi-ethnic, multi-lingual. It has people of different religious believes, a rich folklore and a possibility of bringing all this diversity together. It is this possibility that I like most about Karachi.

Interview by Sonja Ernst

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