The Urban Resource Centre (URC) was set up in early 1989 at the Department of Architecture and Planning of the Dawood College in Karachi. The objective of the Centre was to collect all available material on Karachi and update it through newspaper clipping and analysis. After a few months of its setting up, the URC became an independent registered organization and its governing body expanded to include urban planning related professionals, representatives of NGOs and community organizations from low and lower income areas, and activists from the Orangi Pilot Project-Research & Training Institute (OPP-RTI). The direction of the Centre also changed. The new members felt that Karachi’s official development plans ignored the larger socio-economic reality of the city and as such were unworkable and environmentally disastrous. They further felt that workable alternatives were required and these were possible only with the involvement of informed communities and interest groups.
To promote its objectives the URC identifies the actors and factors that are involved in shaping Karachi’s development along with their relationships with each other and with relevant state agencies. In addition, it carries out research on all proposed major urban development projects and analyses them from the point of view of communities and interest groups. This research and its documentation is developed through case studies; profiles of formal and informal organizations and individuals; and by holding forums on different subjects in which the various interest groups (communities, informal service providers, government agencies, political parties) participate.
These forums are documented and their results disseminated. This interaction has generated debate and discussion in the press about subjects not discussed before, and brought about substantial changes in how problems and planning are viewed by government agencies and different stakeholders. Almost all the questions on the appropriateness, environmental issues, costs (social and economic) and alternatives that are taking place in Karachi today are the result of the work of the URC.
Through this process the URC has managed to create a space for interaction between poor communities, NGOs, private (formal and informal) sector interest groups, academic institutions and government agencies. The URC feels that this space needs to be nurtured and institutionalized and this is its main objective.
The URC keeps subject wise news clippings on various social and physical issues related to Karachi and prepares folios on them. On the basis of these folios it publishes a monthly newsletter, both in English and Urdu. This newsletter is called “Facts & Figures”. Through this process interest groups are identified and contacted and so are government plans, their authors and financing agencies. Forums are then arranged in which all the actors participate. The forums are transcribed and published and the media pick them up. Alternatives to insensitive plans are prepared and presented to communities and interest groups. This is followed by lobbying for
Evictions in Karachi
The low income communities around Karachi city always receive threats of displacement. RC shares the information of government plans to the communities. Hold meetings with the community activists in each settlement to explain the nature of government plans for relocation. URC helps communities to lobby for the protection of their housing rights.
URC is closely monitors the development of the eviction plans. In case any forced evictions will take place URC will organize and mobilize communities. There are many major projects (including Katchi Abadi Redevelopment Plan, Karachi Circular Railway. Lyari Expressway and Gujar Drain Expressway), which involve large scale displacement of poor communities in Karachi. URC also holds meetings with community activists in these areas to discuss the current situation and a possible strategy if government will push forward to implement these projects. URC is monitoring these projects and will inform the communities in case of any development.
URC is also working on the following issues link with the forced evictions.
* Supporting the communities to lobby for extension of the cut date for land titles (awarding ownership) of informal settlements.
* Developing a better resettlement policy for poor communities.
These measures will also reduce the threat of forced evictions of the poor. URC will continue its lobbying and advocacy against forced evictions. URC will collaborate with vulnerable communities in case government or private builders initiate any new calls of forced evictions.
To encourage interaction between different development sectors of the city, regular forums are held at URC, where various groups come in contact with each other. This promotes collective thinking, decision making and actions on major urban issues. URC documents and prints the proceedings of these forums regularly.
Act as a watch group on major urban issues
URC plays the role of a `watchdog' group in the city's planning and development scene. In this respect, it has worked on a number of issues, currently it is involved with the following:
*Transport and Traffic Management in Karachi
*Karachi Rapid Bus Transit System
*Road Safety issues in Karachi
*Right to Information
*Solid Waste Management
*Heat wave deaths in Karachi
*Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA)
Proposed Karachi Rapid Bus Transit System
The government is planning to build Rapid Bus Transit System (BRTS) in Karachi. Under this plan government is proposing to build bus lanes on various corridors of the city. URC is following up the developments of proposed BRTS for Karachi.
Right to Information
The civil society organizations and concerned citizens formed a coalition for freedom of information. The Coalition is called ‘Coalition for Transparency and Access to Information (C-TAI). The basic purpose of the Coalition is to lobby for right to access information. URC is also part of this coalition.
Solid Waste Management
Recently the Sindh Government has constituted Sindh Solid Waste Management Board (SSWMB). The board has proposed a new waste management plan for Karachi as well as other cities of Sindh. URC is focusing SSWMB plans for the city.
Heat wave deaths in Karachi
During last week of June 2015 over 1200 people died as aggressive heat waves lashed across the city. URC and several other civil society organizations and individuals had filed in a joint legal petition in the Sindh High Court (SHC) to identify the concerned departments responsible for these deaths.
Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA)
URC representatives regularly attend Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) hearings organized by the Sindh Environmental Protection Agency.
URC analyzes the EIA reports and will inform the communities if any of these mega projects involve any kind of dislocation or other impacts on poor communities.
Awaran Earthquake rehabilitation Program
In November 2013 URC started a shelter rehabilitation to support the victims of earthquake in Awaran to rebuild their houses.
URC is playing the role of facilitator and a network of community activists is managing this entire process of rehabilitation work. The roofing materials were transported from Karachi to a central location in Awaran. Each family collects their roofing material from this central place through their own transport onwards. Roofing material includes Bamboos, mats and steel beams. Apart from palm leaf mats, the community used to spread leaves of wild palm trees (called Peesh) on roof tops, this makes roof light weight, water proof and assures safety of human lives from earthquake jolts. This also provides decent accommodation to protect poor families from heat and cold waves as well as rains. As mud walls, mats and wild palm leaves roofs act as heat insulator.
Still a large number of families need to rebuild their houses, Donor support is needed for extension of this program in remote villages of Awaran.
Strengthening Community Based Organizations
NGOs and CBOs from different parts of Karachi city are in regular contact with URC. Information is shared with them on a number of issues that are relevant to the problems they have identified themselves. URC also inter-links community based organizations with other NGOs, Government, Media and Academics working in the same field.
Community Development Network (CDN)
This is a national network of partner organizations. The CDN meetings provide an opportunity to members to understand each other’s work and to observe partners work on site, as the venue of the meeting is rotated among partners. Members discuss various development issues and trends. Partners from various organizations present new developments in their work, expansion of work, link up with government programs.
Perween Rehman Fellowship (PRF) Program
The Asian Coalition for Housing Rights (ACHR) has launched the Perween Rahman Fellowship (PRF). Its aim is to support young architects, planners, engineers, local builders and artisans who are working with the poor. Urban Resource Centre is focal point for networking and interaction for PRF Program in Pakistan. Regular meetings were held at URC to review and monitor implantation of the fellowship program in Pakistan.
Joint Action Committee (JAC)
URC is also a part of an NGO Network called Joint Action Committee (JAC). This is a coalition of NGOs in Karachi. The JAC is working on gender and human rights issues. This network holds regular meetings, seminars, workshops, public demos and interactions on gender and human rights issues. The JAC provides a larger platform to raise some more important issues of the common interest for the policy dialogue.
Network of communities against forced evictions
URC has been working with two community networks, which were facing eviction
1- Network of communities affected by Lyari expressway project
2- Network of communities living along railway tracks of Karachi.
Apart from these, the communities along Gujar Nullah also received threat of demolition. According to Gujar Nullah Project over 28,000 housing units will be displaced. URC also held a number of meetings with community activists to drew a strategy to fight against these evictions.
URC is in touch with these communities and in case of any further development on these projects. URC will forward the information to these communities.
Youth Training Program
The program provides an opportunity to under and fresh graduates from universities and low-income settlements to involve themselves in the activities of URC and develop their orientation towards the changing realities of the urban context. To provide an incentive to the youth, more informal techniques are adopted during the training, which are based on field visits and self-learning. The URC staff supervises and guides their activities.
URC continues its research and documentation activities on urban issues.
Documentation of physical infrastructure of government schools
The most of children from poor communities enroll in government schools. But government schools lack basic facilities such as drinking water, sanitation, furniture and other essential facilities. URC is initiating a study to document school building infrastructure. This information will be useful for advocacy and lobbying for the improvement of government school infrastructure
URC regularly publishes its research and documentation report. Ask for a list of publications from Mr. Rizwan Ul Haq on firstname.lastname@example.org
News coverage of URC work
Print and electronic media exclusively cover URC activities, forums and research work.
Facts & Figures (monthly facts sheet)
URC compiles a monthly newsletter “Facts & Figures” (both Urdu & English). The Newsletter contains selected news clippings and articles on urban issues
URC has been collecting news clippings and articles and providing facilities for different cross sections of the society since 1991. Mainly researchers, students, journalists, academicians, institutions and libraries purchase these clipping files. The news clippings from Daily Jang, Daily Express, Daily Dawn, The News and Express Tribune are being collected. The news clippings are being collected on the following subjects:
* Transport and Traffic Management
* Housing & Land Management
* Law & Order
* Lyari Expressway
* Eviction and Encroachment
* Beaches, Parks and plantations
* Water Supply
* Solid Waste Management, Electricity,
* CDGK & Local Body System and Urban Services
A list of all documentation is available at URC.
The URC library has more than 5,000 government reports, books, research papers, magazines and newsletters on urban issues in general and on Karachi in particular. The researchers, students, journalists, community activists and training groups widely use URC library facilities.
URC web is extending the outreach of its information dissemination. The web address is www.urckarachi.org. The website is being updated on a regular basis.
URC on face book
URC circulates current information and news clippings on city development through face book page on regular basis.
URC block on Tumblr blog
URC is posting all news articles and updates related to its work on tumblr page. The link is http://urckhi.tumblr.com/