‘Karachiites are victims of tussle over power, city resources’
The prolonged war over power and resources has left Karachiites in unending pain and misery as civic conditions of the city are getting worse with each passing day. Only good governance can save Karachi.
This was stated by speakers at a seminar titled ‘The priorities and solution to the festering civil problems of Karachi’ organised by Karachi Citizens’ Forum (KCF) at PMA House on Friday.
In her opening remarks, KCF convener Nargis Rahman regretted failure of successive governments to transform Karachi into a liveable city despite announcing ambitious projects.
“They were [talking] about making Karachi the envy of South East Asia, a smart city for tourists. Budget allocations were made and large sums were also borrowed from international donor agencies, but little materialised,” she added.
Despite massive budget allocations, Karachi is still an unliveable city, seminar told
Karachi, she pointed out, over the past few years had degraded in international indices and become one of the most polluted cities in the world.
“There is little realisation that more people are dying in the city from diseases caused by air pollution than Covid-19.”
Seasoned architect Arif Hasan, also a keynote speaker, said main problems of the common people in Karachi were scarcity of water, blocked drains, undeveloped coastal belt and delay in the Malir Expressway Project.
“The K-4 project is not the solution to Karachi’s water issues and the authorities should find out new ways to overcome this problem in consultation with stakeholders,” he noted.
The continued water scarcity, he told the audience, had led to an alarming drop in groundwater levels that had gone beyond 2,800 feet as people’s reliance on this water source had increased.
Talking about poverty and housing, he said the poor were forced to put their lives in danger and build their homes alongside nullahs.
“These slums are often destroyed by the government for completion of projects that see growth of new slums without any planning and facilities, where children are deprived of education,” he said.
He was of the opinion that the government should develop vacant land in the city and use it for poor people’s housing. He demanded that the government prepare proper housing policy for poor people and the elite should prepare a memorandum in this regard and submit it to the government.
Former Karachi administrator Faheem Zaman Khan said the only problem the city faced was poor governance. “There is a war of power between authorities. During the military rule, local governments were empowered but they were constrained to function in democratic set-ups. If we merge these institutions or bridge their differences, we can overcome the civic issues of Karachi.”
Senior economist Dr Kaiser Bengali said: “We cannot achieve the goal of development unless there is coordination among institutions. There is an imbalance of power between local and provincial governments. Constitutionally, provincial governments are more empowered for local development works. Empowerment of local bodies can only be achieved through a constitutional amendment.”
Urban planner Farhan Anwar said it’s unfortunate that in the last seven decades successive governments couldn’t decide who was responsible for city’s development work, often initiated without proper planning.
The dispute among authorities over city’s responsibilities had become more intense after the 18th Amendment, he added.
Dr Abdul Ghafoor Shoro of PMA also spoke.
Earlier, KCF deputy convener Dr S.M. Qaiser Sajjad welcomed the guests, while sharing concerns over the state of civic conditions of the city.
Published in Dawn, March 7th, 2021