Population explosion: Put an embargo on industrialisation in Karachi

Published: October 6, 2013
Rural industrialisation will promote the development of the rural economy, effectively transfer surplus labour force to rural areas. PHOTO: CREATIVE COMMONS

Rural industrialisation will promote the development of the rural economy, effectively transfer surplus labour force to rural areas. PHOTO: CREATIVE COMMONS


Karachi will continue to be a troubled city despite effective measures to root out all sorts of mafia unless the government puts an embargo on setting up further industrial units in the metropolis, the only cause of the population explosion.

Frankly speaking, this is the only permanent solution, because unless the government stops the unchecked and uncontrolled massive migration of workforce to Karachi, especially from remote areas of the country, the problem, instead of being solved will get worse.

Such a heavy migration of job seekers along with their families has fractured Karachi’s socio-economic structure in various ways. The most significant is the big burden that has been put on its infrastructure, resources, civic amenities and above all law and order.

The city has an estimated population of 23.5 million as of April 2013, and a density of nearly 6,000 people per square kilometre. It is the third largest city in the world by population within city limits and the 11th largest urban agglomeration.

According to an estimate, 90% are migrants from different backgrounds and the population is estimated to be growing at about 5% per year, mainly as a result of internal rural-urban migration, including an estimated 50,000 migrant workers coming to the city every month from different parts of Pakistan.

Regular and heavy migration of people has adversely affected the city. Pollution has already reached alarming levels and with the increase in the number of vehicles on roads, smoke has become a permanent ingredient of the air that people breathe. Diseases like asthma, lung cancer, eye irritation and skin rashes are common in the city. Traffic jams, overcrowded buses and frequent accidents are a routine.

According to a write-up posted by Karachi’s prominent businessman Majyd Aziz, Karachi has over 15,000 industries in the organised sector while there are more than 50,000 units in the informal or unorganised sector that are generally not under the purview of either the Labour Department or EOBI/SESSI etc.

The workforce figures do not reflect real employment because employers tend to understate the number of their workers to these departments and agencies. However, conventional wisdom shows that if each factory on an average employs 200 workers, then 15,000 units should be having in excess of three million direct employees.

If the workers of the informal or unorganised sector are included, plus taking into account home-based workers, then one could state that Karachi provides direct employment to over five million workers. This does not take into account domestic workers or volunteers.

Keeping in view the above facts, there cannot be any doubt that the only option to restore the position of Karachi as a peaceful city is to stop migration of people to the city and for that the government must tap the employment and population absorption potential in rural areas over the next decade.

In short, there is no alternative but to put an embargo on setting up industrial units in this city and go for a rural industrialisation drive, if we are to avoid politically explosive levels of unemployment and urban decay over the next decade. This should be initiated on an emergency basis and a comprehensive plan be formulated to develop small industrial zones for small and medium industrial units in rural areas with a view to providing jobs to people in their hometown.

Entrepreneurs can be attracted to invest in rural industrialisation by giving them more and more incentives. The Board of Investment’s effort to create Special Economic Zones in the country is a step in this direction.

Rural industrialisation will promote the development of the rural economy, effectively transfer surplus labour force to rural areas, optimise the rural economic structure, improve living standards of villagers and make important contributions to the stability and development of the economy and society in the country.

Our villages have not developed fast. Agriculture is still by and large primitive and offers only seasonal employment. With the number of persons in the family increasing generation after generation, the average size of land holdings has decreased.

Farmers are not able to generate enough income to sustain their families. So they prefer to go to Karachi to find jobs. Along with job seekers some beggars and criminals also migrate to the city, seeking greener pastures in the metropolis.

Any stopgap arrangement or a short-term plan to solve the problems of law and order will not work. The problem is so deep-rooted and chronic that all such measures will turn out to be counterproductive. Therefore, the time has come to a ban more industrial units in the metropolis which has crossed the limit of industrialisation, resulting in various problems including pollution, traffic congestion and emergence of slums. Besides, there are a series of troubles  that branch out into political instability.

The writer works for the National Industrial Parks Development and Management Company

Published in The Express Tribune, October 7th, 2013.

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Reader Comments (8)

  • Mosiqar
    Oct 7, 2013 - 12:48AM

    I have a great idea how to solve economic problems in Pakistan for ever. Pakistani need justice mean equal share of power, wealth and opportunity Declaring capital to Karachi or Islamabad was the personal decision in the past.
    Now the center of Pakistan is some where the centers of all four provinces. It is safe, not very comfortable weather wise but close to all nations and can not be claimed by any provinces. Create and built 2000 sq kilometer a new capital, Lands not sold but leased for a maximum of 25 year time period all duty free zone and economic hub, where all nation can come and work. This area is low populated and lots of cheap land is available. Export to India. Iran, afghanistan or china is equal distance


  • Harry
    Oct 7, 2013 - 3:09AM

    Yes combat crime by cutting job growth in Karachi. Oh this is such a great idea. Sarcasm….


  • Sara
    Oct 7, 2013 - 9:30AM

    this article made no sense


  • Nida Khan
    Oct 7, 2013 - 10:13AM

    I think stopping industries is not going to solve the problem either. Govt must stop Karachi expansion in terms of population and geographical growth. Karachi is massive from Malir in the East to Orangi in the West, from Surjani in North to Karachi Port and DHA in the South. Karachi must have controlled entry and exit points – be it sea, air or land.


  • Adnan Ahmad
    Oct 7, 2013 - 10:42AM

    This article was breathtaking in its narrow-mindedness. It has exactly the same feudal and bureaucratic mentality that has create Karachi’s problems. he should be fired from his post. How can he be charge with making industrial parts when he is against industry?

    The solution to Karachi’s problems is not to strangle it but to expand the city, build more infrastructure and allow the local govt to come up with solutions to growth. Every entrenched political group has avoided immigration to Karachi since they don’t want to dilute their power, but they fail to understand, cities must grow to survive.


  • Ashkenazi
    Oct 7, 2013 - 1:33PM

    So jobs will be exported and we will have a better city?


  • Ovais
    Oct 7, 2013 - 8:24PM

    Get a damn metro system and use karachi taxes partially on karachi .. especially policing and damn it start land reforms. Cities are meant to grow have u heard of such measures in newyork tokyo or even mumbai. Landreforms is key to stop migration of workers


  • Syedpk
    Oct 20, 2013 - 11:50PM

    I am a Karachi and i completely agree … its called balanced development, expansion embargo was placed on Lahore and yielded great results.
    Karachi cant afford more people. shift the focus to sukker Hyderabad, Gwader, Peshawar and Multan, this will result in a balancing the population and growth rate of the country.

    Lahore Karachi and Islamabad need to stop expanding..


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