When it comes to Karachi, its problems are directly proportionate to its population growth.
This was the crux of the session on urban governance and institutions at the South Asian Cities Conference here on Friday. The panelists, who were economists, urban planners and a minister, pointed out the implications of urbanisation on Karachi.
Urban planner Parvez Latif Qureshi said population growth in the city was synonymous with a nightmare. Seven cities in Pakistan have a population of more than one million and other cities are getting there.
Peter Ellis, a World Bank representative, shared parts of their assessment of urbanisation in South Asia. “Growth in Karachi is not a bad indicator but the city needs densification.” There has been mismanagement of the land as the whole city is sprawled across katchi abadis, he said. Karachi’s role in the national economy has been comparatively less than that of Lahore. “The contribution to the GDP in the country has been less in comparison to its population growth,” he said.
Connectivity has not been capitalised on either. “Karachi does not have secondary cities, which is crucial for an urbanised city.” If the agricultural areas are connected to the urban, it positively affects the economy. “The city overall is not well-connected,” he said.
Federal minister Ahsan Iqbal, said Karachi’s worries came down to mismanagement and a lack of implementation. Urban managers should be in local bodies to administer the city, he said. The government had been trying really hard to start up the Karachi Circular Railway. What Karachi needs is a bus rapid transit system such as Lahore’s. “We must take ownership of urbanisation,” he added.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 11th, 2014.
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