Economic apartheid is alive and kicking in Karachi

How does a city function when the “city government only controls 30 percent of the land area?”:

bq.. *The draft Master Plan of Karachi city shows that the city district government controls only 30.9 per cent of the total land of the metropolis.*

…According to the draft master plan, the city district government Karachi controls 30.9 per cent land; Kirthar National Park has 20.7 per cent; government of Sindh controls 17.7 per cent; Lyari Development Authority controls 5.6 per cent; Malir Development Authority has 3.9 per cent; Defence Housing Authority owns 5.0 per cent; private land in the city is 3.9 per cent; Karachi Port Trust has 2.8 per cent; Cantonment Boards controls 2.01 per cent; Port Qasim Authority controls 1.5 per cent; Cooperative Housing Societies own 1.8 per cent; Sindh Industrial Trading Estate has 0.6 per cent; Government of Pakistan controls 0.5 per cent; Pakistan Railway possess 0.4 per cent. Some 2.7 per cent of land of Karachi was recently allotted for industrial, educational and other use.

The 120-page draft master plan, which was prepared by a private consultant, was silent regarding how much land is being controlled by the Civil Aviation Authority, Export Promotion Bureau, Export Processing Zone Authority and Pakistan Steel. ”

p. *The short and obvious answer is that is that it doesn’t.* Karachi has become divided into virtual gated communities, which are entire cities unto themselves, and as these areas expand the city government is left holding a ever smaller piece of the economic pie. The well off shift to the areas outside of the city government’s control, and their taxes go with them.

Worldwide, the richer areas subsidize the poorer areas, but in Karachi it is the opposite. The gated communities keep practically all the local taxes collected in their areas, so there is no flow of wealth from the richer areas to the poorer, while the city government will wake up one fine day realizing the only land and people under it’s control are the many slums of Karachi. Revenue collected from the 30 percent goes into all the services the city requires, from roads to police to infrastructure management, and increasingly all these resources are spent on the richer areas. The poor end up subsidizing the rich. Everything, from roads, to water, to the police are increasingly structured towards the well-off, with no time or resources left over for the rest of the city.

Roads are built to facilitate the movements of VIP’s, and to better manage the flow of traffic around the many virtual gated communities, while the rest of the city is duly ignored. All around the city, there are band-aid solutions being implemented to fix deepening infrastructure problems, which just serve to put off the inevitable collapse of the city as we know it today.

bq. …every upper-middle-class condo in Sao Paulo comes with armed guards, banks of closed-circuit-television cameras, electrified wiring connected with emergency alarms and sometimes connected to “armed response” security companies. Rich and poor, in this environment, rarely intersect. It’s what some Brazilian writers call “the return to the medieval city”. Gated-community heaven, as reached by the upwardly mobile in the developing world, elevates them, in Davis’s words, into “fortified, fantasy-themed enclaves and edge cities, disembedded from their own social landscapes but integrated into globalization’s cyber-California floating in the digital ether”. The whole thing also means the death of civil society as we know it. “#”:

That aptly describes Karachi today, with it’s many 6 and 7 star fantasy gated communities being built for the rich, and practically no money, time or thought being put into the rest of the city. The Federal and provincial government run around chasing projects for the wealthy, and in the process have seem to forgotten the other 95 percent of the city.

bq. …Well-placed sources told Dawn that at present the Master Plan Group of Offices was weighing the master plan draft submitted by the private consultant and there is a proposal to publicise the draft to involve people from all walks of life and incorporate their suggestions in such a major document.

Hopefully the plan will be publicized. There are a lot of questions this plan should answer, ranging from the distribution of revenue collected by the various land holding agencies, to a breakup of how that money is spent and by whom. There is no such thing as a free lunch, so where goes the money, so goes the city. Gated communities invariably lead to the residents having less and less to do with the city they used to live in, and as the more well-off residents move mentally, economically and physically away from the city, then the decline of the rest of the city is going to speed up. In Karachi, the process is even faster as from what I can tell from various newspaper reports, the gated communities keep (almost) all of the revenue generated from within, and spend it there.

h4. links

* “Urban Resource Center Karachi”:

2 thoughts on “Economic apartheid is alive and kicking in Karachi”

  1. Great article.

    I live in the Nazimabad area and I work in the Garden area but I do hang out a little in the Fashionable Clifton/Defense area on the weekend.

    I really only know about the middle-class area’s of Karachi..where exactly are these areas that you are talking about?

    Please give some specific’s..maybe references with Google Maps?



  2. JT,

    You must be blind or something. This is a common Pakistani problem. We try to ignore the reality of the situation. Remember 2/3 of the country cannot read or write, compare that to Sri Lanka (another poor country) which has a 94% literacy rate. I don’t mean to sound harsh, its just that hanging out in fashionable areas (Clifton, Defence, Nazimabad) will mean that you never see a problem.

    For example see Lyari town in Karachi below:

    Take care

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