ISLAMABAD: The World Bank has suggested that Karachi must act quickly and resolutely to preserve its central position as the country’s main growth pole and window to the world.
In its ‘Pakistan Development Update’ released on Thursday, the bank said the megapolis needed a programmatic, phased approach aligned with the Karachi City Development Plan 2020 in order to address its deeply structural challenges.
“Karachi faces a complex political environment, ad hoc planning, poor governance, and weak financial and institutional capacities,” the report said, adding that failing to address these issues in a timely manner would exacerbate the infrastructure and service deficit.
Yet there is high potential for Karachi’s transformation into a world-class metropolitan region through economic growth and prosperity, liveability, sustainability and inclusiveness.
The World Bank suggested four strategic pillars to transform Karachi into a world-class metropolitan region.
One suggestion calls for inclusive, coordinated and accountable institutions.
The second pillar suggests greening for sustainability and resilience. It called for closing infrastructure gaps and safeguarding funds for maintenance. Put in place buffers to protect vulnerable groups from the negative impacts of growth and climate change, the World Bank said.
The third pillar emphasised the need for leveraging economic, social and environmental assets. Involve the private sector in infrastructure provision; develop stronger incentives for more efficient performance. Leverage land assets to finance key infrastructure for growth, the bank suggested.
The fourth pillar called for creating a smart Karachi, proposing that assets should be used creatively, efficiently and sustainably. The city should be innovated with smart policies to manage services, enhance competitiveness, facilitate engagement, and improve investment projects.
The World Bank report recommended that a comprehensive transport policy should be developed to address Karachi’s significant congestion and public transport shortfalls. Presently, no cohesive transportation policy exists for Karachi, even as a thousand new vehicles are added to the roads each day.
The report said that Karachi’s competitiveness had declined relative to other cities within Pakistan and across the region. The business environment was hampered by large infrastructure gaps, frequent power outages, congestion, political instability, corruption and extortion.
The formal manufacturing sector in the city was also affected by more competitive imports.
Karachi’s ranked among the bottom 10 cities in the 2015 Global Liveability Index. Urban planning, management and service delivery have not kept pace with population growth.
The city may be headed towards a spatially unsustainable, inefficient, and unliveable form. More than half the residents live in informal settlements, or katchi abadis, which grow at double the rate of the city at large.
Public open spaces and cultural heritage sites are under threat from modern, high density luxury developments. Other new formal developments have begun to leapfrog past city limits, eschewing underutilised sites near the centre and on the waterfront.
City of migrants
Karachi’s a city of migrants, but with insufficient city planning to absorb the flow of people in adequate housing. Its broad ethnic diversity has been organised in pockets of homogeneous zones, and certain groups are perceived to have been favoured over others, according to the report.
Informal land developers, known as land mafias, wield outsize power in the development process through corrupt and violent means. Areas accessible to low-income households are far from jobs, exacerbating spatial inequality and exclusion. These informal settlements are closely linked to informal and illicit trades.
The report said that resilience and sustainability should be at the heart of coordinated city management. “Interventions to address environmental pollution must be linked to other sectors such as transport and waste management. Environmental regulations should be strengthened, with an emphasis on safeguarding vulnerable groups,” it added.