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Life In Karachi


Karachi is not just a city. It is a unique city in many ways. To begin with, it is a metropolis in the strict sense of the word, characterized by an accelerating rate of suburban growth. Its rate of growth has been phenomenal, particularly since the emergence of Pakistan. From a medium-size city of less than 500,000 population in 1947 it grew to well over five million in 1981 and, according to most conservative estimates, has now exceeded 6.5 million mark. With increase in population there has been simultaneous increase in its a real extent, as indicated by the figures - 233 sq. Ian. in 1947 to 1300 sq. Km. in 1986.

Like any other major metropolitan center, Karachi is inhabited by a wide variety of communities belonging to different religious and linguistic groups drawn from different parts of Pakistan. Aside from Urdu-speaking n-migrants (Muhajirs) who still form the biggest ethnic group, there are considerable number of people from N.W.F.P, Kashmir, Punjab, Baluchistan, and of course from different parts of Sind of which it is the capital city. In this way Karachi like other leading cities of the. world has developed into a National Metropolis. No wonder, it is often described as miniature Pakistan, which is really is, just as Bombay is mini-India, London is mini-England, and Paris is mini-France.

Related with multi-ethnic character of Karachi's population is the appalling rate of massive in-migration of people from different parts of Pakistan, especially, the two northern provinces. it has been estimated that each year a new city of about 300,000 population is added to Karachi, through the process of massive inflow of people from different parts of Pakistan. As a consequence the city suffers from a chronic shortage of dwelling units, water supply, public transport, and civic amenities such as schools, hospitals , parks and playgrounds, etc. Over and above, is the shortage of jobs in both public and private sectors.

The shortage of dwelling units, a consequence of massive immigration, has been largely responsible for the emergence of squatter settlements or Katchi Abadis. The number of Katchi Abadis in the city increased from 51 in 1948 to 212 in 1959, 362 in 1978 and-438 in 1987. About 2.3 million people or one-third of the total population resides in these Katchi Abadis of Karachi. At this rate, it is quite likely that by the year 2000 A.D. not less than half of the total population of Karachi would be living in Katchi Abadis.

The city is confronted with yet another serious problem related with the existing intra-city transportation system, which is under heavy strain. The chief contributing factor is the explosive growth of its population due mainly to massive migration.. Added to this is the ever-increasing number of people who visit the city daily ,on a business trip on a social call.

Their number too runs into thousands or more. These people also use city's already overburdened transport. The problem has been aggravated due to apathy of the local/provincial administration and their refusal to deal with the problem in a big way. The reason given is the non-availability of funds. As a consequence, a city like Karachi with its seven million population is probably the only city in the world which has no fly overs, no mass-transit system, and the like. The city is faced with time-barred system of traffic regulation and most hackneyed and uncomfortable mode of public transport viz., buses, mini-buses, pick-ups and motor rickshaws.

As far as land use control is concerned Karachi presents a scene of utter chaos and confusion that borders on near anarchy. The d regulations agencies that matter have no doubt framed rules an to control land use in the city. However, in actual practice, these are observed largely in the form of violations rather than compliance. This is true in the case of heights of buildings as well as senseless proliferation of petty shops and stores dealing mainly in routine tertiary goods and services. The condition has worsened to the extent that one finds it very difficult to walk on side walks in almost all ma or shopping center of the city.

Along with these depressing aspects of Karachi's historic growth, the city nevertheless presents an impressive look of a growing metropolis with ever-increasing number of high-rise structures, shopping plazas, luxury hotels and a phenomenal increase in motorized transport especially private cars, pick-ups, motor-rickshaws and motor cycles.

As a National Metropolis Karachi should continue to grow, not as a city of Katchi Abadis, choked streets, and push-carts but a city where people would love to live, and of which they feel proud.

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