Underpasses, flyovers and parking plazas are sometimes introduced because the epitome of improvement. However such costly interventions normally fail to enhance neighbourhoods as a result of their very conceptualisation is flawed and doesn’t tackle board the actual points of individuals they’re meant to be for. What can planning study from the failures of the previous?

Illustration by Samiah Bilal

Midas, the king of Phrygia, was famend for his wealth. In line with the Greeks, his fabulous riches have been the results of the kindness he confirmed to Silenus, the previous goat-like tutor of Dionysus, the god of wine, vegetation and ecstasy. So happy was Dionysus with Midas’s behaviour that he granted the king one want. Midas requested for every little thing he touched to be turned to gold. At first Midas was overjoyed with the reward, however as soon as he realised that even his food and drinks have been remodeled upon touching his lips, he was horrified. Out of pity, Dionysus instructed him the way to wash away his golden contact, which he did within the river Pactolus, thereafter well-known for the gold mud to be discovered on its mattress.

As Midas learnt, every little thing turning to gold shouldn’t be essentially a dream situation. Certainly, it could possibly turn into a nightmare if it stands in the best way of primary wants being met.


With luggage full of cash and entry to energy constructions, institutional donors appear bent on reshaping the constructed atmosphere of Karachi. These donors are in a position to make substantial inroads within the planning circuits of the metropolis. And so they do that so-called ‘planning’ with obscene fanfare.

However not all that glitters is gold. Such tasks and improvement interventions by money-lending companies and the implementation our bodies are, sadly, usually unable to incorporate and fulfill the various stakeholders of Karachi concerning the utility, timings, strategies, aims and influence of varied tasks. This exclusion of major stakeholders from the event circuits ends in their alienation, and brings to query the purpose of such improvement. As Khawaja Haider Ali Aatish as soon as mentioned:

[In vain is the elaboration of desires through strangers]

Incoming funding is welcome, if the situations are identified and never a bane for the financial system. The related infrastructural improvement is worthy of being hailed, if it’s based mostly on the actual wants of the stakeholders. Such improvement interventions would positively be appreciated, if the whole strategy of improvement have been participatory.

However these situations are hardly ever ever met.


A file picture of an under-construction underpass close to Karachi’s Numaish intersection | Fahim Siddiqui/White Star

A darkish and dingy, Dickensian, 12-storey Parking Plaza stands underutilised in Karachi. Positioned a number of hundred metres from the Empress Market, on a signal-free hall, it was constructed at the price of about 650 million rupees, over a decade in the past.

The plaza, constructed on a 35,654-square-foot plot, has the capability to accommodate over 700 autos and 500 bikes, and homes 160 retailers and 118 places of work. The parking plaza was inaugurated 11 years in the past and nonetheless stays underused. Why? As a result of it ignored the travelling wants and habits of its catchment space.

The mission’s ‘planners’ additionally didn’t take into consideration pedestrians’ safety, or about creating strolling amenities between the parking plaza and the purchasing areas. Any sincere wants’ evaluation calls for belief between the initiators and the would-be beneficiaries of the mission. One wonders if such an evaluation was ever performed.

Then there are the signal-free corridors that promote dashing, boastful elitism and insensitivity in the direction of pedestrians and the aged. They’ve ruined the adjoining drainage system and even exacerbated city flooding, which has uprooted numerous households from their well-settled houses. The corridors have additionally created a spatial divide of the town neighbourhoods.

These a lot trumpeted signal-free corridors have been constructed on the premise of easing the site visitors congestion within the metropolis. However, in actuality, they merely switch the site visitors congestion of level A to level B. Costing billions of rupees, there are round 50 flyovers and 17 underpasses in Karachi.

It may be argued that the whole circuit of transport infrastructure failed to realize its goal. Why? As a result of the planning conveniently ignored the connection of the transport challenge with the fast-changing social realities of the end-users. An instance is how transport ‘planning’ fails to deal with the rising participation of ladies within the public sphere. Whilst statistically extra girls are taking public transport, the system has not been up to date to replicate this. Footpaths and bus stops, for instance, haven’t been reimagined to cater to the altering wants of the customers.

5 Star Chowrangi flyover | Fahim Siddiqui/White Star

Flyovers, that primarily profit customers travelling through vehicles, bikes and smaller non-public autos, are thought of a positive signal of improvement. However in actuality, this sort of planning lacks an in-depth evaluation of the commuting patterns of the varied segments and strata of Karachi metropolis.

The proposed engineering options to the site visitors woes of this metropolis at all times appear divorced from the social realities of the lots.

Take the oft-revived Traces Space Redevelopment Mission (Larp) that was notified in 1973. The Traces Space constituency was thought of one of many worst slums in Karachi and Larp was launched because the first-of-its-kind redesign mission in Pakistan, full with a improvement and relocation plan.

Larp was launched in 1981, but it surely couldn’t ship. The mission proposed ‘one room homes’ for every household, ignoring the social wants of principally prolonged households. As per press stories, in 2016, the variety of Larp’s everlasting staff stood at 138 and the month-to-month expenditure was over eight million rupees, whereas Larp had liabilities of over 76 million rupees. This dream mission clearly by no means met its acknowledged aims absolutely. Why? As a result of residents of the world perceived it to be a top-down improvement intervention by outsiders, conceived with out making an allowance for their social realities.


[I would not have minded death, if I had to die only once]

— Mirza Ghalib

Karachi is a metropolis that has died many deaths. It’s a miracle it capabilities in any respect and continues to be standing. The above-mentioned are just a few examples out of many failed infrastructure tasks within the metropolis. The tasks failed primarily as a result of the modus operandi of conception and implementation each weren’t reflective of the collective wants of Karachi. Efforts are both not made or solely half-hearted measures are taken to gauge the wants of the communities and of the neighbourhoods the tasks are supposed to serve.

It’s the extent of individuals’s involvement in any improvement enterprise that determines whether or not it’s a success story or a failed mission. By the identical token, to make efficient use of the federal authorities’s just lately initiated Karachi Transformation Plan, in addition to the investments invited for infrastructure enhancements in calamity-hit Karachi, classes discovered from previous infrastructure tasks should not be forgotten.

A few of these classes could seem too apparent to veteran city planners, however they’re essential to be documented for the laypersons residing on this wonderful metropolis, so that they can also turn into a part of the event course of.

First, the incoming funding can solely be profitable and can solely be welcomed if the situations of the investments and the detailed plan are shared with all of the stakeholders. And this too must be completed on the time of conceptualisation of the event intervention. Mission Cycle-1, popularly known as PC-1, must be within the public area. Inclusiveness shouldn’t be solely the very best coverage, it’s virtually the one coverage in excessive stakes improvement ventures.

Second, infrastructure improvement initiatives have to be based mostly on the wants of the stakeholders, and the whole strategy of improvement must be participatory. We don’t want the contact of Midas, the place the crucial of beautification eclipses the actual wants of companies and utilities.

The Karachi Neighbourhood Enchancment Mission (KNIP), a mission that supposedly goals to “remodel Karachi right into a habitable mega metropolis,” is a living proof. On website observations of the neighbourhood and survey with the residents and shopkeepers of the world reveal that the prime wants of the world embody potable water, the revamping of the sewerage system and the disposal of municipal waste. But, KNIP is usually about transport and affiliated parking amenities, clearly centered on secondary stakeholders. An aura of glamour and felicitation was created for KNIP, positioning it as an island of happiness within the hustle and bustle of District South. However, in apply, it limits the usage of an in any other case public area for particular customers. Guards defending vehicles and parking areas have appeared within the space.

There was a time when one would see many kabootarwalay (pigeon keepers) close to the DJ Science Faculty within the space. The roundabout there was unofficially known as Kabootar Chowk (pigeon roundabout). Now the chowk is gone, as are the kabootarwalay.

An aged lady who would journey from Burnes Street to the world tells me, “Awaam ke liye raasta band hogaya hai [The public’s access has been closed].” She says with the closing of turnings and U-turns, folks must journey for longer durations to get to their locations. “Now rickshaw drivers cost 50 rupees,” she says. “I might by no means must pay greater than 25 to 30 rupees beforehand.”

It’s price questioning who advantages from such enchancment tasks, and who pays the value.

The third lesson is that the technique papers and diagnostics stories that set the context and the funds for any doable improvement interventions ought to undergo cautious contextual examination earlier than any operationalisation. The neo-liberal financial system has introduced with it a vocabulary and phrases comparable to ‘sustainability’, ‘inclusivity’ and ‘sensible metropolis’, are sometimes thrown round. However these phrases can’t merely be picked up from the West and utilized right here. There’s a dire want of contextual scrutiny earlier than diagnostic stories are accepted.

In lots of of those improvement tasks, there’s a clear disconnect between Karachi’s lived actuality and the planners’ imaginative and prescient. As Ahmad Nadeem Qasmi superbly put it:

[What the eyes see and what the mind sees differ, The garden is full of fragrance but I do not feel the coming of the spring]


Capitalism adjustments cities, and cities, in flip, play an necessary half within the improvement of capitalism. Halfway by the 20th century, it was realised that conventional infrastructural improvement plans and their strategies of implementation weren’t assembly the target of lowering the miseries of the folks. It was then established that to organise and reorganise a public area is a democratic motion and must be carried out by native representatives of the folks.

The fitting to rearrange the general public sphere lies with the communities and their consultant regimes of native governance. This brings us to the fourth lesson: if a public area is to be rearranged for any change in land-use, it must be not deliberate as per the whims of exterior consultants alone. The last word decision-making powers ought to lie with the native management, and acceptable strategies must be adopted to make their energetic participation doable — if the holy grail of out of doors companies have to be used, contextual methodologies must be adopted.

Fifth, the wrong categorisation of stakeholders, omissions from the lists of stakeholders and the mere passive participation of the chosen ones, usually ends in incorrect identification of the wants of a group. Extra effort have to be made to precisely establish those that have exhaustive, everlasting or long-term stakes (major stakeholders) within the mission. After all, secondary stakeholders (with restricted, time-bound or transient stakes within the mission) must also reap the advantages of any improvement intervention, however not at the price of the first stakeholders.

Sixth, the method of consultations with the stakeholders must be all-inclusive. The standard apply adopted by funding and implementing our bodies is to ask ‘secure’ and chosen stakeholders for ‘consultations’ in 5 star resorts on the implementation section. Including insult to harm, suggestions of even these chosen few are sometimes not accommodated within the mission. The complete notion of participation is lowered to a mechanical ‘guidelines participation’ of the stakeholders.

This turns into a double jeopardy: on the one hand it stunts the imaginative and prescient of the funding and the implementing company and, on the opposite, it makes the tasks contested, leading to Manichean-styled brick-and-mortar expressions of energy circles.

The seventh lesson from historical past is that exterior brokers’ reluctance to accommodate participatory approaches emanates from varied elements, together with stiff procedural (learn: bureaucratic) necessities. In addition they concern reprisal from the communities and pay much less consideration to participatory improvement.

Authorities and company bureaucrats are each not attuned to strategies of participatory improvement. Sindh’s ruling celebration, the Pakistan Peoples Occasion (PPP), has a historical past of in style and participatory politics, and may act as a mediator between iron-caged bureaucratic programs and the aspiration of the lots for pro-people infrastructure improvement within the metropolis. However this means has hardly ever ever been utilised.

As Faiz Sahib mentioned:

[It was not like this, I merely wished it were]

In the identical vein, the involvement of civil society on the conceptual stage would make the system extra people-sensitive and the outcomes extra gender- and environment-friendly.


A file picture displaying the influence of unfinished work on a sewage line in Karachi’s Ramaswami space | Shakil Adil/White Star

The eighth lesson to be learnt offers with the fact that each mission ends in the change of current land-use. However regardless of figuring out this truth, the deliberate avoidance of any neutral and technically sound land-use change examine by the donors and implementing company makes issues worse. It exacerbates the prevailing stratification of the society by making it an unique area for the richer segments of the society. It additionally deprives the neighbourhood from its conventional use.

Karachi’s has an extended priority of anti-poor tasks such because the overheads and underpasses. However even tasks aiming to assist pedestrians miss the mark. On Shahrae Faisal, pedestrian bridges are about 600 metres to 1.2 kilometres removed from each other. They’ve additionally been made with little consideration to the various accessibility wants of the tip customers. One usually sees males pushing pushcarts up the steps and struggling to cross the bridge, whereas vehicles zoom previous on the street, uninterrupted.

We reside in a neo-liberal world the place visuals are sometimes extra necessary than the content material, and the packaging issues an entire lot. Growth interventions, as steered by worldwide money-lending apparatuses, create the phantasm of ‘improvement for the folks.’ Regardless that the top-down strategy is commonly adopted by worldwide donors and their native companions in paperwork, efforts are made to generate the impression of a bottom-up, inclusive, sustainable and needs-based tasks. As a ninth lesson, this refined thaggi [disingenuousness] must be changed by lifelike and accountable ventures in Karachi’s curiosity.

The duality of lending companies may be aptly summarised by as soon as once more quoting Faiz Sahib:

[Thanks to our naive facilitation, Oh how mere idols have lorded over us]

The worldwide institutional donors take into account big infrastructural tasks the Midas of the modern period. They dream {that a} mere contact will magically induce fairness, inclusion and different such high-sounding notions throughout varied social strata, and produce the gold of prosperity. However that is removed from true.

The operational points raised on this write-up are solely the tip of the iceberg. If they don’t seem to be recognised and addressed, they are going to end in upcoming big funding tasks turning into “yet one more failed mission” within the improvement historical past of Karachi.

To keep away from improvement tasks turning into our society’s Achilles’ heel, the conceptualisation and implementation of infrastructure tasks should not be left to money-lending banks, avaricious consultants, actual property builders and myopic politicians. For higher service supply, Karachi wants long run lifelike programmes, with the participation of the folks of the town, as an alternative of quick time period sporadic donor-steered tasks.

If investments are deliberate alongside these traces with the above classes in thoughts, Karachi may see a greater tomorrow. In any other case, repeat tragedy and repeat prescriptions would be the destiny accompli of the town and its residents.

A South American proverb price remembering goes, He who lives on illusions, dies of disillusion. Nearer to house, Baqi Siddiqui imparted comparable knowledge:

[My state of self-delusion, Finds enchantment closer than even distant illusions]

The author is a PhD scholar, and a board member on the City Useful resource Centre (URC), Karachi — a non-profit organisation centered on highlighting the issues of the town by motion analysis, documentation and boards. He may be reached at [email protected]


In Karachi’s historical past there have been uncommon tasks which have efficiently included the stakeholders within the improvement course of. Orangi Pilot Mission (OPP) is one such mission.

OPP was established in 1980 by Akhtar Hameed Khan in Orangi, District West of Karachi, to deal with the urgent issues of the world, that was inhabited by migrant communities of former East Pakistan and the then NWFP (now Khyber Pakhtunkhwa). The then Financial institution of Credit score and Commerce Worldwide (BCCI) Basis supported the mission by offering a seed fund.

OPP positioned the ‘group’ on the centre of the neighbourhood upgradation course of. The mission’s course of concerned analysing excellent issues of the world, folks’s initiatives and the bottlenecks within the initiatives, after which, by a strategy of motion analysis and extension schooling, evolving viable options selling participatory motion.

Be it at Comilla in East Pakistan or Orangi, Khan spent loads of time speaking to the folks and didn’t go in with a predefined mannequin for the group in despair. Being a eager observer of social interactions, he succeeded in attending to the core challenge. The fashions he proposed weren’t solely modern however demand-driven, as an alternative of being supply-driven or donor-steered.

He would go to the sphere with a clear slate and by no means claimed to know the micro-context higher than those that have been dwelling in it.

After the identification of sewerage and associated points as the main downside of the Orangi residents, Akhtar Hameed Khan contacted Arif Hasan (a longtime architect and revered city planner) for low price and community-operated technical recommendation. He didn’t name any remoted, aloof, soulless technocrat whose prime curiosity could be making a living, by no means to return to the group after the mission’s launch. This success story demonstrates the significance of searching for technical assist from competent, pro-people advisors, who can present options that will likely be low-cost and never add to Pakistan’s money owed.

One other key function of OPP was group mobilisation for fundraising for the proposed mission’s execution and, later, operational upkeep. Khan noticed street-smart lane managers and included them within the planning course of. They have been profitable in mobilising the group, leading to an indelible feeling of possession for the mission.

Institutional donors normally miss out on this integral step and, therefore, fail to create a sense of group possession for his or her respective tasks. In reality, by not making an effort to be inclusive, they usually, unintentionally, create resentment within the communities.

Then there’s one other sturdy facet of human improvement by OPP. The lane managers turned grasp trainers for the replication and scaling-up of the mission. A few of these managers later received hooked up to OPP and emerged as leaders in their very own proper.

OPP, by involving the group from the pre-inception section, carved out the precept that shifts in mission design and strategy must be knowledgeable not by ideology, hope and ‘intestine emotions’, however by sincere suggestions and good information — each qualitative and quantitative. Apart from flexibility in strategy, this requires a eager give attention to monitoring programs, course of evaluations and influence evaluations — phrases which are most frequently employed to maintain donors joyful, quite than as severe instruments for mission implementation.

At OPP, monitoring is finished by the group and the system of weekly conferences is devised to report the recognized issues, causes of the issues and the way to transfer ahead. Public monitoring and accountability of the event mission is a necessity, not a luxurious. And group monitoring is the one approach for result-oriented accountability.

These and lots of different classes may be drawn from the OPP mannequin. Provided that these rules are simple to use and don’t price a lot, institutional donors and decision-makers should ponder over two questions. First, what’s the knowledge of ignoring these rules within the just lately initiated tasks in Karachi? And, second, seeing the plain advantages of group engagement, how can participatory improvement be introduced again to the discourse of improvement? — MR

Info from Akhtar Hameed Khan & The OPP by Arif Hasan, Metropolis Press, 1999

Printed in Daybreak, EOS, December 13th, 2020

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