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April 18, 2011

Majority of city’s population lives in slums, seminar told


Web Desk
April 18, 2011

Around 55 percent population of Karachi lives in the slum areas.
This was stated by Tasneem Siddiqui, the man behind a settlement in Surjani Town which has come to be known as Khuda Ki Basti, at a seminar titled “Urbanization, Development and Ethnic Harmony” at the KMC Sports Complex on Sunday organized by the Citizens for Democracy as part of Faiz Ahmed Faiz’s centenary celebrations.
Siddiqui presented a breakup of how and why Karachi’s population multiplied.
Tracing the city’s history since 1947 when the city’s population was 400,000, the former bureaucrat said that the city saw its one millionth dweller by 1951 owing to the influx of people after the Partition.
No wonder with the geometrical increase in the city’s population did emerge the phenomenon of Katchi Abadis (slum area).
Orangi and Korangi were developed to accommodate the growing population, but housing and transport problems persisted.
As industrialization in Karachi accelerated so did the attraction of the city for the hundreds of thousands of jobless to migrate to the city.
Siddiqui, a former director of the Sindh Katchi Abadis Authority, said a land-grabbing class had emerged in the city which occupied official lands and then sold them.
He said the poor had been pushed around 20 to 25 kilometers away from the city centre while the cooperative societies were developed for the rich only.
With the burgeoning population came the transport problem.
Siddiqui said that Gen. Pervez Musharraf had promised 8,000 CNG buses for the city, a promise that was never fulfilled.
On the other hand, the Karachi Circular Railways ceased its operations in 1999, and the shortage in public transport meant that a citizen changed at least two buses at an average to get to their destination while vying for a foothold on the packed to capacity buses.
Siddiqui said that the former City Nazim, instead of addressing the traffic problem, preferred to develop

underpasses and flyovers, which made the roads impassable for the pedestrians.
Siddiqui was also critical of the media whom he accused of bypassing the real issues.
He said that around 20 to 25 “so-called experts” were seen on almost every channel from dawn to dusk debating trivial political issues.
Siddiqui, however, concluded his presentation on an optimistic note by saying that some citizens had risen in the city who had succeeded in stopping the construction of some multistory buildings in Garden East recently.
Sameer Dodhy of Shehri-CBE said their activism had helped in the demolition of a project in Clifton and stopping some construction in Gutter Bagheecha and Bin Qasim.
He regretted it was easy to grab land as allegedly every political party was involved in it.
He also accused some religious elements of being involved in grabbing lands by constructing madressas along with shops.
Dodhy said the proposed bill on protection and prohibition of amenity splots would be a dangerous thing as it would legalize occupation on amenity plots since 1994, which he termed a big conspiracy.
Prof. Noman Ahmed of the NED University said that the decline of institutions and the failure of political leadership had given rise to various interests groups in the city.
Prof. Ahmed also termed the city’s large population as the major problem.
He said that the Green Revolution of the 1960s rendered a large segment of the rural population jobless who were left with no other option but to migrate to the cities.
Besides, a significant population from the former East Pakistan came to Karachi after the dismemberment of the country in 1971.
Recently, insurgency in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa also forced the people to shift to some supposedly safer urban areas.
Pointing out that Karachi had always been a multicultural city, Prof. Ahmed said the population had continuously been increasing, but there were no plans to address the civic issues.
Poetess and writer, Attiya Dawood, said cultural activities and a link with history and civilization had been severed in the city.
With the occupation of parks and playgrounds, the avenues for some recreational activities had gone.
Ms Dawood said there used to be many bookshops in the city which were turned into jewelry shops while there were just a few libraries with even fewer visitors.
She said that even the wedding ceremonies had lost their cultural aspects.

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