Too many cooks?

September 22, 2019

The duplication of roles of various civic agencies in Karachi adds to the problems

Too many cooks?

"There are more than 19 civic agencies in Karachi," this was once pointed out as a problem by no less a person than Syed Mustafa Kamal, the Pak Sarzameen Party chief. As of the city’s most powerful mayors, he would be seen on television emphasising the need to bring the city under one authority. How many authorities are there in the city and why?

To begin with, there’s an elected council of Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC) run by Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) Mayor Waseem Akhtar. The corporation, he complains, has limited jurisdiction and functions in the city. Then there are six elected councils, one for each district municipal corporation (DMC). District Central, East, West and Korangi have elected chairmen from the MQM-P while districts Malir and South have their chairmen from Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP). Besides, there’s a separate district council for rural areas. Its chairman is from the PPP.

In addition to these, there are six operational cantonment boards within the six districts. The Cantonment Board-Faisal lies in the East district, Cantonment Board-Karachi in South district and partially in East. Cantonment Board-Clifton lies in South district. The Cantonment Board-Manora is situated in West district, the Cantonment Board-Korangi is in Korangi district and the Cantonment Board-Malir falls in Malir district.

There’s also the Station Headquarters for Corps 5 and Karachi Commander Naval Headquarters that have their separate land jurisdictions in the city. "Military lands fall under the jurisdiction of the respective cantonment board. They are classified as A-1 military land," explains an official of the Cantonment Board Karachi.

The Defence Housing Authority (DHA) operates in Cantonment Board-Clifton only. "The DHA is a developer and the CBC is a municipal agency," says an official. "The official explains that the job of the DHA is to seek allotment of the land from the government, make its master plan, lay utility lines and construct roads. Once this job is done, the CBC takes over the area and maintains it. The katchi abadis in cantonment areas, according to the official, are also to be maintained by the cantonments.

There are at least four federal land-owning agencies in the city: the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), Karachi Port Trust (KPT), Pakistan Railways, and Port Qasim Authority (PQA).

Then there are three development authorities that operate under Sindh government: The first one is Karachi Development Authority (KDA), which has developed about 0.7 million plots in 45 housing schemes of the city. It was established in 1957 through a presidential order. The authority’s main purpose was to develop housing schemes but for some time after its formation it was also responsible for supplying water and building control management.

The KDA is no longer in a position to play a role in developing housing schemes as no vacant land is available with the authority. The KDA, according to information available on its website, now plays its role in the development and maintenance of roads and bridges. It also maintains land record, land acquisition, parks and horticulture, among other things.

The KMC, DMCs and the KDA can be seen trading barbs with one another over overlapping functions and land jurisdictions. A long-serving officer of the KDA, Mukarram Sultan Bukhari says that in 1985 KDA was deprived of several municipal functions due to political reasons, the results of which the city is facing till today.

The Lyari Development Authority (LDA) and Malir Development Authority (MDA) were formed in 1993 when four out of KDA’s 45 schemes -- Shah Latif Town, Hawksbay, Taiser Town and Halkani town -- were transferred to these authorities.

Karachi also has Sindh Building Control Authority (SBCA) which has no jurisdiction in cantonment areas. "The authority operates under Karachi Building and Town Planning Regulations - 2002, whereas cantonments have separate building bylaws -- CBC’s Building Bye-Law 2007. Cantonment by-laws are drafted in Rawalpindi’s Military Estate Office, which issues Statutory Regulatory Orders (SROs) for any amendments, the CBC official explains.

The city has got two main boards for municipal affairs which are non-functional in cantonment areas: the Sindh Solid Waste Management Board (SSWMB) and the Karachi Water and Sewerage Board (KWSB).

The cantonment boards, according to KWSB’s chief engineer, Ghulam Qadir, are responsible for water and sewage affairs in their areas. Talking to TNS, he says that KWSB Act 1996 talks about constituent bodies comprise KWSB’s bulk consumers who maintain their water and sewage system on their own. There is, however, a particular quota of water that KWSB supplies to hydrants of cantonment areas, according to their agreements. Land control of KMC, DMCs and development authorities under Sindh government, he informs, is KWSB’s jurisdiction.

As for Pakistan Railways, KPT, the CAA and PQA, he says they are essentially private societies meant to handle water and sewage on their own. There’s also Public Health Engineering (PHE) Department which is responsible for sewage and water system in rural areas.

The administrative confusion gets highlighted when a gutter line that choked in a cantonment or federally administered area starts overflowing in KDA or KMC jurisdiction or vice versa. This is when the KWSB, or a municipality claims that its hands are tied. SSWMB doesn’t operate in cantonment and on federal-owned lands.

The SBCA, the KDA, the MDA, the LDA, the SSWMB, the KWSB, the PHE operate under the Sindh government. This has resulted in two parallel authorities -- KMC’s elected council and the provincial government -- working for more than half the city. For instance, Sindh’s local government department has a technical director to carry out major construction projects in the city. The KMC operating under the MQM, and even KDA, have this function under their control. Similarly, the Sindh government has formed Sindh Food Authority but the KMC also has a Food and Quality Control Department.

The Commissioner’s House in Karachi is responsible for coordination among these municipalities and land-owning agencies. It is also responsible for price control in the city.

Former Karachi commissioner Karachi, Shoaib Siddiqui, who has served in almost all municipalities, believes the real issue is coordination. "Everybody is very possessive about their domain, control, organisation and territory." He says that since the landscape can’t be changed, the best thing is to improve coordination. The commissioner, he says, is chief officer of a division and a representative of the provincial government.

Siddiqui says he had formed a coordination board which had representatives from all civic bodies. "This made service delivery better," he claims, adding that for the cooperation of cantonment authorities he used to take military authorities onboard. According to him, the commissioner can direct any municipal authority by law to carry out his orders in public interest.

Also read: Editorial

Mustafa Kamal recalls that in 2007 the Supreme Court had directed the Ministry of Defence to exclude civilian areas from the cantonment boards. The court had also asked the government to form a committee to carry out a survey in this regard. The apex court had ordered that a board of governors be constituted to manage municipal services. The board was supposed to be headed by a mayor and consist of heads of all municipal agencies working in the city. As for the municipal roles of KPT, Pakistan Railways, CAA and PQA, the SC had ordered that recommendations of the committee be followed.

Mayor, Waseem Akhtar, was not available for a comment.

Too many cooks?