Karachi Demolition Authority - BY: Munir Mohammad Hasan

Like so many other issues on which the Pakistani people do not agree, there has always been a difference of opinion on the population of the city of Karachi. Those having a conservative approach, think that the population is around eight million (in 1995, when this article was written). While others who are more liberal, multiply this figure by a factor of two. Official census figures, like so many other official statements, are not believed. In this difference of opinion there has been at least one point of agreement. They all think that in fact the population of Karachi has increased.

Why is then a difference of opinion in counting the present population? Some persons might think that this is the obvious outcome of our present educational system in which the students of secondary classes are over-burdened with three languages – local, national and international, as compared to only one subject of mathematics in which many topics like arithmetic, algebra, geometry, etc. are included. Obviously then the arithmetic counting power of an “educated” person has to be defective in comparison with the languages. That is one of the reasons that during our budget seasons, while many attractive statements and articles are published in the newspapers, assuring that the people will prosper as a result of this budget, the figures are not easily understood. Sometimes the figures are quoted in millions of rupees and sometimes in crores (tens of millions) of rupees. Sometimes the amount is mentioned in rupees and sometimes in US dollars. Why should not it be? After all our budget is composed of international income (loans) along with some local income, and is for everyone, irrespective of the consideration whether a person has received his or her school education from an English medium or an Urdu medium school.

If the difference in counting the population is not due to our education system, then the personal ability of the persons could be a possible reason. I still remember, before independence, our elderly persons, especially the women, while dealing with the washermen, used to count clothes in multiples of twenty, and they could count no more than twenty twenties. So, may be that the statements of the persons on the population of the city represent their maximum counting ability rather than the actual population of Karachi.

There could be another possible reason. When the development funds are to be allocated or seats are to be reserved in quota system in relation to the population of the city, the population figures go down. And when the people complain about the diminishing standards of civic amenities or the law and order situation in the city, then the higher population figures help the administrators in saving their necks.

Those who are in favour of low population figures are of the view that in a city where a large number of residential plots measure hundreds or thousands of square yards, large population cannot be accommodated. But I think they are neglecting one important consideration. Karachi people don’t live in houses and apartments only. They live in all sorts of places like open plots, public parks, on footpaths and also in mobile houses on road sides. Mobile house is a speciality of Karachi. It looks like a mobile shop during business hours.

Apart from above, a large number of unauthorized colonies have been “developed”. People say that the persons who developed these colonies soon became millionaires. Lucky persons! They must have done real hard work in dealing with the federal, provincial and the local government agencies to keep the area “unauthorized” and so, they really deserve this reward.

Looking at its margin of profit, so many persons have entered into this business that, according to some reports, hundreds of such unauthorized colonies have sprung up in this city and more are on the way. Some other “responsible” persons, fearing unemployment of these “developers” due to the saturation of such colonies, are trying to declare these colonies as “authorized” ones so that the work on the development of new unauthorized colonies may be started afresh. What happens to the provisions of civic amenities like roads, electricity, water supply, sewerage, gas, schools, hospitals, public parks, playing fields for the children, etc. is not any body’s business because these things will be taken care of “naturally” by the Almighty who has created these people. After all, the creator should share a greater portion of the responsibility than the man.

The race in “utilizing” the unoccupied or open areas has also affected the minds of the residents of regular colonies. On the one hand it has encouraged the city planners to allow, and on the other, the builders to design their buildings in such a manner that no space is “wasted”, and in many cases even the footpaths are partly or totally covered. Those who are more generous and do not wish to “own” footpaths, they convert them into small gardens with iron grill all around for their protection, thus making the best use of this useless piece of land.

It is heard that a small department already exists locally which is responsible to take necessary action and demolish all unauthorized constructions in the city. Those who have established this innocent and harmless department must be having in mind the consequence of keeping a jackal in a jungle full of lions.

I am sure our government is very sincere and keen in “keeping” the city neat, clean and beautiful, and it will not tolerate anything which may bring a bad name to the city. A small demolition department obviously cannot play an effective role in keeping the city free of unauthorized constructions and so, it should establish a more powerful body or an “authority” to take up this assignment. If all those colonies, small and large buildings, and other constructions which have been built against the well-known civic practices, are demolished, then hardly any building will be left standing in the whole city. I therefore further propose that such demolition authority be suitably be named as “Karachi Demolition Authority”.

If there is any similarity between the proposed name and the name of any existing “authority”, it is only by chance. How can I single out one authority when so many other departments and authorities are doing similar jobs such as digging of roads and converting them into the natural swimming ponds for the young children in the name of development, making necessary arrangement for damaging the surface of the roads through diverted water supply or sewage, constructing the dangerously-elevated “car breakers” on busy roads and checking the strength of vehicles, keeping the manholes open, etc. These “death traps” as they are usually called, help in keeping the population of the city under control.

Posted on Dec 24, 18 | 6:18 am