In other blogs: From Karachi: Cities for Cars or People?

The City Government is winning laurels from various communities in Karachi for the infrastructure development going on in the city, but a particular post on Pak Tea House analyzes the work from a Development Economics point of view. This school of thought believes that infrastructure building is not synonymous to progress and other factors such as concern for environment, change in attitudes, and freedom should be considered in formulating a strategy that has a more integrated approach to development.

Here are a few thought-provoking insights:

Recent efforts to ease Karachi’s traffic congestion, for instance, by building wider roads, flyovers, elevated expressways, and a much-talked about rail-based mass transit system are unlikely to ease traffic congestion in the long-run because these initiatives are de-linked from social and environmental land-use planning (particularly, housing development), and transport needs of the non-car owning majority.

Consider: While less than five percent of Karachi’s residents own cars (550,000 private vehicles out of a total vehicle population of 1.3 million in a city of 12+ million people, do the math!), city planning and development has been geared towards facilitating private car use at the expense of the needs of the poor.

Experiences from around the world shows that traffic jams create demand for new road infrastructure which in turn stimulates development around major roads which leads to further increases in traffic congestion and yet more demand for infrastructure. The vicious circle continues , more jams , more pollution and more poverty.

It is the poor who suffer disproportionately from road accidents (often because of encroached upon or non-existent infrastructure for pedestrians and cyclists), and air pollution – a consequence of being concentrated in “dirty” areas and being unable to afford medical care, and, most critically, lack of public spaces (parks, green belts, walkways, community centers) which experts believe is contributing to erosion of social capital and a major cause of increasing mental stress amongst city residents. The importance city planners and politicians have given to public transportation can be gauged from the fact that the city disbanded its public transportation company many years ago, and shut-down, under political pressure from road transporters, the circular railway service which serviced poorer segments of the city population. Our city administration spends several hundreds of million rupees of scare resources every year on building and maintaining road infrastructure which benefits a tiny population of high-income individual car owners at the expense of the non-car owning majority.

The way forward is before us. We need to impose the “real” cost of car use on users, create a cheap, accessible, and safe public transport system (such as the BRT), and incorporate environmental and social factors as integral components of transportation planning.

Not only does the piece offer some constructive criticism to the city planners but also proposes recommendations which aren’t as tedious a task to implement. It is, then, a wonder why the authorities concerned couldn’t be as far-sighted as the writer.

15 Comments so far

  1. Salma Khan (unregistered) on November 30th, 2007 @ 5:26 pm

    Thanks To ALLAH for new blog at Kara-metlog..What happend to you AUTHORS?A blog per day not enough for eyes addiction:-)

  2. Reality_check (unregistered) on November 30th, 2007 @ 8:43 pm

    One step at a time my friend. This is no rocket science that this city needs a mass transit system or shall I say needed it 20 years back. So we are behind. Its also obvious we need to go under ground for that. We need money, we need institutions and leadership to undertake such activity and we need a plan. I agree whatever we are doing above ground will only provide temporary relief, but that’s important too and should continue.

    As for long term Mass Transit goals, if you gonna dig on such a large scale then you need to know what the plough will hit, that’s where having an accurate master plan is crucial. The city govt has finally made one. I do hope its accurate to an acceptable degree. Next we will need all the civic agencies working in sync not necessarily under one command but with effective coordination. Ofcourse we will need strong leadership.

    Going forward a Mass Transit Programme should be devised and made public. It should be discussed in all the public forums, including its engineering merits, cost to the city and how and where the funds will come from. It will also require land accusations for parking facilities near every station and a connecting Bus System above ground. We should use already existing circular Railway tracks and take them below ground where needed. Actually circular railway is a good starting point for taking care of morning and evening office commute to I.I. Chundrigar Road from certain major areas of the city, and should be started ASAP as a test case. Three / Four Trains in the morning, two in the afternoon and Three / Four for the return journey.

  3. Arsalaan Haleem (unregistered) on November 30th, 2007 @ 10:53 pm

    Sid, a half -a – million private vehicles is not a correct figure.

    And also the population est. is also 16+ million.

    Kindly check the figures before blogging on them.

  4. silver (unregistered) on November 30th, 2007 @ 11:41 pm

    Perhaps its about time our nazim-e-nala realized that working your lazy ass for 8 months on a stupid 1 km stretch is a waste of time if it gets ruined in another rainy season… what wait another 8 months!!!

    Mass transit is the backbone of all major cities like ours.

  5. ShahidnUSA (unregistered) on December 1st, 2007 @ 1:13 am

    Everytime I visit karachi it seems to me that time has stopped in karachi. Everything is the same as I left it except more stressed out faces and more pollution.
    Fewer new buildings and flyovers here and there means nothing to me. May be I have high standards or higher expectations.

    My god! city of 16 million people.

    Where is the Mass transit?
    Where are the highways?
    Where is the Downtown?
    Where is the financial district?

    Why settle for less if you pay your taxes in full.

  6. ali (unregistered) on December 1st, 2007 @ 2:31 am

    The city govt needs to realize that it simply can’t keep on building infrastructure to accomodate the vehicles that ply on it, this way as Sid mentioned the cycle is just going to multiply itself. Instead, it needs to reduce the number of vehicles that ply on the roads and introduce a proper public transport system (I won’t blame anyone if they don’t use PT because they don’t wanna go on W-11’s). Another major problem is rickshaws, which are major contributors of noise and air pollution, and even worse the auto guys are reluctant to CNG their autos. I think the only way out of this is to simply tell the guys to go find work somewhere else; we can’t accomodate each and every one’s need in a population of 12 million (someone else here needs to check their figures @ Wikipedia).

    Of course, there will be some sacrifices needed on part of the citizens if the mass transit system needs to be revamped, but a little period of pain pays off better than a long run in vain.

  7. Mohd (unregistered) on December 1st, 2007 @ 10:46 am

    Funny how they never analyze these things from other major cities like NYC or Boston or Toronto’s Point of View. Those cities progress when new highways and roads are made but that is not the case with us. Look at dubai, that city is appalling they are allowing more people into the city than they can manage. And that whole arguement of the poor suffer because car accidents due to encroachments really needs to be reassessed because correct me if Im wrong but hasnt the city of Khi just built two pedestrian overpasses. The problem is not the cities if they dont follow it and neither is it the poors because they don’t know any better. Instead of pointing fingers and blaming the city for its efforts and initiative these ‘experts’ should maybe consider spending time lobbying for compulsory free public education. Though I agree with a circular rail system being implemented like Mumbai.

  8. Jamal Shamsi (unregistered) on December 1st, 2007 @ 12:34 pm


    The 1st phase shall be civic sense of the ROAD users,

    Next comes the timings for heavy traffic and public transport. Articulated buses on main throughfares and mini buses on connecting arteries.

    Motorcycles to be sidetracked, and min & max speed limit to be set & observed on each connecting artery and throughfare.

    All vehicles must undergo a fitness test as functionality classification for usage of roads.

    Older the vehicle THICKEST the road tax implied on it. (whereas it is vice versa – 1965 is now plying on road Tax free)

    Karachi City Govt on TOP shall coordinate with Traffic Chief, and Police Chief at the Central Police Office, to keep tab on encroachments, and TOWN Nazims shall be responsible for such managment in coordination with TPOs and TMOs.

    Vehicles involved in constrution shall be restricted on routes and managed.

    Managment is no BIG deal, we all have seen the Town volunteers managing traffic with police help in Ramzan,

    The only thing is about getting all on ONE platform to begin with the Town Nazim, CCPO the Public Transport Representative and devise the plan.

    Karachi is much larger & wider then London, have great and WIDE network of roads, then London.

    The worst part is that we lack managment., which can be dealt with focus and determination.

    KCR (karachi circular railway) is federal issue to be sorted by the Governer who is federal representative of Centre and shall take the issue seriously.

  9. Dubai Keh Bhia Log (unregistered) on December 1st, 2007 @ 12:49 pm

    Excellent topic and correct analysis.

  10. lahorii (unregistered) on December 1st, 2007 @ 9:58 pm

    karachi kay bhayoooooooooooonnn lahore rocks ker lo jo kerna hai…yer city is just crap….ker lo jo kerna hai it will still be a load full of dirt and under development

  11. RockOnKarachi (unregistered) on December 3rd, 2007 @ 1:57 am


    Oh mere Pai jan! we’re talking about a big big big majore metropolitan city that generates everything for a country, so sorry to say there’s no space for insignificant cities like Lahore, we are talking about a major city here so please go and enjoy your lassi in food street, Karachi is the city that ROCKS! call it New York of Pakistan or London of Britian.


  12. sheeraz hassan (unregistered) on December 4th, 2007 @ 12:29 am

    dear mr.shamsi,nice to read such a kind and realistic words from u regarding tarffic problems in khi,i agree what ever u say but the problem is as u mantion one platform one mayor or nazim incharge,but khi city run by 13 diferent bords and socities,and t.police is not under the city nazim as it should b,so in view of above he is doing his utmost to make this city batter.

  13. Khurram Faheem (unregistered) on December 5th, 2007 @ 4:13 pm

    5% of population owns cars, maybe not correct! u see more cars on the road then people!

  14. Jamal Shamsi (unregistered) on December 6th, 2007 @ 11:17 pm

    @Sheeraz Hasan – I tell you what :) it is about acting smart to bring everyone on ONE platform –

    Whatever city nazim control, twist the arms, deprieve those 13 entities of what is in control of City Nazim., at intervals to be noticed by their constituency residents, i can guarantee within 15 days of public pain of those areas, they will all come to knees to cooperate.

    – Excise & Taxation GOVT of SINDH wanted TAX on utility vehicles from KMC inlcuding fire tenders ambulances of SIDHN Govt hospitals, trash collectors, water bowsers etc etc – The THEN Mayor of Karachi Faheem zaman – ordered ‘STOP’ picking up Trash from SINDH Govt buildings. within 3 days matter was sorted and SINDH Govt passed a bill – exempting Utility vehicles from Road Tax., it was resolved without intervention of Federal Govt –

    It is about taking interest and focusing on the problem,

    I tell you what, city nazim can dig out craters barring access of public transport to & from all cantoments, KPT wharves, etc etc – within 72 hours all CEOs ( cantonment executive officers) will be at his door step with both hands extended for all required cooperation.

    viz a viz it has to be reciprocated in likely manner, in mutual benefit of city of Karachi.

  15. sheeraz hassan (unregistered) on December 10th, 2007 @ 3:23 am

    its very eassy to say and very hard to impliment, faheem zaman was not mayor he was caretaker during susspension of city govet at that time and he belongs to dmg(district management group)now problem is nazim is from khi and speaks urdu and his sin is he belongs to mqm(thats what i feel)and those who against the mqm not allowing him to work for the city they dont understand coz of there act its karachi who suffer actully not the mqm,stop dirty politics lets think about karachi and work 2gather i m sure every thing will b inordre soon,one example how others trying to fail city govt in my area(gulberg town)u.c nazim found cement blocks and othere objects in severage lines just to blame city govt,is that fair??i dont think so,coz we r the one who suffer and even those who r not with mqm,so now its time to grow up and work 2gather.

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