July 05 - 11, 2004

The mushroom growth in Katchi Abadis and slums especially in the urban areas including Karachi reflects the failure of the authorities responsible for providing homes to the shelterless at an affordable price.

According to experts in social science and civic amenities, the number of Katchi Abadis would continue to grow until the government chalks out plans for an equal development and job opportunities in the rural and urban areas.

Negligence on the part of the government and lack of planning to develop low cost housing has give way to the most powerful, and aggressive land grabbers mafia especially in Karachi. Consequently, the city was deprived of huge prime lands right in the heart of the city. That includes Pakistan Railways, Karachi Port Trust, City District Governments, defunct KMC and KTC etc. there are hundreds of individuals whose land has been encroached upon by the land grabber mafia that has direct link with political circle at the federal level.

Director General Katchi Abadis Authority Tasneem Ahmed Siddiqui said that the mafia is also main hindrance into the development of decent residential colonies on the lands of Katchi Abadis as mafia members will not have more than one residential unit as they have dozens of settlements on rent in each Katchi Abadis. He said that Katchi Abadis Authority has selected a location in Federal B. Area Block 7, under title of Essa Goth which, according to plan has to be razed and rebuilt in a planned manner and would be given back to the owners. But land graber mafia members do not allow execution of the plan as they have dozens of units on rent.

The second reason of emergence of Katchi Abadis is negligence of constructing low-cost housing units for laborers by the provincial Government and industrialists. And even if low-cost housing scheme is developed local authorities do not provide infrastructure so that project fails causing loss of million of rupees. Surjani Town scheme-45 is one of the recent examples in Karachi.

Labor class people prefer to live in down town and around industrial areas with the entire infrastructure like, electricity, water, transport and above all near to the working place. It may be mentioned that in Karachi not a single institution has set up any labor colony in past.

There are 1293 Katchi Abadis in Sindh province and 539 in Karachi till 1985. These Katchi Abadis according to the federal government policy had to be regularized. After 1985 no such area come into the category of Katchi Abadis but even than emergence of Katchi Abadis continued and at present only in Karachi more than 300 new Katchi Abadis have emerged with in Karachi with the utilization of all infrastructures.

Deputy Director Katchi Abadis Authority (Monitoring), Manzar Abbas said that Asian Development Bank had funded $ 186 million in 1986 for 190 Katchi Abadis but that amount was not used properly and emergence of Katchi Abadis continued following which International Financial Agencies lost their interests. He further said that even at every level even at the top levels during the briefings to the Prime Ministers and Presidents land grabber mafia members name had been told but nothing has so far been done in this connection.

Recently President Parvez Musharraf had announced Rs 50 million grant for the development of Katchi Abadis but there is no concrete plan to stop Katchi Abadis.

Lack of coordination among Federal Government and Provincial Government Departments is also one of the reasons that have become a support to the Land Graber Mafia. Bureaucratic style of working can never control emergence of Katchi Abadis in Karachi or any where in the country.

Sindh Katchi Abadis Authority (SKAA) has selected five locations for the construction of low cost housing schemes but that are too far away from the places where projects are badly needed. The selection of land is in Kotri near Sikandarabad, Gharo near Mir Bahar Mohellah, and Sukkur near New Shikarpur Road, Larkana near Sachchal Sarmast Society and in Jacobabad near Cadet Colony.

In only Karachi, 15,484 acres of land has been encroached upon by the mafia where more than 539 Katchi Abadis have been emerged so far. Total population of this land comes to 2.501 million. Hyderabad stands second where 1,804 acres of land has been encroached upon in 110 Katchi Abadis with the population of 0.340 million, however, Katchi Abadis in Mirpur Khas Sukkur and Larkana are lowest number.

Analysts and opinion leaders said that apart from continue construction of low cost houses in urban and rural areas, equal development and employment opportunities in rural areas, other steps to stop influx into the urban parts, an aggressive operation against land graber mafia members is needed otherwise unplanned development will change the shapes of city's and consequently entire Karachi would become a slum area of the South Asia. At present many posh residential areas have Katchi Abadis near them. Hijrat Colony at the Pakistan Railways land is near Bath Island, Upper and Lower Gizri, Punjab Colony is near DHA, Delhi Colony and Neelam Colony is near Clifton, Chaneser Goth and other Katchi Abadis are also at the Pakistan Railway land parallel to Shahra-e-Faisal.