Karachi's Delicate Infrastructure

Aug 28 - Sep 03, 2006

The delicate civic infrastructure of Karachi, the most populous and commercial hub of Pakistan, miserably failed to sustain the onslaught of August 17 cloudburst, causing numerous problems to the people and commuters who remained stranded for hours, besides taking a heavy toll of 28 lives. The heavy downpour fully exposed the chronic civic problems of the metropolis as well as pouring water on the tall claims made by the civic agencies prior to the outburst of monsoon clouds.

Broadly speaking, Karachi is confronted with a few major problems on account of ill-planned and delicate city infrastructure.

These gray areas include: (a) Concentration of power generation at a single point i.e. Bin Qasim (b) The metropolitan city with a 16 million plus population has only one airport i.e. Jinnah Terminal and only a single road approach i.e. Shahrah-e -Faisal. Whenever Shahrah-e-Faisal is blocked on account of traffic congestion, rainwater, political rally or VVIP movement, the citizens have to suffer tremendous hardships in reaching the airport in time. This is what exactly happened during recent rains when the entire Shahrah-e-Faisal was choked by the traffic due to accumulated rainwater at different points. People had to wait helplessly in their vehicles for hours as the road remained completely blocked for 6-8 hours.

The situation calls for immediate alternative options for easy access to the terminal. This is a genuine issue faced by the people and could be resolved either by developing another civil airport at another point of the city or developing more roads leading to the airport.

Besides, the city transport is ruled by the unruly mini-buses, coaches, etc. The commuters have no option but to travel in inhuman conditions. They have to climb to the roof-tops of the buses or hanging at the foot-boards of the overloaded coaches at the risk of their lives and dignity as if the masses are not considered as human beings by the privileged or by the elite of society.

These small buses are absolutely unable to provide a respectable mode of transport to the citizens; rather they are responsible for creating traffic problems, mostly fatal to human life. These small buses also cause traffic congestion by occupying the road capacity, fatal accidents and above all polluting the environment by emitting thick clouds of smoke. These traffic devils are also a major source of corruption in broad day light on the city roads. The obnoxious faces in white uniform are visible everywhere on the city roads and they use to stop these overloaded buses only to extort a few rupees on the pretext of overloading. These ugly scenes can be watched at every nook and corner of the city. What a shameful act for a so-called civil society!


The government has now realized in the wake recent rains, which rendered the city life almost paralyzed for many days, that revival of Karachi circular railway network was inevitable to overcome the growing traffic problems.

Sindh Transport Minister Adil Siddiqui has welcomed the decision taken by Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz to revive the National Mass Transit Authority (NMTA) for streamlining the transport system on modern lines in eight major cities of Pakistan, including Karachi.

The NTMA has decided to operate circular railway, mono rail, tramway and light rail in eight big cities Karachi, Hyderabad, Faisalabad, Multan, Lahore, Rawalpindi, Islamabad and Quetta, besides laying a separate track for circular railway in Karachi between City Station to Drigh Road. This circular railway system is to be computerized as the present government was keen to see success of this system on a permanent basis, said Siddiqui.

Under the new system the KCR's operational scope would be expanded to various localities of the town, including Surjani, North Karachi, Jinnah Terminal, Gizri, Defence, Port Qasim and other new areas for which investment offers had been received from Germany, Japan and other developed countries.

One of such firms - Jaica - has offered an investment worth $827 million in this regard. After the feasibility study, the company would complete the project in three phases.

In disturbed conditions whether on account of rain or political rallies people had to waste several hours to reach from one place to the other owing to congestion and the only solution now lies in the development of circular railway system.


Recently, the torrential rains claimed over 20 precious lives on account of electrocution in Karachi. These tragic death incidents occurred mainly because of broken naked live wires in the rainwater. It may be mentioned that three inmates of a car were killed instantly when a live broken wire fell in the accumulated water in front of MCB Towers on I.I. Chundrigar Road on the fateful August 17 day.

Since a world class firm is running the utility, the people of Karachi rightfully hope that the menace of overhead distribution may be concealed with underground cables for the sake of human lives. Though the management of the KESC has expressed its sorrow and grief over the incidents of electrocution and has announced to financially compensate the bereaved families, yet the compensation is not the right answer to this problem posing a serious threat to life.

Meanwhile, the power generation facility of KESC has been concentrated at the one end of the city i.e. Bin Qasim. Almost, the entire power generation capacity has been located at Bin Qasim from where the electricity has to travel from one end to the other. The entire city has to suffer with load-shedding, power breakdowns and fluctuations in case any eventuality occurs with the transmission system. It is strongly recommended that other corners of the city which include West Wharf, Surjani Town, Superhighway, etc. should be chosen for setting up new power generation plants in future. The diversification in sites of power plants would help invigorate the transmission system in case of any problem developed in any other power plant.

Karachi, a mega city with a delicate and insufficient civic infrastructure, is catering to the needs of a large population, estimated at over 16 million.

The sewerage system plays a vital role for developing a project or town. Unfortunately, this commercial hub of Pakistan is suffering acute sewerage and drainage problems right from the beginning.

It is surprising to note that Korangi Industrial Area, the largest industrial hub of the country, does not have a sewerage facility and the entire industrial waste is driven out through the rain drains. Similarly, Scheme-33 in Karachi, which is said to be the largest housing scheme in Asia, does not carry any sewerage system. Though Scheme-33 is expanding rapidly, no provision has so far been provided for draining the sewerage water. Since the scheme comes under Sindh Revenue Board, the KDA, which was responsible for outer development, was not interested in developing the sewerage system in that area. Although they were very active in realizing various taxes from that area including property tax, water tax, conservative tax but was not willing to provide then basic facilities. Now the city government has claimed that they are working on a new master plan for Karachi. Hopefully, the new master plan would take care of the basic amenities to give a proper look to Karachi where investors of international fame are now investing money for developing various projects.

Recently, City Nazim Syed Mustafa Kamal had said that a new master plan for Karachi was under preparation. He says that Karachi's master plan would not only identify the present day requirement of 17 million people but it is being prepared with a view to cater to the needs of the coming generations as well as economic growth of this mega city.

That spirit should have been adopted by our elders while planning our cities, especially Karachi.

The City Nazim had a meeting with the representatives of Asian Development Bank last week. Actually, a delegation of the Asian Development Bank was currently touring Pakistan in connection with $400 million worth mega projects.

The Nazim observed that the preparation of the master plan is on top priorities of the city government and work on it is fast progressing.

The master plan would prove helpful to seek investment by international financing agencies. He referred to a briefing given to President, Prime Minister and Planning Commission on the master plan and said they all liked it.

The City Nazim expressed his desire that the Asian Development Bank delegation should also be given a briefing on master plan so as to have its cooperation for CDGK's development projects and city infrastructure.

The city government started working on a study for coordinated system of rainwater drainage, which is imperative for smooth civic life in Karachi.

In the light of decisions taken at the meeting with Mayor of Shanghai when Syed Mustafa Kamal visited China, a delegation of experts is due here next month to assist the city government on mega projects. The Nazim stated that the city government has started fast track work on the development of city's infrastructure.


Today, the Mazar of Quaid-e-Azam is perhaps the finest place in the city to visit by the people and families. The gardens surrounding the actual tomb are beautifully designed and present a fascinating view to the visitors. In fact the Quaid's Mazar used to present a deserted look for many decades as no government in the past took interest to develop that important place in a befitting manner and to the status of the father of the nation. The fate of this mausoleum was changed only when President Musharraf took notice of the dilapidated condition of the periphery of the Mazar. He issued presidential orders that within a period of 18 months, the Mazar of the father of the nation should be turned into a beautiful garden as per international standards. It was the interest of the head of the state which did the magic of turning a shabby looking place into a world class landscape.

The purpose of writing the above lines was to mention that Karachi is the economic and social lifeline of Pakistan. It deserves the interest of the people at the helm of affairs to give the city its due rights by developing it at a level that is befitting to a metropolitan city.





Karachi Airport






North Karachi



Sharae Faisal



University Road






SOURCE: Metrological department







5 billion

Korangi industrial area

1 billion

New Karachi industrial estate

50 million

F B area

70 million