RECONSTRUCTION OF KARACHI'S INFRASTRUCTURE

Karachi has been known as the City of Lights. With the improvement in civic infrastructure, the Karachiites may hope for a better and more peaceful life.

By MUHAMMAD BASHIR CHAUDHRY
Sep 08 - 14 , 2003 

The President of Pakistan attended a briefing at the Governor House, Karachi on 7th August 2003. The Sindh Governor, the Chief Minister, and the Corps Commander were also present at the briefing and so were a few Provincial Ministers/Advisers, the City Nazim, the Chief Secretary and the Provincial Secretaries. After the briefing, the President along with the Governor, the Chief Minister and the City Nazim drove around the city. He visited various areas and reviewed the damage to the city's infrastructure due to the rains. During the visit, the City Nazim also informed the President on the situation during and after the rains.

The City Nazim reportedly presented the 'Karachi Case' to the President in a convincing manner. He also informed the President that some parties in Karachi were prepared to use the waste, produced in the city, in power generation. He said the city government planned to recycle sewage water for supply to industries and that at present, untreated water was being disposed of into the sea and Malir and Lyari Rivers. He informed that for the first time, the KPT, one of the stake-holders, offered to repair the roads and streets in its jurisdiction. He said that one of the reasons of losses caused by the rains was 'kutchi abadis' while the city was in dire need of an effective solid waste management system. He observed that drains in the city had been encroached upon and high-rise buildings built thereon. He informed the President that among the 18 towns, Lyari was the worst-affected and deserved more help. The City Nazim said that Karachi needed special preference in view of its peculiar situation. He maintained that in order to rehabilitate and develop the devastated infrastructure, the city government required Rs20 billion to be spent over the next five years.

During the briefings and also during the city tour, the President reportedly made observations on various issues confronting Karachi and other areas of Sindh. An account of the briefings and his observations on different issues has been widely reported in the press. His observations pertaining to the reconstruction of infrastructure in Karachi as picked up from the press reports are given below:

a.The President has called for carrying out planning for the development of Karachi's infrastructure on a massive scale so that it could yield the desired results and not in piecemeal manner.

b.He said that he would involve the other stake-holders, like the KPT and Railways, in the infrastructure building plan of the city, as they, according to City Nazim, had claim on the city's lands. On pointation by the City Nazim that the city government was not the sole authority in Karachi and that there were some 16/17 other stake-holders, the President observed that these stake-holders had billions of rupees and that they should contribute to the rebuilding and development of the city.

c.He said that he had asked the Commerce Minister to use Export Development Fund for effluent treatment so as to supply treated water to industries. He suggested that in Karachi, the sanitation sector be assigned to private sector on contract basis. He said while the city government should spend money on maintaining sanitary conditions in poor localities from its own resources, the amount spent in rich localities could be recovered from the residents.

d.He underlined the imperative need for prudent utilization of funds. He remarked that our administrators and financial managers must think of the nation and ensure that maximum transparency and prudence is maintained in the utilization of funds. He quoted the example of the RBOD for which the original cost was said to be Rs116 billion but the same project is now being carried out by the army at a cost of just Rs16 billion. He also referred to the Quaid-i-Azam Park at the Quaid's Mausoleum and said that it was completed by the Army Engineering Corps at a very affordable cost and completed in just six months.

e.Replying to a suggestion by the Sindh Local Government Minister for setting up an Infrastructure Development Authority for Karachi instead of carrying out development activities in piecemeal through towns and union councils, the President said they want to reduce the number of government departments to the minimum. However, a temporary committee can be constituted to prepare a master plan for Karachi.

f.He said that instead of seeking funds from the Centre, which has its own constraints, the provinces should generate their own resources.

The above observations are sort of guidelines to the Provincial Government as well as the City Government for preparing plans for the reconstruction of the infrastructure in Karachi. The people of Karachi would, if provided an opportunity, be offering support to the authorities in developing detailed plans and their actual execution in the next few years. The professionals working in the universities and other institutions are better placed to assist the authorities for improving life in Karachi. The authorities might consider associating some of them in this endeavour. The following suggestions have been developed in this spirit and are being submitted for consideration by the authorities:

The authorities, keeping in view the observations of the President, might finalize the Karachi Master Plan on priority basis. A special committee composed of concerned officials, other stakeholders such as the KPT/Railways and the prominent citizens might be constituted for the purpose. Once the draft Master Plan is ready it might be issued for seeking comments from the general public as well as the experts in this particular discipline. Thereafter, the Plan might be revised and after its clearance by the federal government, steps might be urgently taken for its implementation. It is understood that this Plan would dove-tail the mega projects currently under implementation with the financial support from the federal government. It would not be a bad idea if pertinent details of old Master Plans for Karachi are published in a book form and provided to various people and departments to solicit ideas for the preparation of the current Plan.

The President has asked for planning the development of Karachi's infrastructure on a massive scale. Civic infrastructure pertaining to water, sewage, solid waste, roads, technical trade centres, bridges, under-passes, conference halls, hospitals, schools, etc. have to be designed keeping in mind the needs for the next fifty years or so. Naturally, this would require over-designing of the facilities. Over-designing generally entails larger capital costs. Karachi shall have to, within limits of its Master Plan, carefully design the infrastructure facilities and prioritize the projects keeping in view the resource position at a particular point in time. Karachi might also consider as to what facilities could be better financed entirely in the public sector and which infrastructure projects could preferably be executed under Public-Private Partnership. An enabling policy environment shall have to be provided for promoting such partnership for the execution and operation of civic infrastructure projects.

The President reportedly had asked the Commerce Minister to use Export Development Fund for effluent treatment so as to supply non-contaminated/treated water to industries. Karachi has a number of industrial areas located around the city. Therefore, one single effluent treatment plant would not be feasible. Rather, each industrial area may need at least one effluent treatment plant. The authorities might consult the concerned industries as well as the Commerce Minister to set the ball rolling for actual implementation of the plants on fast track bases. It would be very lucky for the city of Karachi if the entire cost of the effluent treatment plants is picked up by the government through Export Development Fund. Otherwise, Karachi authorities and the beneficiary industries may have to meet part of the cost of the plants. Build, Own and Transfer (BOT) financing is an option but it is difficult to negotiate, is costly and is time consuming. Therefore, BOT mode of finance might not be a proper option at the moment.

The authorities have to plan and meet the stakeholders of Karachi's land that number some 16/17 according to the City Nazim. Proper home work about each such stakeholder would be a big help. Let us be very optimistic and assume that all the stakeholders would agree to defray part of the cost for developing and maintaining infrastructure in Karachi. However, there has to be a basis according to which each stakeholder would be expected to contribute. Further, each and every stakeholder might not be willing to hand over cash to the authorities. They might wish to implement specific development projects themselves. All these matters would need to be carefully sorted out with these stakeholders. This might take lot of time and require patience to see that the envisaged targets are achieved. The authorities may like to get themselves ready for that. A Coordination Committee might also be constituted for early discussion and clearance of common-interest matters.

Karachi has been facing shortage of potable water for the last many years. Recently, the Chinese businessmen have reportedly provided details to the government regarding a cheap technology for sea water desalination. It is also said that a pilot plant based on that technology is operating at Gwadar and supplying water to the Chinese working there. The authorities might consider setting up of a pilot plant at Karachi with the help and assistance of our Chinese friends. This should introduce the Karachiites to a new source of potable water and provide valuable first hand experience to the City Government for future planning.

Karachi has been facing resource constraints for its development projects. Now that Karachi has been asked to plan infrastructure on a massive scale, the resource situation would be further constrained. The authorities may convene a meeting of the local banks and institutions to discuss ways and means to overcome the obstacle in a satisfactory manner. This could be through increased income or through loans, or both. In due course the authorities might consider appointing a consortium of banks/institutions to raise funds for the financing of Karachi's infrastructure. This approach is particularly relevant as the President has asked Karachi to raise own resources for execution of infrastructure projects. Karachi might involve the private sector in the financing and operating of selected infrastructure projects. The authorities may consult FPCCI and other industry/business organizations for possible joint execution of infrastructure projects. World-wide private sector has been increasingly financing civic infrastructure through public-private arrangements or other similar arrangements. Pakistan has recently contracted with the Asian Development Bank to provide $400,000 technical grant to prepare a public-private infrastructure policy.

Despite actions for raising resources from services provided to the people and the bank loans, the authorities might continue their efforts for seeking financial resources from the federal government for the development of Karachi infrastructure. The authorities might suitably revise their approach for seeking such assistance. Due to the special status of Karachi, the federal authorities might be willing to provide more funds when they see successful execution of different infrastructure projects in the city.

The city government collects different fees/charges for its services. A study might be initiated to determine the level of the fees/charges and whether there is any rationale to increase these fees, and up to what level if there is decision to rationalize these charges.

Generally, city people want better, prompt and cordial service from the civic authorities. In case, the rules and procedures are simplified and made people-friendly, the city government might face less opposition from the people for the raise in the fees/charges. More money so collected could be used revise compensation to the employees and to build better infrastructure in the city.

The Sindh Government/the City Nazim might consider inviting the philanthropists/industrialists/businessmen/banks to help finance and execute civic infrastructure projects. Fire-engines, ambulances, stand-by power generators, etc. can also be donated for the betterment of the city of Karachi. The banks, industry and businessmen might be more willing to execute specific infrastructure projects if the project carries their name, at least for a specified period say twenty years. Over-head bridges, underpasses, hospital or technical school buildings are some of the projects that could be so financed by these institutions. This should spare substantial city resources for use in executing other priority projects. Clear policy and rules shall have to be developed for the purpose in consultation with these stakeholders.

The President has underlined the imperative need for prudent utilization of funds and has urged our administrators and financial managers to think of the nation and ensure that maximum transparency and prudence is maintained in the utilization of funds. The example of Quaid-i-Azam Park at the Quaid's Mausoleum is there to see how mega projects can be planned and executed at reasonable cost and within the schedule time. The civic authorities with dedicated efforts can also accomplish what has been achieved by the Army Engineering Corps. The City Government has since introduced more transparency in the award and execution of infrastructure projects and this has been appreciated by the government. Progress for more transparency, fairness and merit in the award of contracts has to be continued diligently. Our people are capable of executing mega projects at affordable costs. There is need to repose confidence in them for execution of such projects and appreciate their good performance at the local and national level.

The City Nazim mentioned during the briefing that certain parties were desirous of putting up power plant based on city waste. Some of the cities abroad have small plants of this type but these do not provide the guarantee for the 100% solution of the problem of disposal of solid waste. More exploratory work needs to be done in this regard. Solid waste in Karachi might be examined to determine the extent of combustible as well as organic material to better assess the possibilities of power plants and/or the compost plants. Policies and procedures shall have to be suitably developed for the joint effort in the disposal of the solid waste. The assigning of sanitation sector to the private sector will also figure in these arrangements. Whatever plant is established it would require careful negotiation of the responsibility/costs of waste collection and its transport to the project sites. The arrangements for the sale of electricity and/or the compost fertilizer shall also need to be properly put in place. The City Government shall have to engage an able and experienced team for the handling and finalizing of the binding arrangements with the private sector.

Karachi has been known as the City of Lights. With the improvement in civic infrastructure, the Karachiites may hope for a better and more peaceful life. The task is gigantic. The City Government/the Sindh Government cannot do it alone. The Karachiites, the federal government and other stakeholders have to contribute and participate in the reconstruction of the city infrastructure in more than one ways. Karachi is special but it is not the only city that is in need of help for reconstruction of its infrastructure. In Pakistan, there are other cities and towns which are faced with similar or worse circumstances. All people deserve a better life and continuous efforts should be made at all levels for that to happen.