Research Analyst
July 11 - 17, 2011

Karachi is the largest and the fastest growing mega city of Pakistan with a population of over 16 million. Karachi contributes substantially to the national exchequer and the provincial revenues (almost to the extent of about 70 per cent of the total revenues). It is a cosmopolitan city, inhabited by people with culturally enriched background and a sense of social commitment.

Karachi, with its enormous potential to serve the country, is now emerging as a globalized complex in competition with other regional centers of similar order.

The whole city district of Karachi consists of 18 administrative towns, six cantonments, and the federal and provincial government's landholding agencies. The towns are territorially further subdivided into 178 union councils. The total land area of the Karachi district is approximately 3600, of which about 1300 are occupied by the built-up area.

The Karachi metropolitan region, as determined by the commuter zone, spreads over parts of the surrounding districts, Thatta and Jamshoro of Sindh to the east, and Lasbella of Balochistan to the west. The coastline in the district is about 135 km long extending along the Gharo creek westward beyond Cape Monze to the estuary of the hub river. Almost in the centre of the coast sheltered by the island of Manora, lies the port of Karachi, with entire Pakistan and Afghanistan forming its vast hinterland, The Port Muhammad Bin Qasim at Pipri on the Gharo creek serves a complementary role.

Presently, the city is among the ten top ranking largest cities in the world. The number of households in 2005 was about 2.1 million and by 2020, it would increase to 3.9 million, which means an increase of 1.77 million households, at an average size of 7 persons per household. Even at decreasing average annual growth rate, the increase in absolute terms is staggering and will put heavy pressure on the physical, infrastructure, financial and institutional systems of the city.

With an average monthly household income of Rs15000, there is a considerable variation in income distribution. Roughly 75 per cent of the households fall in the category of poor and low-income groups, and 25 per cent constitute the middle and high-income groups.

Karachi's population is diversified in terms of ethnicity and economic conditions. Apart from in-migrants from Pakistan's provinces, a large number of migrants from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and other South Asian countries have settled in the city.

In response to, and in close accompaniment of, the pattern of city growth, Karachi's transport system has developed to its present dimensions, which include road infrastructure, public transport, road traffic conditions, and management as the main system components.

The intra-city road network has a radial pattern, consisting of a series of arterials, a few circumferential roads with inconsistent links and a disproportionately large number of local and collector roads. In terms of connectivity, the network is deficient in secondary roads that provide feeder service to major thoroughfares.

The weakness has basically arisen from the piecemeal development focused on residential schemes in the past. Although the maintenance of Karachi's roads has been poor and problematic, in recent years substantial improvements have been effected through construction of flyovers, underpasses, remodeling of intersections and road rehabilitation. To cater for the heavy traffic to and from the Karachi port, two logistic bypasses have been completed, and for the same purpose the Lyari expressway has been constructed.

Of 24.2 million trips taken every day in Karachi, the public transport (buses) is deemed to provide 50-60 per cent of all trips, para-transit (taxis and rickshaws) and private cars account for about 20 per cent of the trips. Pedestrian trips represent about 20 per cent of all the trips.

Furthermore, Karachi possesses an appreciable potential as a profitable and efficient industrial location with attractive site for a variety of manufacturing industries. Full utilization of developed industrial spaces in Bin Qasim industrial zone, Export processing zone, Surjani, SITE-II, Textile city and Korangi industrial area must be accelerated by providing incentives and industry-specific facilities. In addition to existing industrial areas, three more locations/zones have been proposed with a view to providing employment opportunities to the population of surrounding areas. These are located in Dhabeji along the National Highway, in Deh Gandpass near intersection of RCD highway and Northern Bypass, and in Deh Mahyo north of Surjani town. To realize the early development of these industrial zones the requisite infrastructure is also proposed.

Karachi recorded an annual average monsoon rainfall varying 125-250 mm whereas winter rainfall is about 25 mm. There are two main non-perennial rivers, the Malir and Lyari Rivers, crossing the thickly populated city areas before falling into Arabian Sea. The Natural drainage system of Karachi consists of the Lyari and Malir rivers, and their tributaries or nullahs. Because of urban development and excessive occupation at the banks of the Lyari River and its tributary nullahs of Gujro and Orangi, the natural drainage has been destroyed and almost completely obliterated. As a result, the runoff of storm water is prevented from going into the natural channels, thus overflowing the streets and parts of the residential areas. The areas worst affected are North Nazimabad, Liaquatabad, and SITE.


The future of Karachi's economy lies primarily in the growth of the tertiary sectors. Serving its own residents and those of much of Pakistan, Karachi will expand and consolidate its role as the financial, trade, and transport hub of the country. We can play a major role for making Karachi a world-class city and attractive economic centre with a decent life.