Karachi: Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah has said that he was born and brought up in Karachi but its condition has changed to such an extent that if he is blindfolded and left in an area of city, he would probably not be able to recognize it.
“This shows the manner this city has expanded and also the planning was done for the purpose over the years,” said the CM while addressing a ceremony to launch a civic project to transform a locality in a downtown area of Karachi under a World Bank-assisted programme “Karachi Neighbourhood Improvement Project” that envisages improving in all 22 neighbourhoods of the city with the aim to reclaim the public spaces attached with these areas. Chairman of Pakistan Peoples Party Bilawal Bhutto Zardari inaugurated the project as he also directed officials concerned to provide Wi-Fi facility for visitors of the rebuilt neighbourhood of the downtown.
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The CM said that his government had conducted a study namely “Karachi Transformation Strategy” to improve civic conditions in the city and to make it a liveable city with assistance of the international lending agencies.
“I saw the map of Karachi as old as of the year 1848 when the population of the city was merely 14,000. Then I saw maps of the city of years 1870, 1922, 1946 and then maps of Karachi after independence of Pakistan,” he said. “This all hasn’t taken place in last 10 to 12 years as the process started since the creation of Pakistan,” he said.
He said that shops in Nazimabad (an old and famous locality of Karachi) and fuel pumps on Sharea Faisal (the main thoroughfare of the city) had been constructed on drains.
“The offices of Sindh Government’s Local Government Department, which is supposed to look after all this situation are present on a drain while same is the status of the parking space of the Karachi Registry of Supreme Court of Pakistan present nearby,” said the CM while highlighting the aggravated status of civic situation of Karachi.
He said that Karachi’s water and sewerage systems was being upgraded and overhauled with assistance of the World Bank. While the international lending agencies have been also rendering assistance to build mass transit systems in the city in the form of Bus Rapid Transit service, he added.
He said that another such foreign-assisted project being implemented envisaged strengthening of municipal agencies of Karachi so to help them collect the due local taxes. “A city like Karachi annually collects only Rs two billion property tax while in comparison Mumbai collects Rs 68 billion property tax while Chennai, which is a much smaller city than Karachi collects Rs 40-50 billion property tax,” said the CM.
“This shows that we live in Karachi as the city also feeds us but we don’t pay our taxes,” he said. He said the tax collection capacity of the municipal agencies of Karachi would be enhanced while once additional revenue would be available, these local government agencies would be encouraged to spend it to improve sanitation and civic conditions of their respective neighbourhoods,” he said.
He said that civic conditions of Karachi had improved a lot in the last 10 to 12 years since the PPP had been in power in the province. “The year was 2009 and the date was probably 21st August as 125 milimetres of rain had blocked Sharea Faisal for up to four days but now when the city received over 180 mm rain the same road became motorable in just four hours,” said Mr. Shah.
“We have the estimates that $US 10 billion will be spent on Karachi to make it the best city as neither this money is available with the Sindh government nor with the federal government as partnership is being forged with the international lending agencies to arrange this funding. The federal government if desires so can help us in this regard as we have no objection to their support,” he said.
At the heart of Karachi’s problems lies the issue of virtual absence of a functional municipal system in the city as its mayor lacks the authority and financial resources to manage the economic hub of Pakistan. The term of Karachi’s mayor belonging to Opposition Muttahida Quami Movement is set to expire on 29th August as in his place the Sindh government will appoint an administrator for the interim period.