'Anti-poor bias runs through urban planning, policymaking'
Urban flooding in Karachi is the result of a lack of a central authority in the city, a report by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan said Sunday.
A fact-finding report “points to the city’s peculiar political geography where various jurisdictions—local, provincial, federal and cantonment—coexist, often at cross purposes to each other. It recommends making Karachi’s land-controlling and management authorities accountable to one central authority or made autonomous. “
A press release said that “The lack of a legitimate decision-making and accountable authority may have been responsible for bringing the city to a standstill during the monsoon rains in July and August”.
The report says that there is a need for an empowered local government, and that the main challenge is resolving the city’s jurisdictional issues first.
The powers include giving local government the power to levy local taxes that can then be diverted to local needs. There is a need to reverse the top-down urban development model so that Karachi’s hinterlands are brought back into the conversation.
“Based on extensive consultations with urban planners, human rights activists, journalists, academics and citizens affected by the floods, the report finds that a strong anti-poor bias runs through urban planning and policymaking in Karachi,” it further said.
The report found DHA, KPT Housing and private builders to be encroaching upon most of Karachi’s natural drains, which results in their blockage.
“Most of Karachi’s natural drains are blocked either because they have been encroached on or have filled up with solid waste. However, these encroachments can be traced to many different agents, including the Defence Housing Authority, the KPT Officers Housing Society and private ‘builders’ with the connivance of state functionaries.”
Yet, the HRCP said, that encroachment by the poor are termed as the problem each time Karachi is flooded.
“HRCP also notes that the superior courts’ involvement in Karachi’s urban planning is problematic because it inevitably leads to anti-encroachment drives against the poor, causing more inequality and poverty.”
The HRCP called upon an end to an anti-poor bias in policymaking, planning and execution of projects.