Cities: Life in the world’s 100 largest metropolitan areas

By Zubeida Mustafa

The most significant modern day demographic phenomenon is the growing level of urbanisation in this century. In the year 1901 only one in ten of the global population lived in cities. By 2000, nearly half of the world’s people will.

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What is more important than the level of urbanisation is its rapid pace. Take the case of Pakistan. In 44 years the urban population has grown from 15 per cent to 28 per cent of the total.

This change in demographic composition has had a profound impact on society, the national economy and the political culture of the country. It has also affected the quality of life in the cities in a big way because the municipal authorities have failed to keep pace with the growing population in providing the most basic civic amenities to the city-dwellers.

The economy has also not grown rapidly enough to provide jobs to the ever-widening stream of entrants to the urban labour market.

As a result, our cities have emerged as an explosive mass of humanity seething with discontent.

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The Washington-based Population Crisis Committee recently studied the world’s hundred largest cities, ranging from Tokyo (population 28.7 million in 1989) to Pune, India (population 2.3 million).

The Committee looked into the key indicators which determine the quality of life in a city, namely, public safety, food costs, living space, housing standards, communications, education, public health, noise level, traffic and clean air. Cultural activities, employment and nutritional status were omitted because the data were either inconsistent or carried aclass or regional bias.

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Pakistani cities cut a rather sorry figure in this survey. Karachi and Lahore which rank 22nd and 48th population-wise in the world are among the last fourteen in terms of urban living standards. Karachi is 87th and Lahore comes further down at 91st.

Karachi fares most poorly, according to the PCC report, on three counts: living space, communication and health. It could not have scored any less. Lahore’s score is equally bad in respect of the first two. Healthcare-wise it is better off but in terms of education it is worse.

The next two banes of Karachi life are noise pollution and traffic. Surprisingly, air pollution (on the basis of measurement of ozone concentration) is not considered to be too bad which makes one doubt the accuracy of UNEP’s standards that form the basis of the PCC’s assessment.

Another area which makes one sceptical about surveys that depend exclusively on government sources for their data is that of crime. Karachi emerges as a relatively safe place to live in, with only 5.7 murders per 100,000 people a year. Lahore is safer still.

Compared with Cape Town (64 per 100,000), Cairo (56) and Alexandria (49) which have the highest homicide rates, Pakistani cities might be rated as havens of security.

But those who live in perpetual fear in Karachi, know that the police are not always overly cooperative in recording FIRs for murder. Moreover there are crimes other than murder which also make life insecure.

What is certain is that the situation in our cities is definitely not better than what the PCC report calculates it to be. What is to be expected next? With an annual growth rate of seven per cent, Karachi’s problems will only multiply.

The city owes its expansion more to migration than natural increase. The people who are now moving over to the urban areas are being forced out of their homes by the growing impoverishment of the countryside.

The pattern of agrarian holding with its bias towards large landlords has left over four million rural households (nearly 24 million people) living below the poverty line because they are landless, are tenants on very small farms or their land has been fragmented because of the inheritance factor.

In the absence of land reforms, this pattern is unlikely to be broken. With no alternative source of employment generation in the rural areas, the exodus to the cities is there to stay.

Additionally the growing insecurity in the interior of Sindh born of rampant crime and lawlessness is uprooting people from the countryside.

What will be the future of this metropolis? If present trends are an indicator, Karachi will be a split city. On the one side will be the millions mired in grinding poverty. Three million of them live in kachchi abadis in conditions of crowding and insanitation. Their number will grow and by the turn of the century half of Karachi’s population will be living in illegal squatter settlements.

At the other end of the scale are the affluent classes. For them life in Karachi has its paradoxes. But their wealth enables them to buy all those facilities the civic authorities fail to provide — water (through bowsers), electricity (through generators), healthcare and education (through private hospitals, schools and universities) and transport (through their own fleet of cars). \

But their insensitivity to poverty notwithstanding, the rich cannot escape the reality of the misery of the have-not. Apart from the ugly sights of kachchi abadis creeping up to the walls of the mansions of the rich there is also the congestion on the roads which reduces the flow of traffic to a crawling 17 miles per hour in rush hours (according to the PCC report) and makes the rich rub shoulders with the poor, albeit in different modes of transport.

Most significant is the growing crime rate which should come as a stark reminder of the insidious erosion of urban life. In spite of the protection they seek to buy through private agencies and guards, the fact is that the affluent are more vulnerable to crime because of their wealth. This vulnerability is the price they have to pay for the comforts they can afford.

This class disparity, which is growing and will increase further with the government’s privatisation programme, has emerged as the hallmark of Karachi’s population.

The civic bodies’ failure to provide the basic amenities of life is giving rise to violent discontent. Water riots have become a normal feature of Karachi life in summer and the KESC staff has had to suffer physical attacks from a public suffering from the discomfort of prolonged power breakdowns.

Add to these the problems generated by unemployment and rising cost of food (even daal and roti, the poor man’s standard ware is exorbitantly priced) and you have an explosive mixture.

The ostentation of the rich only helps to fuel the seething dissatisfaction of the poor. The vulgar display of wealth by a few is bound to compound the unrest among the many, especially when they find themselves being progressively denied even those basic needs that they could take for granted as their right at one time.

Marx might be dead in Eastern Europe and dying in Soviet Russia. But the class conflict he wrote about continues to live and flourish in Third World cities bursting at the seams..

Source: Dawn 03-05-1991

 

 

They went unwept, unsung

By Zubeida Mustafa

When a bookshop goes out of business and winds up, does one write an obituary? Not in our society. In the last few months three bookstalls of long standing have been closed down in Karachi. They went unwept and unsung. The last to fold up was Happy Bookstall on Inverarity Road (opposite Zainab Market) which had been catering to the needs of discerning readers for over 35 years.

London Book Company, which suffered its first blow two years ago when it closed its Tariq Road branch, is another casualty. In Ramazan, its branch in the neighbourhood of Uzma Arcade in Clifton also departed from the scene. Continue reading “They went unwept, unsung”

School education: Addressing the human dimension

By Zubeida Mustafa

Education has traditionally been a low priority sector in Pakistan. This is best illustrated by an incident, seemingly trivial but profoundly meaningful, that took place a long time ago.

After Governor-General Ghulam Mohammad had sworn in Mohamed Ali Bogra’s cabinet, he realised that no minister for education had taken the oath of office Hurriedly, one of the departing politicians was. recalled and the education portfolio was unceremoniously thrust upon him.

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Things might be slightly better today. Heads, of governments remember the education portfolio when forming their cabinets — but more because they do not want to let one opportunity for patronage go by default. Continue reading “School education: Addressing the human dimension”

Make women’s work visible!

By Zubeida Mustafa

Women have traditionally been the invisible factor in national development in Pakistan as in other Third World countries. That is because the contribution they make to the economy has predominantly, been in the form of unpaid labour that has never been counted.

It is time the women’s role in development was quantified. What better time there is for it than now. The census can easily be used to probe into the gender issue.

India is doing it with the help of UNIFEM. We can emulate them. The idea should be to draw information on the unpaid work done by women in farms and family enterprises. Continue reading “Make women’s work visible!”

A try at self-management

By Zubeida Mustafa

HOUSE BUILDING BY LOWINCOME FAMILIES IN ORANGI by Akhter Hameed Khan. Published by Orangi Pilot Project, 1-D/ 26 Doulat House, Orangi Town, Karachi. Tel: 618628. 1990. 19 pp. Price not given.

ORANGI PILOT PROJECT MODELS by Akhter Hameed Khan. OPP, Karachi. 1990. 33pp.

A SURVEY OF ORANGI SCHOOLS. OPP, Karachi. 1990. 20 pp.

WOMEN WORK CENTRES STORY OF FIVE YEARS 1984-1989 by Akhter Hameed Khan. OPP, Karachi. 1989. 48 pp.

50-16-11-1990Eliminating poverty is one of the major challenges in all Third World countries. The conventional approach has been to get governments and social welfare agencies to assign funds and manpower to develop basic facilities for health, education and housing for lowincome families.

Needless to say this strategy has failed because of the paucity of resources and lack of involvement of the community.

In this context, the approach to development adopted by Dr Akhter Hameed Khan in Orangi — patterned after his Comilla project — is not only innovative. It has proved to be feasible and enduring. Since 1980, when the OPP was founded with the sponsorship of the BCCI, it has succeeded as a focus for self-mobilisation of the people of Orangi. Continue reading “A try at self-management”

No ambassador can be greater than his country

By Zubeida Mustafa

It had been a really windy day. The Karachi University campus wore a dusty look. That was not unusual. In those days there were few trees and greenery to shield it from the sprawling sandy wastes where Gulshan-i-Iqbal stands today. When we reached the University we found the tables, chairs and blackboard in the Seminar Room coated with dust which had also drawn wavy patterns on the floor.

We had learnt to ignore the natural elements as the price we had to pay for the spaciousness of the campus. This day was no different until Dr Khurshid Hyder reached the University in time for her class. She was teaching us International Relations. No sooner had she arrived, that every one was acutely made aware of how unacceptable it was for academics to be in unclean surroundings. She went straight for the broom and without much ado began sweeping the room. Of course that stirred every one into action and the students promptly took over the clean-up operation. She had given the lead. Continue reading “No ambassador can be greater than his country”

Rethinking in the social sciences

By Zubeida Mustafa

One positive result of the growth of consciousness of the women’s role in society has been that some rethinking is now taking place in the social sciences.

Economics, the most male-oriented of disciplines, specially finds itself outpaced by the changes in the status of women. While previously economists never took gender into account in formulating yardsticks and definitions to measure and explain various concepts and computing statistics, they are now being forced to take note of women’s contribution to economic and social activity. Continue reading “Rethinking in the social sciences”

Transplantation of kidney: Indian professor’s views

By Our Special Correspondent

KARACHI, March 23: While condemning the unethical practices associated with kidney transplantation from unrelated living donors. Prof Kirpal Singh Chugh made a fervent appeal to the medical profession to spread the message to the public for the need for cadaveric transplantation of organs.

Dr.chughHe was speaking on the “Ethics of Transplantation” at a symposium organised at a local hotel on Friday. Dr Chugh, who is the Professor of Nephrology at the Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research, Chandigarh, India, was in Karachi to attend the Dow Medical College Annual Symposium on March 20-22. Continue reading “Transplantation of kidney: Indian professor’s views”

Educational planning for the nineties

By Zubeida Mustafa

With the advent of the decade of the nineties, it is time to prepare the nation for its entry into the 21st century. In terms of human development and economic progress what has greater relevance than education? But unfortunately this has been one of the most neglected areas of public life in Pakistan.

The progress and direction of the education sector in the nineties will, therefore, be most critical for the future progress of the country. Our economic planners must after identifying the shortcomings and failures of the education policy of the eighties spell out their goals for the nineties. That would help them draw up guidelines for a productive educational strategy in the coming decade. Continue reading “Educational planning for the nineties”

Raising daughters: anguish of a mother

By Zubeida Mustafa

45-22-09-1989As the social fabric begins to disintegrate under the stress and strain of ethnic violence, crime and political fragmentation, one wonders who is the worst victim. There is no doubt that it is the youth of today. Denied the normal and stable social environment they need for their healthy mental, moral, intellectual and physical growth, the young suffer the most.

An impression has, however, gained ground that only boys are the main losers because when terror strikes they are generally the ones to fall before the bullets. They are believed to be the most exposed to the devastating impact of the instability and insecurity that prevails today. Girls, after all, are said to be protected in the safe sanctuary of their homes. Continue reading “Raising daughters: anguish of a mother”