Global Network

Karachi, Pakistan


Having completed his training in Architecture by 1960 in Karachi, the Mega-Cities Coordinator pursued his advanced studies and practical work in Ankara, Stuttgart, and London. He returned to Karachi in 1978 to manage the Department of Architecture & Planning of the Mega-Cities Host Institution.

During the last two decades, his efforts to initiate innovative teaching strategies in architecture and planning have met with noteworthy results and success. His key objective was a process whereby architects and planners become "Socially Responsive" and aware of the pressing issues of the society at large. The practical efforts of this are clearly felt especially in Karachi and other parts of Pakistan, through the working of the graduates of this Architectural Institution. In 1993 he established an education NGO actively involved in creating a support mechanism for applied research and field pilot projects.

He began his role as Coordinator of the Karachi Mega-Cities Project in 1994. Through his policies and efforts, the Department developed a working relationship and linkages with the Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture at MIT - Harvard, Oxford Brookes University in the U.K, Mimar Sinan University in Istanbul, and many other NGOs and CBOs in Pakistan and abroad.

The hallmark of the Coordinator's efforts is to create an active mechanism of academic and field work related to architecture and environmental issues mainly concerning low income groups in metropolises. His concept and model of "Socially Responsive Architecture" is greatly compatible with the aims pursued by the Mega-Cities Project.



The Karachi Mega-Cities Project (KMCP) is based in the Department of Architecture & Planning at a Karachi college. A research and training institute under the KMCP called the Karachi Mega-City Institute (KMCI) is developing full-fledged archives that would centralize all data on the Karachi Megapolis by creating a liaison with public and private organizations, NGOs, CBOs, and academic institutions.

The Host Institution has initiated a number of research studies and projects, among which are a conservation study in the old city quarter, a collection on "Innovative Urban Strategies," documentation of zoning contraventions in 'Karachi' Cantonment Areas, a study for Commander Karachi, and a comprehensive Environmental Study (CES) of the Main Fruit and Vegetable Market at its sub-metropolitan location. The Institution has an academic faculty of architects, planners and urban designers, along with an in-house backup of civil engineering and human science professionals. The Institution is well-equipped to transfer knowledge and replicate field projects.



Academic / Research Sector

  • Prof. M. Amin Shaikh, Chairman, Department of Architecture & Planning, Dawood College of Engineering & Technology (DAP - DCET)
  • Ms. Parveen Rehman, Director, Orangi Pilot Project – Research & Training Institute (OPP-RTI )
  • Prof. Mohammad Noman, Professor, Department of Electrical Engineering, NED University of Engineering & Technology
  • Mr. Mohammad Younus, Coordinator, Urban Resource Centre (URC)
  • Sahibzada Farooq, Professor, Civil Engineering Department, Ahmad Rafeeqi NED University of Engineering & Technology
  • Prof Noman Ahmed, Coordinator, Urban Design Graduate Programme, Dawood College of Engineering & Technology (UDGP – DCET)

Mass Media Sector

  • Mr. Riazul Hasan, Editor, Engineering Review
  • Mr. S.M. Murtaza Shikoh, Editor, Archi-Times
  • Mr. Ghayyurul-Islam, Daily DAWN Economic & Business Review.
  • Mr. Imran Mir, Chief Executive, Circuit Advertising
  • Ms. Ismat Sabir, Editor, I&A Research Publications
  • Ms. Naushaba Burney, Daily DAWN Sunday Magazine

Public Sector

  • Mr. Mohammed Arif, Resident Engineer, Quaid-e-Azam Mazar Management Board (QMMB)
  • Malik Zaheerul Islam, Director, Traffic Engineering Bureau, Karachi Development Authority (TEB-KDA)
  • Ms. Rukhsana Rahooja, Principal Scientific Officer, National Building Research Institute
  • Mr. Misbah Najmi, Chairman, Pakistan Council of Architects and Town Planners (PCATP)
  • Mr. M. Hamif Nasir, Director General, Parks, Recreation, Wild Life and Environment, Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC).
  • Mr. Tasneem A. Siddiqui, Director General, Sindh Katchi Abadi Authority (SKAA)

Private Sector

  • Mr. Danish Azar Zub, Design Consultant, DAZ Interiors
  • Mr. Asif Merchant, Chief Executive Officer, Aga Khan Housing Board for Pakistan (AKHBP)
  • Mr. Saleem A. Thariani, Architect/Engineer, Thariani & Company
  • Mr. Arif Hasan, Consulting Architect, Arif Hasan
  • Mr. Inam Ahmad Osmani, Chief Executive, Osmani & Company
  • Mr. Navaid Husain, Principal Architect, Navaid Husain Associates

Grassroots Group and NGOs

  • Mr. Ghulam Kibria, Consultant, OPP, PILER, URC & PASSP
  • Mr. Tanveer Arif, President, Society for Conservation & Project Of Environment
  • Ms. Sara A. Siddiqui, Founder, Karachi Administrative Women Welfare Society (KAWWS)
  • Mr. A.K. Khan, Honorary, Horticultural Society of Pakistan (HSP)
  • Ms. T. Sadia Fazli, Team Leader, Sindh Community Shelter Project
  • Ms. T. Sadiqa Salahuddin, Director, NGO Resource Centre (NGORC), Aga Khan Foundation, Karachi



In 1728, the estuary of the Hub River, which then formed the port of Kharak Bunder, silted up due to heavy rains. Its residents thus chose to relocate to the Bay of Karachi, eighteen miles east of Kharak Bunder, and established a small town in its vicinity. Although the city of Karachi was established in the early eighteenth century, its bay has been mentioned in historical accounts, and in its immediate vicinity are ancient places of pilgrimage.

From 1841 to 1941, Karachi experienced an average annual growth rate of 3% and its population grew from 14,000 to 435,000. At the time of Independence in 1947, it had an urban area of 233; with the influx of refugees from India, as well as internal migration, the population rose to 1.4 million people by the year 1959. Even with the relocation of the capital to Islamabad, Karachi's population continued to grow. It reached 2 million by 1961 and 5.3 million by 1981. There has been a phenomenal increase in the area of the city as well, from 233 in 1947 to 1,994 in 1981.

The city is presently growing at an annual rate of 5%. About 0.2 million people or nearly 50,000 households are added to this metropolis every year and the city will have approximately 15 million inhabitants by the end of this century.

Of about 0.8 million dwelling units in the city, only 30% are well-built. In many areas the water supply is lower than 10 gallons per person. Only 38% of households have water connections, only 28% are connected to a sewerage system, and only 4% of biological waste is treated.

The distribution of health and educational facilities is not balanced. The location of job opportunities in the sprawling metropolis has created a serious problem of excessive commuters who are forced to rely on public transport. The result has been congestion on roads and environmental pollution, as well as time-consuming journeys for low-income people which places a strain on their family budgets.

More than half of Pakistan's population lives in abject poverty. Basic essentials of life such as safe drinking water, proper sanitation, appropriate shelter, primary health care, and educational facilities are inaccessible to them. Urban centers are facing tremendous pressures due to the ongoing rural urban migrations, poor practices of governance, inadequate infrastructure, and socioeconomic inequalities. The absence of shelter options has resulted in the growth of informal settlements, especially in the large cities.



Orangi Pilot Project—Research and Training Institute (OPP-RTI)
Ornagi is the largest squatter settlement in Karachi, inhabited by one hundred thousand families in an area of 8,000 acres. The people of Ornagi mainly depended on "informal" sources, land obtained through dalals (touts), credit, and material and advice for housing obtained from thallawalas (brick manufacturers).

The Orangi Pilot Project is a non-governmental research institution begun in 1980 that promotes self-help in the form of self-finance and self-management. Among the action research programs using community participation and management are:

  • a low cost sanitation program that enables low-income families to construct and maintain modern sanitation with their own funds and under their own management;
  • a low cost housing program that introduces stronger machine-made concrete blocks and batten and tile roofing, which cost much less than the reinforced concrete technology in situ;
  • a basic health and family planning program for segregated, illiterate, and semi-literate low-income housewives, that teaches them scientific causes of common diseases and methods of preventing them;
  • birth control training programs;
  • a program of growing vegetables through "Kitchen Gardens";
  • a women's work center program that organizes stitchers and other garment workers into family units dealing directly with exporters and wholesalers, thus escaping from the oppression of petty contractors while inculcating managerial skills and cooperative action;
  • a school program that assists in the upgrading of the physical and academic condition of schools established by private enterprise.

The philosophy of the OPP is summed up by its Director: "We are all living through a period of social dislocation, where people have been uprooted from their old familiar environments. They have to re-establish a sense of belonging, community feeling, and the conventions of mutual help and co-operative action. This can be done chiefly through the creation of local level social and economic organizations. Without these organizations, chaos and confusion will prevail."

OPP's success has led to the creation of OPP-RTI (Research and Training Institute), where the OPP model is used in extension programs for participants from other cities in Pakistan and abroad.

Young Professionals Training Unit (YPTI)
In spite of the many constraints of Karachi life, people make efforts to survive and improve their living conditions. Due to technical deficiencies, however, these efforts do not achieve the aspired targets. For example, people build their houses, but planning, building materials, and techniques of construction are generally substandard and prone to inefficient usage.

The Young Professionals Training Unit was formed to provide people with proper professional guidance. The objectives of the YPTU are:

  • to provide young professionals with exposure to and understanding of community development issues;
  • to create an institutionalized alternative for young professionals to explore their respective roles in addressing issues related to low-income communities; and,
  • to facilitate training activities pertinent to action research and extension in liaison with community-based organizations (CBOs), non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and groups working in low-income communities.

The YPTU has a flexible working mechanism. The fellows of YPTU are sent to work with NGOS, CBOs, and /or research organizations involved with the community's welfare. This assignment provides the young professionals with an on-job training opportunity.

The YPTU is a collaborative organ of a network of institutions that include the Orangi Pilot Project Research and Training Institute (OPP-RTI), the Urban Resource Centre (URC), and the Department of Architecture & Planning of the Dawood College of Engineering & Technology in Karachi. These institutions together constitute the framework that has pioneered the cause of professional support to communities. The YPTU has permanent support from each of the above-mentioned institutions and functions to promote their work.

The YPTU includes a fellowship program that creates a support mechanism for young professionals who wish to seek careers in community service. Through the assistance provided by the YPTU, young professionals explore the possibilities of finding a useful role for themselves in the community. The fellowship program has also proved useful to NGOs, CBOs, and other groups that seek manpower for their activities, not to mention the fresh ideas that the young professionals may generate while working with them.



Khuda-Ki-Basti Incremental Development Scheme: from Hyderabad to Karachi
The concept of Khuda-Ki-Basti, or "God's Settlement,"of the Hyderabad Development Authority (HDA) is based on the principle that a better home leads to an improved life. Using a participatory strategy, even the very poor are able to gain access to property and incrementally build their own homes and communities. The goals of the scheme include providing housing for the urban poor, reducing the unplanned growth of slums, upgrading the living standards of needier sections, and integrating the urban poor into mainstream society. The scheme is entirely self-financing without any subsidy, formal or informal.

A poor family who arrives at the settlement, located near the highway between Karachi and Hyderabad, is required to stay in a reception area for 15 days. After being screened by HDA and making a down payment of Rs.1000 the family is allocated a plot of land. The entire cost of a developed plot (Rs.9600 or US $200) is borne by the owner in monthly installments spread over eight years. As the repayments proceed, infrastructure developments are implemented. Residents of each block choose community leaders who are the liaisons between the community and the authority.

The Incremental Housing Development (IHD) approach was applied in the Khuda-Ki-Basti Project of Gulshan-e-Shabaz, near Hyderabad. Informal settlements in the area were rapidly increasing in size due to the employment attraction of the Kotri Industrial area. HDA came to the conclusion that the conventional practice of land delivery would not function and sought a partnership with the informal land subdivider who was the key force in settling the people in informal settlements. Thus HDA incorporated subdividers into its fold.

SAIBAN was formed to initiate and lobby for the replication of this incremental housing scheme in other parts of the country, such as Taiser Town, which lies along the eastern corridors of Karachi and is relatively undeveloped. SAIBAN reached an agreement with the Malir Development Authority(MDA), the caretaker agency controlling land development in the area. The trunk infrastructure, including water mains and trunk sewers, will be laid down by MDA for which cost recovery will be made from the allottees and SAIBAN. Internal piloting and land allocation will be done by SAIBAN, although the MDA may reserve some plots for its own allottees. Internal services will be laid down by the people themselves under the technical and managerial supervision of SAIBAN. SAIBAN will guide the development according to the existing set of by-laws applicable in similar areas in the city.



The Karachi Development Authority has categorized the problems of the human environment in the Karachi metropolis. Among the critical ones are:

  • poor environmental conditions in slums and Katchi Abadis;
  • an abnormal increase in population leading to quick urbanization;
  • health hazards owing to lack of proper water supply, sewerage, and storm water drainage;
  • pollution owing to industrial wastes;
  • a defective transport system and consequent vehicle-created air pollution;
  • the destruction of historical heritage and green areas;
  • a haphazard location of some industries;
  • a disparity in densities of different areas in the city;
  • congestion of roads and the downtown area causing, among other things, noise and pollution;
  • a defective refuse collection and disposal system;
  • pollution in coastal waters causing harm to marine life; and
  • pollution caused by light and electronics.

Other issues may also be added, such as a disregard for architectural heritage, faceless blocks of commercial and residential buildings, and the conversion of amenity plots into speculative housing.

Karachi is in chaos, but it is inhabited not only by the prophets of doom and the merchants of gloom. There are those who care, who have—even if only in their own small way—achieved results that need appraisal, evaluation, and even propagation. Hope for the future lies in these informal sector efforts. In this city globally known for continued strife and turmoil, the informal sector has indeed managed to keep it alive and thriving. Even with its ever-increasing population and heterogenous mix, the city has shown great resilience and strength to not only survive but to actually evolve its own alternate culture. Without informal sector initiatives, this would have been impossible to achieve.

Issues and Concerns
Urban planning and development in Karachi suffer from many problems, some of which are listed below.

  • A lack of evaluation of previous planning attempts—Planning initiatives often start anew without adequately evaluating possible merits of past plans.
  • The incapability of the planning authorities to execute the plan—Planning in Karachi has been under the auspices of Karachi Development Authority (KDA), which does not possess any legal or administrative control on the nineteen other land development agencies of the city. Thus the capacity of Karachi Development Authoritv to execute the plans has been constrained.
  • The absence of political mandate for the planning process—Planning processes have usually been under the direction of the donors or UN agencies, without enjoying the political mandate necessary for keeping open the possibility of ad hoc adjustments.
  • Technical shortcomings in the planning process—Assumptions used in planning have often been drawn from inadequate sample surveys and obsolete physical data. Even today, Karachi does not have a comprehensive mapping base usually required for all kinds of planning and development exercises. Adding to the lack of information is the fact that data gathered by the Defense institutions are not accessible by the public.
  • The planning authority is usually not the financing agency of the exercise—This fact has made it nearly impossible for planning agencies to execute the various components according to the outlined framework.

Approach and Vision Toward the Future
If Karachi is to evolve into a well-managed and progressive metropolis, the following propositions should be considered.

  • The jurisdiction of the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation should be extended to the entire metropolitan area to avoid ambiguity and confusion. To procure singularity of approach KMC should assume the role of metropolitan planning authority for Karachi Metropolitan Area after its control over KDA.
  • A fund should be created to conserve the parity between different areas and different channels of service delivery. Preserving relative parity and adjustments of development between different districts, zones, and spatial subdivisions is a must.
  • A standing committee should be formulated comprising of the Members of the Sindh Assembly and Members of National Assembly to act as a link between the province/federal governments and the metropolitan administration.
  • All cities with a population over one million should be placed under the special status of "Greater Metropolitan Regions," to extend the experience of administrative reforms to the other cities of the country.
  • To strengthen policy making under local representation, statute forming capacity concerning the metropolitan affairs should be delegated to the metropolitan assembly.
  • Suitable legislative cover should be provided to the development plans in order to safeguard their legal position.
  • Suitable statutes should be devised to adequately support innovative ventures like the joint stock holding of public corporate bodies.

The Mega-Cities Project is a non-profit organization with 501(c)(3) tax status.
Founder and President: Janice Perlman, PhD. Information:
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