Pakistan's Largest City Karachi Ranks High on Human Development
In a regional human development analysis for Pakistan done by Haroon Jamal and Amir Jahan Khan of the Social Policy and Development Centre (SPDC), Karachi ranks at the top with HDI of 0.7885, followed by Jhelum district's 0.7698 and Haripur's 0.7339. Lahore has HDI score of 0.6882 and Rawalpindi 0.638.
Majority of the nations ranked as high human development are less populated than Karachi with its 15 million+ inhabitants, and none is experiencing the massive waves of poor rural migrants from some of the least developed areas of Pakistan which Karachi continues to absorb after each disaster in other parts of the country, natural or otherwise.
Karachi often makes news for its recurring episodes of violence which claim many innocent lives. Yet, the city continues to be a big draw for large numbers of rural migrants looking for better economic opportunities. In spite of the many problems they face, it's a fact that even the slums in Karachi offer them better access to education and health care--basic ingredients for human development.
When visitors see a squatter city in India or Pakistan or Bangladesh, they observe overwhelming desperation: rickety shelters, little kids working or begging, absence of sanitation, filthy water and air. However, there are many benefits of rural to urban migration for migrants' lives, including reduction in abject poverty, empowerment of women, increased access to healthcare and education and other services. Historically, cities have been driving forces in economic and social development. As centers of industry and commerce, cities have long been centers of wealth and power. They also account for a disproportionate share of national income. The World Bank estimates that in the developing world, as much as 80 percent of future economic growth will occur in towns and cities. Nor are the benefits of urbanization solely economic. Urbanization is associated with higher incomes, improved health, higher literacy, and improved quality of life. Other benefits of urban life are less tangible but no less real: access to information, diversity, creativity, and innovation.
In a 2009 interview published by Wired Magazine, Stewart Brand, "the pioneering environmentalist, technology thinker", and founder of the Whole Earth Catalog summed up the positive aspects of urban slums, and made a counterintuitive case that the booming slums and squatter cities in and around Mumbai, Nairobi, and Rio de Janeiro are net positives for poor people and the environment. Wired asked him to elaborate. Here are a few excerpts:
Wired: What makes squatter cities so important?
Stewart Brand: That's where vast numbers of humans—slum dwellers—are doing urban stuff in new and amazing ways. And hell's bells, there are a billion of them! People are trying desperately to get out of poverty, so there's a lot of creativity; they collaborate in ways that we've completely forgotten how to do in regular cities. And there's a transition: People come in from the countryside, enter the rickshaw economy, and work for almost nothing. But after a while, they move uptown, into the formal economy. The United Nations did extensive field research and flipped from seeing squatter cities as the world's great problem to realizing these slums are actually the world's great solution to poverty.
Wired: Why are they good for the environment?
Brand: Cities draw people away from subsistence farming, which is ecologically devastating, and they defuse the population bomb. In the villages, women spend their time doing agricultural stuff, for no pay, or having lots and lots of kids. When women move to town, it's better to have fewer kids, bear down, and get them some education, some economic opportunity. Women become important, powerful creatures in the slums. They're often the ones running the community-based organizations, and they're considered the most reliable recipients of microfinance loans.
Wired: How can governments help nurture these positives?
Brand: The suffering is great, and crime is rampant. We made the mistake of romanticizing villages, and we don't need to make that mistake again. But the main thing is not to bulldoze the slums. Treat the people as pioneers. Get them some grid electricity, water, sanitation, crime prevention. All that makes a huge difference.
Karachi Tops Mumbai in Stock Performace
Eleven Days in Karachi
Karachi Demographic Trends Worry MQM
Pakistan Most Urbanized in South Asia
Karachi: The Urban Frontier
Do Asia's Urban Slums Offer Hope?
Orangi is Not Dharavi
Climate Change Could Flood Karachi Coastline
Karachi Fourth Cheapest For Expats
Karachi City Government
Karachi Dreams Big