Karachi Tops Growth Among World's Fastest Growing Megacities
Karachi is Huge:
The report says that Karachi is the world's 7th largest metropolis with an estimated population of nearly 21 million inhabitants packed in an area of 310 square miles, making it the 10th densest large city in the world. Demographia authors acknowledge that their estimate of Karachi's "population is lower than other estimates (such as the United Nations), which include metropolitan area population not within the continuously developed urban area".
|KPT Flyover, Karachi|
Massive Influx of Migrants:
In addition to the normal migration patterns witnessed in the past, Karachi has also seen major influx of waves of refugees escaping conflict zones like FATA and Swat and many people displaced by natural disasters like the 2005 earthquake and 2010 floods. Karachi itself has now become a major conflict zone with the growth of ethnic gangs supported by political bosses, and the arrival of the Taliban fighters along with the refugees from FATA and Swat. Poor governance of the city has further exacerbated the situation of Karachi's citizens.
Karachi: The Urban Frontier
It highlighted several other facts about Karachi such as:
1. Karachi is built along a natural harbor facing the Arabian Sea, and this central location between the Middle East and India has made Karachi an important trading port for hundreds of years.
2. Karachi encompasses both its old seafront district and a sprawling web of commercial and residential development that covers almost 1,400 square miles. Its contemporary landscape spans skyscrapers, posh golf resorts, congested roadways and sprawling squatter colonies.
3. The Port of Karachi handles 60 percent of Pakistan's cargo, and the Karachi Stock Exchange is one of Asia's most active trading markets. The city's main industries include shipping, trade, finance, banking, information technology, manufacturing, real estate, fashion, media and education.
4. Like any big city, it has its share of problems. Pollution, crime, violence, corruption and political volatility are just some of the issues confronting the 12 million to 18 million "Karachiites" who call this overcrowded city home. Karachi is 60 times larger than it was when Pakistan was created in 1947. And with the population growing at an annual rate of 6 percent, one of the biggest challenges for city officials is managing the tensions and violence that often flare along ethnic and religious lines.
5. Karachi is growing so fast that estimates of its population range from 12 million to 18 million. The country's financial capital is also a city where about half the population lives in illegal houses.
Parallels With Chicago:
In "Instant City: Life and Death in Karachi", the author Steve Inskeep of NPR Radio draws parallels between the Chicago of 1950s and 1960s and the rapidly growing cities in the developing world like Mumbai (India), Karachi (Pakistan) and Port Harcourt (Nigeria) in the following words:
"Karachi was one of many growing cities made turbulent by ethnic politics. In recent years an ethnic political party has controlled Mumbai, India, imposing a regional language on the government of an aspiring world city. In the growing oil city of Port Harcourt, Nigeria, Internet cafes and churches line the commercial streets, while ethnic militias rule the backstreets and set neighborhoods on fire. None of this will surprise people who study the history of American cities. Chicago, for example, grew explosively from the 1830s onward--it was an instant city in its time--newcomers clustered defensively in their various neighborhoods. As late as the 1950s, immigrants and their children drew battle lines along major streets or railroad tracks.."
Inskeep quotes newspaper columnist late Mike Royko of Chicago to make his point:
"There was...good reason to stay close to home and in your own neighborhood-town and ethnic state. Go that way, past the viaduct, and the wops will jump you, or chase you into Jew town. Go the other way, beyond the park, and the Polacks will stomp on you. Cross those streetcar tracks, and the Irish will shower you with confetti from the brickyards. And who can tell what the niggers might do?"
Karachi Offers Hope:
It does help to put in historical context the growing pains that Pakistan, and its largest city Karachi, are experiencing now. When visitors see a squatter city in India or Pakistan or Bangladesh, they observe overwhelming desperation: rickety shelters, violence, 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.
Many of the potential benefits of urbanization will be hard to realize in Pakistan unless there is improved city governance and serious efforts to reduce the level of violence in Karachi.
Dolmen Mall Clifton Featured on CNN from DHAToday on Vimeo.
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