KARACHI: All Pakistan Customs Agents Association (APCAA) has urged the authority concerned to establish Karachi Transformation Board (KTB) to take the lead in city management through public-private partnerships.

Arshad Jamal, chairman APCAA said that the association in its letter sent to the authority concerned stressed upon the establishment of KTB, which is the need of an hour to give the ownership of Karachi to its stakeholders.

He said that Karachi was the largest city in Pakistan, with a population of over 30 million and it accounted for one-third of Sindh's population and one-fifth of the country's urban population. However, a highly complex political economy, highly centralised but fragmented governance, land contestation among many government entities, and weak institutional capacity have made it difficult to manage the city's development.

Although the security environment is now improved, social exclusion of marginalised parts of the population is a challenge that requires immediate attention. These factors have resulted in the rapid decline of the city's quality of life and economic competitiveness from its thriving status after the country's independence, he said.

Arshad further stated that Karachi, which was the country's financial and economic hub and generated 12-15 percent of Pakistan's gross domestic product (GDP), was a powerhouse of manufacturing employment in the country. However, the city and its surrounding economic agglomeration are not generating economic productivity gains for the country.

This stagnation of economic activity in the central areas is problematic for long-term economic and social potential. There are pockets of high poverty and great variations in wealth within Karachi, due to its large physical and population size.

Karachi is ranked among the bottom 10 cities in the Global Liveability Index. The city is very dense, with more than 20,000 persons per square kilometre. Urban planning, management, and service delivery have not kept pace with population growth, and the city shows a specially unsustainable, inefficient, and unliveable form, he added.

Arshad further said that Karachi was at a high risk of natural and human-made disasters and has one of the most disaster-vulnerable districts in Pakistan and added that various authorities responsible for disaster response suffer from weak coordination, information gaps, low capacity, and limited planning.

He said that emergency response was hindered by poor land-use planning and building control and regular flooding occurred during the unprecedented monsoon season due to the poorly maintained and clogged drainage system. In addition, air pollution is one of the most severe environmental problems.

Karachi needs around US$:9 billion to US$:10 billion in financing over a 10-year period to meet its infrastructure and service-delivery needs in urban transport, water supply and sanitation, and municipal solid waste, as per the World Bank report to transform Karachi completely into a modern city, he said.

However, the provincial government retains substantial control over various city services and functions, such as master planning, building control, water and sewerage, solid waste management, and development of peri-urban and peripheral lands but has failed to serve the purpose, Arshad said.

In addition to large-scale public and private financing, Karachi needs difficult reforms to improve its urban governance, institutional capacity, and coordination so that it can become a more economically productive and liveable city instead of cosmetic ad hoc measures for short term basis like Karachi Transformation Plan, chairman APCAA said.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2020