Reimagining An Urban Governance Mechanism For Karachi

Reimagining An Urban Governance Mechanism For Karachi
While keeping threats of insecurity, corruption, and lawlessness aside, Karachi's unplanned coastal and port zones depict the incapacity of the administrative structure. In some zones that have been long-depressed, the social benefits that fishing and tourism provided — greater employment and a rise in income -- eventually resulted in negligence on part of the authorities responsible for urban planning. Inadequate sanitation, scarce waste recycling and mitigation resources, unplanned residential areas, underdeveloped infrastructure, and ungoverned vehicle transmission in Karachi have led to the failure of coastal and port governance mechanisms.

Inequitable access to ports and coastal waters is the basic cause of the governance collapse in the city. This initially involved a myriad of security actors and their confrontation with non-state actors under the cover of political administration. Multiple interests in the coastal and port zones created a variety of crises. The resources of Karachi were always under great pressure, with a high concentration of legal and illegal activities, which led to overexploitation of reserves in the coastal zones and overly polluted marine ecosystems.

The core challenges arise from Karachi's governance structure, which involves three tiers of administration: institutions working under the federal, provincial, and local governments. The local government is under a system of mayorship with a large administration of councillors, the provincial government runs various departments that govern environment, revenue, agriculture, market competition, etc., and the federal government regulate ports, security (internal and external), ocean resources and maritime zoning. Such fragmentation of authorities and institutions and their policies basically confuses the stakeholders and public at large, and this also leaves loopholes for corrupt practices by dishonest governance actors.

The role of marine resources, coastal and port zones in Karachi, which are over exploited and under great pressure from concentration of activities, has resulted in a sort of unsustainable development where more acute conflicts demand integrated governance intervention strategies.

Karachi needs a number of highly dynamic policy designs. Reimagining a governance mechanism of Karachi for generating short-term social benefits in the shape of higher rates of coastal tourism and maritime business, and, in normal circumstances, immediate policy returns, sustainable employment, maintainable housing, environmentally friendly infrastructure, adequate sanitation, and a dynamic mechanism for waste management could be a conceivable solution.
Inequitable access to ports and coastal waters is the basic cause of the governance collapse in the city. This initially involved a myriad of security actors and their confrontation with non-state actors under the cover of political administration.

Although the Coastal Comprehensive Development Zoning plan appears a quick fix solution, the long-term remedial courses and far-reaching institutional reforms are required to foster a process of policy redesign. Institutions working under maritime affairs, federal revenue, provincial environmental authorities and local governments are required to be adaptive and reflexive for the sustainable development of Karachi as a port and coastal city. This also requires an innovative and improved understanding of coordination and cooperation among maritime stakeholders.

New governance schemes for port and coastal cities combine technical problem solving, that includes marine environment, ocean resources, port management, urban development interface, with sea coordination and decision support methods based on optimisation of policy and factual knowledge on all system levels. Such policy designs also support equitable access to ports and coastal waters and citizens' participation in governance mechanisms which allows various organisations to address particular environmental stakes, and inhabitants of a polluted area can adopt corrective measures on their own terms and conditions.

Given the emphasis on combining policy synergies, a large-scale innovation is required to develop participatory methods for the three tiers of Karachi's administration. Basically, it is about agenda resetting with a political will at an early stage of redefinition of a goal which requires a long-ranged participatory process. Insights into such a process may enrich policy designs and strategic management plans based on shaping the interconnected issues which require co-implementation mechanisms. The processes of long-ranged participation may provide innovative solutions for better governance of Karachi.

With many decades of policy failures in Karachi’s governance, new institutional responses to the upcoming general elections and local bodies elections may guide the future administrative structures. The response of any government at any level is quite disappointing, and the public at large may reconsider a 'Karachi framework' towards an intergovernmental arrangement as a proposal for policy and legislation. The public seems to believe that the pre-existing governance from 2002-2007 was adequate to cover coastal matters at various levels. But it is now inadequate to deal with Karachi's coastal, port and urban challenges of population explosion, trade flow and climate change. The governing authorities at various levels must consider the possibility of an integrated marine, coastal, port, environment, climate and urban infrastructure development policy, which seems as complicated now as at any time in the past.

The author holds an LLD from Dalian Maritime University, China and LLM from University of Hertfordshire, United Kingdom, he was the key personnel running LLM International and Maritime Law program at Bahria University, Islamabad. His recent research focuses on issues relating the ocean and port governance, environmental law, law of the sea and international humanitarian law. He tweets @jahanzebbutt88