High-density housing that works for all.
Full-text – http://www.iied.org/pubs/pdfs/17079IIED.pdf (pdf, 158KB)
Arif Hasan. Published: Mar 2010 – IIED
In an urbanising world, the way people fit into cities is vastly important – socially, economically, environmentally, even psychologically. So density, or the number of people living in a given area, is central to urban design and planning.
Both governments and markets tend to get density wrong, leading to overcrowding, urban sprawl or often both. A case in point are the high-rise buildings springing up throughout urban Asia – perceived as key features of that widely touted concept, the ‘world-class city’.
While some may offer a viable solution to land pressures and density requirements, many built to house evicted or resettled ‘slum’ dwellers are a social and economic nightmare – inconveniently sited, overcrowded and costly.
New evidence from Karachi, Pakistan, reveals a real alternative. Poor people can create liveable high-density settlements as long as community control, the right technical assistance and flexible designs are in place. A city is surely ‘world-class’ only when it is cosmopolitan – built to serve all, including the poorest.
In Karachi, Pakistan, the majority of citizens suffer from poor levels of water and sanitation services, especially those in low-income settlements. To help them create a plan to improve their services, the Karachi City District Government formed a partnership with the Water and Sanitation Program (WSP).
The partners began by giving citizens an opportunity to ‘grade’ the performance of the Karachi Water and Sewerage Board (KWSB) using ‘citizen report cards‘. This method was piloted in Bangalore by the Public Affairs Centre in 1993 and has proven to be a demand-responsive, positive force for change, not just in Bangalore, but internationally.
Asking customers to grade the performance of the utility provided the Karachi government with neutral, credible and apolitical information on consumer preferences and concerns surrounding water supply and sanitation services.
“The report card has provided us information about those areas which we considered as outside the coverage of KWSB” said Ayub Shaikh a staff member of the Karachi Water and Sewerage Board.
Nearly 5,000 men and women in nine towns in Karachi representing low, middle, and high income groups were asked to grade the utility. Women are generally involved in accessing water for their familieswhile men typically bear the cost of services.
The partners launched a communications strategy early in the process to make sure the findings of the report card were broadly disseminated to increase and encourage public debate. They turned to PANOS, a global program created to engage the media and increase public debate through training, orientation, and opportunities for understanding and learning.
The communications program was designed to build a partnership between the government and the media to build awareness of civic rights and responsibilities, highlight the need for reform, and most importantly create a constituency that has a loud voice so their demands can be heard for improvement of services.
The reasons for this outbreak include a lack of proper sanitation system, a huge open drain running in the centre of the colony and absence of clean potable water.
The health experts working in the colony have declared this an emergency situation and said if the government does not take any immediate safety measures, the condition could worsen. They also warned that the disease might spread in other parts of the city.
“Since last week, diarrhoea has become epidemic in the colony and children are dying,” said Dr Aisha Siddique, a young lady doctor at Mother and Child Heath Centre, which is run by a non profit and non government organisation Concern for Children Trust (CFC). She said that she receives 60 patients everyday, but since the spread of diarrhoea, the majority of the patients visiting the centre are children.
“A child in almost every home is suffering from diarrhoea in this colony, which has a population of about 0.7 million,” said Dr Siddique. She said that there are about 72 clinics working in different areas of the colony and almost every clinic is receiving large numbers of children with viral diarrhoea.
Located in the backwaters of Karachi Port, just off the edges of the Arabian Sea, Machhar Colony is the second largest slum settlement after Orangi Pilot Project and is home to approximately 0.7 million people of different ethnic backgrounds and nationalities including Biharis, Burmese, Bangladeshis, and Afghans. As the colony is illegal on government records, therefore it is suffering from a lack of basic facilities such as clean drinking water and proper sanitation.
“There is no water supply system in the colony, therefore the people get water from other localities through a network of plastic pipes, and you can see these pipes are spread amongst the garbage on the surface of the main sewerage drain passing from the middle of the colony, Dr Siddique explained. “Sometimes when the garbage catches fire, these pipes are burnt resulting in sewerage water getting mixed with drinking water causing the spread of diseases” She said that the practice is common in the colony, but the reasons for the diarrhoeal disease as well as its spread need to be ascertained through a study.
Official data from different international organisations reveals that in Pakistan, 38.5 million people lack accesses to safe drinking water, and 50.7 million lack access to improved sanitation, due to which 25 percent of the total hospital beds in Pakistan are occupied by the people suffering from waterborne diseases.
The study further reveals that diarrhoea is the leading cause of mortality and second leading cause of morbidity among children under five years of age.
“Due to poverty, there is almost one patient of tuberculosis in every house in the colony, besides this typhoid fever, viral fever and other diseases are also common, but this recent diarrhoeal epidemic could be very fatal if certain measures are not taken,” said Dr Siddique.