KARACHI: Participants in a consultative workshop held on Wednesday at a local hotel shared concerns over shrinking public spaces and growing mobility challenges being faced by pedestrians, especially people with special needs, and urged the government to implement the laws that would ensure inclusivity in all aspects of civic matters and development.
They also regretted the recent removal of hundreds and thousands of vendors, many of them operating their businesses with government permission, from the Empress Market, and said that depriving the poor of employment opportunities was a short-sighted approach and negated the principle of justice.
Titled ‘Consultation on accessible and safe street resolution with elected representatives (revitalising the old city)’, the event was organised by Shehri-Citizens for a Better Environment in collaboration with Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom (FNFF).
It was part of the NGO’s recently launched campaign aimed at devising a comprehensive strategic roadmap towards having accessible streets and public spaces.
Speaking about the need of the campaign, Amber Alibhai representing Shehri regretted that the city’s built environment both old and new lacked consideration for people with special needs and the elderly and that the NGO had raised the issue multiple times and even designed a whole map on required infrastructural changes. But, it couldn’t attract government attention.
Giving a presentation titled ‘Integrating urban policy, planning and design for public spaces renewal’, project manager of Shehri Farhan Anwar spoke about the progress made so far on the project.
The three-year project was aimed at understanding Karachi’s challenges through a holistic lens and initiating a narrative and action plan on sustainable urban mobility by involving all stakeholders, he added.
“Unfortunately, Karachi faces institutional breakdown and corruption. There is no ownership. But, we have to work within limited institutional framework available to us,” he said.
The world was moving towards ‘smart city growth’ which meant efficient and sustainable urban mobility and we need to integrate this concept in all spheres of development, he said.
He also referred to examples in regional countries, sharing how they had transformed their public spaces, which not only provided healthy places to communities to relax and socialise but also boosted businesses.
During the discussion, councillors in attendance highlighted their problems hampering their work and said that thought streets came under the jurisdiction of Karachi Metropolitan Corporation and various district municipal corporations, they had no powers and no funds to carry out any development and repairs.
Part of the programme was three presentations by young architects showing how neglected public spaces/pockets could be transformed into meaningful community spaces.
Senior architect Danish Azar Zuby and Aamir Amjad representing FNFF also spoke.