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Why enhancing public urban spaces matters for Karachi

Annie Bidgood's picture
Vibrant streets with vendors. Photo: Jon Kher Kaw / World Bank
Public spaces such as streets, open spaces, parks, and public buildings are a big part of cities that are often overlooked. Inadequate, poorly designed, or privatized public spaces often generate exclusion and marginalization and degrades the livability of the urban environment. That is why the importance of public spaces are now embedded within the Sustainable Development Goals.
 
In dense built-up cities like Karachi, Pakistan, public spaces are even more important. These are areas of respite and recreation from the stress of city life. They are also social and cultural spaces where livelihoods and businesses are conducted, especially for the urban poor. Public open spaces in Karachi have suffered from rapid urban growth: 
  • The total share of green space detectable in satellite imagery has fallen from 4.6% in 2001 to 3.7% in 2013.
  • Large tracts of vacant land in prime areas in the city center are closed off to the public and neglected.
  • Twelve square kilometers of prime waterfront area, often a valuable public asset in other cities, is still mostly undeveloped more than 10 years after the roads were built.
  • Many sidewalks in the main commercial areas and busy corridors are broken down, converted to unregulated parking areas, or used for dumping trash—to the detriment of pedestrian safety and public health.
  • In a focus group, women also remarked on the lack of safe playgrounds or other recreational facilities for children.
Recently the World Bank Group approved a loan for the Karachi Neighborhood Improvement Project (KNIP) to finance improvements in public spaces in the city’s selected neighborhoods and to strengthen the city government’s capacity to provide certain administrative services  such as business registration and construction permits. The investments in safety, walkability and access to public transit nodes are also timely, given the city’s plans to introduce a system of Bus Rapid Transit within the city and in two of the three neighborhoods.

Illango on Twitter

Here is my colleague, Sohaib Athar talking about #Karachi Neighbourhood Improvement Project: https://t.co/s1BTsv9hst


Beyond the investments in the physical space and urban design, a key design feature of KNIP is its emphasis on active and sustained engagement with the residents of Karachi. The project aims to use a participatory planning process to identify, prioritize, and design highly impactful enhancements to public areas such as sidewalks, open spaces and green spaces, and public buildings. While the exact nature of investments will be determined through community consultations, they may include safety features for pedestrians and other non-motorized transportation, accessibility and mobility improvements close to commercial areas and planned transit stations, new or upgraded neighborhood parks and playgrounds, infrastructure to foster safe and vibrant street activity (kiosks for vendors, tables and seating, temporary street closures for festivals, etc.), measures to address traffic congestion and parking, and improved municipal services in public areas (street lighting, garbage collection, drainage, etc.).

KNIP is intended to be an entry point to showcase the value of participatory planning and inclusive urban design, as the first step in a longer-term strategy for city transformation and rejuvenation. Building confidence and inclusiveness in city management is critical to ensure the success of deeper institutional reforms and larger infrastructure investment programs down the road. KNIP is expected to help lay the foundation for a multi-year partnership between the World Bank Group and the local and provincial governments focused on inclusivity, livability, and prosperity. To this end, KNIP will also support the creation of a Karachi Transformation Steering Committee (KTSC), comprised of elected officials, government representatives, business leaders, community stakeholders and NGOs representing various public interests. KTSC’s mandate is to develop a shared vision for Karachi’s transformation and a roadmap to achieve that vision in an inclusive way.

Providing road access to all: how India is turning a distant dream into reality

Ashok Kumar's picture
For many decades now man has been able to go to the moon. Yet down here on earth, many people are still unable to travel to nearby towns, because of the lack of decent roads. The world over, about a billion people live without access to an all-weather road. And many more have perhaps lost the access they once had because floods, heavy rains, cloudbursts, landslides and other extreme weather events have damaged the roads or they have not been maintained. Can we ever think of a world free of poverty without addressing this fundamental challenge?  
 
Let’s look at the case of India where 500,000 km of rural roads have so far been built by the country’s flagship rural roads program (PMGSY). These roads, connecting some 120,000 settlements, have already started transforming the rural areas of the country.
Photo Credit: Shaju John/World Bank


These roads form part of a core network of 1.1 million that India is seeking to build through its ongoing $35 billion PMGSY program to provide about 179,000 rural settlements with road access. The project has been designed to deliver high-quality, sustainable roads in a timely and cost-effective manner. PMGSY’s main source of funding is a special tax on diesel. Since the PMGSY began, the World Bank has been working closely with the Indian government through a series of projects and knowledge initiatives, with funding of about US$1.8 billion.

Why every day should be environment day?

Idah Z. Pswarayi-Riddihough's picture

In the first 6 months of this year, Sri Lanka has experienced a number of major events that demonstrate exactly how critical managing the environment is:  Drought, landslides, a garbage avalanche, flash floods — and many other events at scales that have not caught the attention of those not affected.  The damage to lives and assets, and the disruption to routines that make us who we are psychologically and spiritually is tough to live through and slow to reverse – if it ever does. 

So why would we leave thoughts on sustainable environmental management to just one single day a year?  We typically celebrate “Environment Day” by picking up rubbish around the city or from the rivers, or the sea; or by participating in a charity walk, or a charity run, and so forth.  The excitement builds, everyone engages and the next day everyone moves on to “more pressing matters” until the next calamity, and the blame game starts all over again.

Photo Credit: Mokshana Wijeyeratne

Let me assert the following key point: Nothing will change until we all see ourselves as part of the problem and part of the solution.  For many of these issues we can make a difference, every day!

Sustainable tourism can drive the blue economy: Investing in ocean health is synonymous with generating ocean wealth

Rob Brumbaugh's picture
A snorkeler explores a coral reef in the coastal waters of Micronesia. © Ami Vitale


Tourism is one of the world’s largest industries, contributing trillions of dollars to the global economy and supporting the livelihoods of an estimated one in ten people worldwide. In many countries, with both developing and well-developed economies, tourism is appropriately viewed as an engine of economic growth, and a pathway for improving the fortunes of people and communities that might otherwise struggle to grow and prosper.

Much of that tourism depends on the natural world—on beautiful landscapes and seascapes that visitors flock to in search of escape, a second wind, and a direct connection with nature itself. Coastal and marine tourism represents a significant share of the industry and is an important component of the growing, sustainable Blue Economy, supporting more than 6.5 million jobs—second only to industrial fishing. With anticipated global growth rates of more than 3.5%, coastal and marine tourism is projected to be the largest value-adding segment of the ocean economy by 2030, at 26%.

How can green growth benefit Africa?

Eun Joo Allison Yi's picture
Photo: Sarah Farhat/World Bank Group


What exactly do we mean by green growth? For us, it’s not just about riding bikes and planting trees. The Korea Green Growth Trust Fund (KGGTF) defines green growth as adopting an innovative approach toward reaching nations’ goals for sustainable development and addressing climate change. It is a framework for decision-making and a proven process for turning people’s hopes into reality.

Private sector, meet irrigation: Planning better ways to feed the future

Cledan Mandri-Perrott's picture

Headlines about climate change often focus on food scarcity, but the problems facing the irrigation sector – which is critical to our ability to feed the future – are usually too complex to make it into the news. For stakeholders in the sector, however, the challenges are all too clear.  Growing investment needs in irrigation have highlighted what’s wrong with the system’s status quo, such as:

Campaign Art: Can we save the Ocean?

Davinia Levy's picture
People, Spaces, Deliberation bloggers present exceptional campaign art from all over the world. These examples are meant to inspire.

Our oceans are in deep trouble. Uncontrolled pollution and overfishing have brought the state of many of our seas and oceans to an unprecedentedly precarious situation.

In recent years, multiple campaigns have sparked to raise awareness of this situation and motivate people and governments to take action. For example, the Ocean Health Index measures ocean health across the regions in the World. One of these campaigns is One World One Ocean. Based in California, United States, this organization produces films, infographics, short videos and other media products to raise awareness of ocean degradation and to spark a global movement to protect the seas.

The video “Why the Ocean?” by One World One Ocean provides interesting and alarming data on the oceans’ situation and encourages everyone, everywhere to take action.
 
Why the Ocean?

The road to a greener future

Jonathan Coony's picture

Also available in: Español



In the run-up to the COP21 climate conference, one question becomes central: where will we find the solutions on the ground—and the people to implement them—to realize the renewed political ambitions on climate?

Climate of hope, amid a season of summitry: Anticipation builds for vital summits on sustainability and climate change

Christopher Colford's picture
Speeding through a season of summitry, the world’s policymakers now have sustainability at the forefront of their autumn agenda – and the private sector, as well, must rise to the sustainability challenge. Anticipation is building for this month’s opening of the United Nations General Assembly, where the next-generation blueprint for global development – the long-awaited, painstakingly crafted Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)  – will enshrine sustainability as the central long-term international priority.
 
Sustainability writ large – in all its environmental, social and economic dimensions – has been the theme driving the global debate as the SDGs have taken shape. A comprehensive plan that prioritizes 17 objectives – with 169 indicators to measure their progress toward completion – the SDGs will frame the global agenda through 2030. The SDGs’ adoption – at a U.N. summit from September 25 to 27 – will be a pivotal checkpoint along this year’s complex pathway of diplomacy, which will culminate in Paris in December with a crucial conference on the greatest of all sustainability issues: climate change.

Optimism seems to be steadily increasing as diplomats continue to negotiate a global climate-change deal. The hope is for an ambitious agreement at the so-called COP 21 conference – the 21st gathering of the Conference of Parties in the climate-change negotiations. The question, however, is how ambitious that pact will be.

As Rachel Kyte – the World Bank Group Vice President and Special Envoy on Climate Change – pointed out in a start-of-September forum at the World Bank: “I think that everything is in place for a deal to be struck in Paris, a deal that is universal, that brings everybody in to the table. . . . So a universal deal, a universal framework . . . is possible. The question, I think, is how strong a deal it's going to be.”
 
Rachel Kyte on Climate Action


As the clock ticks down to the deadline for a deal in Paris, Kyte (in conversation with Kalee Kreider of the United Nations Foundation) offered a detailed analysis of the intricacies surrounding the final stages of the negotiations: “The question, really, now is the level of ambition, the strength of that deal. And that's politics, not science. That's politics, not economics.”

Acting on aspirations for a better Vietnam

Mai Thi Hong Bo's picture

Luu Vinh Trinh is an 18-year-old student, born and raised in Ho Chi Minh City, with a dream of becoming an English teacher. Trinh and one million other students across Vietnam just completed the final high school graduation exam this July. After spending 12 years in school, Trinh and her friends have observed many issues that could be addressed to improve the quality of education in Vietnam.


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