Drivers of climate change vulnerability at different scales in Karachi

I'm reading a 104 page report by Arif Hasan and two other researchers on Karachi's climate vulnerability. It was published in January 2017, so it's more than two-and-a-half years old.

Here are things I'm learning from the report as I read, and some direct quotes:


  • Arif Hasan has been involved in Orangi Pilot Project since 1981 TODO: find out what the Orangi Pilot Project is

  • "Karachi, a city of around 20 million people, is facing a crisis of governance that is reflected in the poor state of service delivery, and unplanned and unsustainable urbanisation. The city's development shortcomings, and attendant social, economic, and environmental challenges, have created vulnerabilities at different scales that are likely to exacerbate the impacts of climate change-related weather events taking place within the city and elsewhere in the country."


  • "According to the IPCC, climate change impacts will influence flooding of settlements and infrastructure, heat related deaths, and food and water shortages in urban South Asia. This is of immense significance for Karachi, where a very large majority of its population lives in informal settlements in poorly designed housing with inadequate services."

  • "Given Karachi's economic linkages with, and importance for, the rest of Pakistan, it is hard to overstate the adverse consequences for the rest of the country when Karachi is negatively affected by climate change."

  • However, as Karachi is struggling to manage and deliver basic services for approximately 20 million residents, dedicating scarce resources to plan for uncertain climate-change related events is seen, by decision makers, as a low priority.

  • The report's warning is that climate change impacts will be amplified for those who live in informal settlements and in hazardous areas and either lack essential infrastructure and services or where there is inadequate provision for adaptation'.

Karachi's Urbanization

  • Karachi's major shortcomings in realizing the full potential of urbanization, similar to the achievements of some cities in Southeast Asia, have been its inadequate provision of infrastructure and poor quality housing, and a failure to deal with pollution.


  • Availability of land in a suitable place and at affordable cost has not been possible in Karachi because there is no enforcement of the by-laws or zoning regulations that restrict or control speculation. As a result, the land market is driven primarily by the anticipated value of land, and areas most suitable for low-income housing development are appropriated for commercially lucrative projects.

  • Case studies of settlements in the inner-city areas of Karachi and previously peripheral areas show that densities have increased from 600 persons per hectare to 4,000 persons per hectare, and from 200 persons per hectare to 1,195 persons per hectare, respectively. The extensive and unplanned densification is giving rise to a number of physical and social problems and is adversely impacting the city's ecology.

Poor Governance

  • Karachi is beset by a fragmented and disempowered governance structure, which is most visible in the dysfunctional nature of core urban systems and services. Karachi is a non-Sindhi-speaking capital city of a Sindhi majority province, while most of the city's population comprises non-Sindhi migrants. Given its economic predominance, major political entities want to exercise control over the city.

  • The Sindhi speaking majority of the province cannot control the city except through a highly centralized system, while the migrant majority of the city can only exercise control over it through a decentralized governance system. This tussle lies at heart of governance dysfunction in Karachi, which has given rise to a situation where universally accepted functions of local government have been appropriated by the provincial government.

  • In itself, this might not have been problematic were it not for the ineptitude of the provincial government on multiple counts, which has raised concerns about its capacity and intent. This situation raises serious questions about building an effective climate change adaptation capacity in an institutional environment where effective urban governance and basic service delivery have become intractable.


  • Of the estimated 3.35 million 'illegal' immigrants in Pakistan, 75 percent (or 2.5 million) are settled in more than 100 migrant-concentrated residential areas in Karachi. Living conditions in these settlements are mostly cramped, and services such as clean drinking water, sanitation, and solid waste disposal are hard to come by ... processes and structures of unplanned rapid urbanisation, environmental change, and social exclusion reinforce urban vulnerability for migrants.

  • Adverse impacts of climate change on agriculture and food production in the rural hinterland will have serious consequences for Karachi, not only in terms of increasing food insecurity, but also for the potential increase in the number of involuntary migrants to an already crowded city struggling to provide basic services for its existing population.
    This means climate change adaptation and risk reduction will need to evolve as an interlinked process, incorporating adaptation strategies for both rural areas and the city.


Adaptation does not necessarily require discrete measures unrelated to current development challenges. Addressing shortcomings in basic services delivery and empowering local government and urban development institutions are necessary preconditions for meaningful climate change adaptation.

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