Thursday, June 5, 2008
Karachi: The Urban Frontier
National Public Radio(NPR), an American radio network, is doing a series on a massive wave of urbanization sweeping the world's emerging economies such as Brazil, China, India and Pakistan. It has chosen to start with Karachi, which it describes as Pakistan's "economic lifeline" and financial and industrial "powerhouse" that produces 25% of Pakistan's GDP, and calls it "one of the largest and most crowded cities of the world". It has a segment on Shehri, the activist group fighting big-money developers.
It highlights several other facts about Karachi such as:
1. Karachi is built along a natural harbor facing the Arabian Sea, and this central location between the Middle East and India has made Karachi an important trading port for hundreds of years.
2. Karachi encompasses both its old seafront district and a sprawling web of commercial and residential development that covers almost 1,400 square miles. Its contemporary landscape spans skyscrapers, posh golf resorts, congested roadways and sprawling squatter colonies.
3. The Port of Karachi handles 60 percent of Pakistan's cargo, and the Karachi Stock Exchange is one of Asia's most active trading markets. The city's main industries include shipping, trade, finance, banking, information technology, manufacturing, real estate, media and education.
4. Like any big city, it has its share of problems. Pollution, crime, corruption and political volatility are just some of the issues confronting the 12 million to 18 million "Karachiites" who call this overcrowded city home. Karachi is 60 times larger than it was when Pakistan was created in 1947. And with the population growing at an annual rate of 6 percent, one of the biggest challenges for city officials is managing the tensions and violence that often flare along ethnic and religious lines.
5. Karachi is growing so fast that estimates of its population range from 12 million to 18 million. The country's financial capital is also a city where about half the population lives in illegal houses.
To learn more about this NPR series, please visit NPR Morning Edition.