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Top Harvard Urban Planner Leads Green City Development in Karachi

Work started today to build a 21st Century eco-friendly model city about 50 km north east of downtown Karachi, Pakistan.

Named DHA City Karachi or DCK, the project has been planned by Doxiadis and Osmani Associates along with Professor Spiro Pollalis as its chief planner on an 11,640 acre rural site. Constantine Doxiadis (1914-1975) was a Greek architect and urban planner who planned Pakistan's capital Islamabad and several Karachi communities, including Korangi, Landhi and New Karachi, in 1960s. Pollalis, also of Greek ancestry, is a professor of design, technology and management at the Harvard Design School in Cambridge, Mass.

The DCK masterplan envisions a self-contained sustainable city with 50,000 residential and commercial lots, healthcare and education facilities, theme parks, a convention center, informal and formal sports and recreational facilities and resorts, retail and restaurants, along with all necessary community facilities such as theaters and civic centers.

At the heart of the new city lies the City Gateway and Downtown district that house the Central Business, Culture & Arts, Education, Central Market and Mixed-use Sub Districts. Careful consideration has been given to the distribution of land uses within this area in order to provide a vital economic and cultural heart that will support the city as it grows.

The downtown district will be defined by an automobile-free pedestrian zone with tree-lined walking paths, landscaping, water features, and piazza’s. The idea is to encourage pedestrian movement to improve the quality of life for the downtown employees, visitors and residents. An efficient public transportation system will help support this.

Based on the latest research done under Zofnass Program for Sustainable Infrastructure at Harvard University's Graduate School of Design, sustainable design principles have been implemented across the entire community. A strategy has been used to maintain the ecological integrity of the site through the preservation and incorporation of prominent natural features that are integrated as creeks, green fingers and wind corridors, according to e-architect.com.

There's great emphasis on energy, waste and water management throughout the plan. There will be passive cooling and shades to reduce the need for air-conditioning in summers, extensive use of renewable energy from wind, solar and biomass, and energy-efficient LED lighting. There will be storm water collection through natural drains into lakes, and the community bylaws will require waste recycling as well as the use of grey water to irrigate drought-resistant native plants and shrubs.

DCK is an ambitious but necessary effort to promote eco-friendly and sustainable urban development as Pakistan undergoes rapid urbanization. But the past experience has shown that the actual implementation of such a plan will be quite challenging without the cooperation of its residents.

An even bigger challenge is the uncontrolled expansion of big cities like Karachi which are drawing more and more rural migrants every day without building appropriate new low-cost legal housing and infrastructure for them. The result is the mushroom growth of illegal settlements created by unscrupulous land-grabbing politicians and their cronies who profit from it. In the absence of official urban planning to settle migrant laborers, a burgeoning informal industry has emerged to fill the vacuum to build what are described as "Self-service Levittowns" by an American journalist Steve Inskeep in his 2011 book about Karachi titled "Instant City". With the active connivance of corrupt local police and other government officials and protected by politicians, the so-called "land mafias" grab and sell large swathes of vacant government land, subdivide it into plots, build shoddy roads and pilfered service connections for gas, water and electricity.

Here's how Inskeep describes one such illegal settlement in areas opened up and made accessible by a new expressway called "Northern Bypass":

"My driver steered the car to a section known as Tasier Town, which stood within a couple of miles of the new highway. It was in the farther northeastern reaches of the city, a bit farther than Doxoiadis's "ruined" old suburb in North Karachi. We stopped in a settled area to ask directions, and were pointed down a two-lane road. A market appeared to the right. A wide expanse of land stretched off to the left. Someone had posted a little sign on a little roadside building there, 2007 order from the High Court of Sindh directing that nothing should be built on that property. Behind it, on the vacant land, we saw homes under construction.....The local Home Depot was called a thalla, and Wahab, the boss of it, was thallawala. Like his workers-a so many newcomers to Karachi-he was a Pashtun from Pakistan's war-torn far northwest. On his lot, he sold most of the basic materials to make a simple house. Concrete blocks and roofing materials were cheap. Human beings were even cheaper. Wahab's laborers lived under a thatched roof near the concrete mixer.

Wahab said that there were certain expenses. Police sometimes came by and declared themselves to be shocked-shocked-that illegal construction was underway. The cops could not possibly overlook such an obvious violation unless they were paid.......I said goodbye to Wahab and went back into the illegal development, along narrow and straight dirt lane. Little ridges of dirt marked out the future home lots on either side. I chatted with several men who were laying PVC pipe in a trench, building a sewer line that would dump into the seasonal stream....Who was paying the men to dig the sewers? "A rich man", was all one said."

While Defense Housing Association (DHA) is known for developing upscale communities in major cities, Pakistani military governments have also taken low-cost initiatives to house the poor beginning with the urban planning and development of Landhi, Korangi and New Karachi in 1960s. Unfortunately, there has been little interest on a similar scale by the civilian governments to follow through on their promises of roti, kapra aur makan (food, clothing and shelter) for the poor.

Even though boosting legal housing construction in planned communities offers tremendous potential to stimulate and grow the formal economy, it is not being taken seriously today. It's much more lucrative for the politicians and bureaucrats to continue the current system of illegal settlements.

While critics jump at every opportunity to lambaste the Pakistani military for its various business enterprises, they pay no attention to the fact that Pakistan's economy has also been managed significantly better under military rule. It's not just the venality of the politicians, but also their gross incompetence that gets in the way. One need only look at the differences between Cantonments and civilian communities in South Asia to get a sense of who provides more competent governance.

Prof Anatol Lieven in his book "Pakistan: A Hard Country", describes Pakistan Army as follows:

"For the military, the image of paradise is the cantonment, with its clean, swept, neatly signposted streets dotted with antique, gleaming artillery pieces, and shaded trees....In the poorer parts of Pakistan, the contrast with civilian institutions-including those of government-is that between developed and the barely developed worlds....In the military headquarters, every staff officer has a computer. In the government offices, most ministers do not (and in many cases would not know how to use it if they did). "

British legacy of competence lives on in the Indian military as well. Here's a similar excerpt from a piece by Indian journalist Vir Sanghvi describing Indian military:

".... the (Indian) army sometimes appears to live in a state within a state. Visit a cantonment and you will be struck by the contrast with the civilian part of the town or city where it is located. The roads will be broad and well-maintained, the buildings will be freshly painted, the surroundings will be clean, and an air of good manners and civility will prevail. Visit an army town (Wellington, for instance) and the contrast will be even more striking. The order and cleanliness of the cantonments serves as a contrast to the chaos and filth of modern India."

I welcome the DCK plan with the hope that the green city will serve as a model for the 21st century and inspire private-sector developers to build similar project in the future.

Here's a video describing the project:

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Housing Construction & Economy in Pakistan

Emaar Crescent Bay Project in Karachi

Pakistan Military Starts Manufacturing Tablet PCs

Military's Role in Pakistan's Industrialization

Pakistan's Demographic Dividend

Pakistan's Defense Industry Goes High-Tech

Low-income Housing in Pakistan

Pakistan Launches UAV Production Line at Kamra

DHA City Karachi Report

Incompetence Worse Than Corruption

Food, Clothing & Shelter for All

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Tags: DCK, Harvard, Karachi, Plan, Urban

Comment by Riaz Haq on May 19, 2012 at 9:56pm

Here's a Nation story on awards for Bahria Town developments in Pakistan: Bahria Town has won five highly prestigious awards under various categories in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia at the award ceremony for “Asia Pacific International Property Awards 2012-13”, the world’s most prestigious competition recognised as the highest standard of excellence throughout the global industry. Bahria Town was the only property developer from Pakistan to win the prestigious property awards. Out of the five accolades two received were in the “Five Star” category whilst the other three were ranked as “Highly Commended”, another great achievement and proud moment Bahria Town earns for Pakistan. The awards are a sure proof that Bahria Town standards are at par with the global standards, says a press release. Speaking on the achievement, Malik Riaz Hussain, Chairman Bahria Town, said “This is an extremely proud moment for not only Bahria Town but the entire nation. We are honored to be a part of a historical moment in real estate sector of Pakistan. The accolades are a testament of the exceptional standards maintained in all our developments. We will Inshallah continue to deliver world class projects exceeding everyone’s expectations.”

Bahria Golf City Islamabad triumphed with two Five Star honors. It won the “Best Five Star Golf Development” award for the master planning and provision of complete international standard facilities and amenities along with the 18-hole USGA standard golf course. While the Sheraton Golf & Country Club in Bahria Golf City won for “Best Five Star Leisure Architecture”. Bahria Golf City Islamabad is a branded golf resort community with Sheraton Hotel, villas, apartments and plots to be launched soon.

Bahria Town’s first project in Karachi, Bahria Town Icon, also to be Pakistan’s tallest high-rise building was ranked ”Highly Commended High-rise Architecture”. Green Valley, Pakistan’s first Premium Supermarket, also a project of Bahria Town with its flagship store at the Mall of Lahore, won a “Highly Commended Retail Interior” award for its outstanding retail environment.

http://www.nation.com.pk/pakistan-news-newspaper-daily-english-onli...

Comment by Riaz Haq on May 23, 2012 at 7:17pm

Here's a UNHCR report on new houses for Dera Ghazi Khan flooad affectees:

The UN refugee agency has joined local authorities in handing over ownership of 400 new one-room homes to a fishing community in Pakistan left homeless by devastating floods in 2010.

The families receiving the new shelters belong to the Jam community, which for decades has lived along the banks of the Indus River in makeshift huts, or simply under their boats. Their homes and what few belongings they had were washed away by the floods that inundated large areas of Pakistan in 2010. UNHCR wrote about their plight in a story published on this web site in May last year.

"We're not used to such houses," said Zakir Hussain, who moved into the Boat Model Town with his family several months ago. "At first, we experienced a bit of culture shock, but now we are so grateful to have a solid roof over our heads."

The land for the new development was provided by the government of Punjab province and each unit consists of one common room, a small kitchen and separate toilet.

The families' new ownership of land and property is complemented by the gradual restoration of many basic rights that this marginalized group have been denied for decades. There are also plans for them to receive national identity cards, and they will have their own community centre, a mosque and water supply as well as access to health care and education.

The shelters are part of nearly 4,000 one-room houses that UNHCR has constructed for flood victims in areas of Punjab that were damaged in the floods. The agency's flood response interventions targeted the most vulnerable among the flood victims, including people with disabilities, female headed households and families unable to rebuild their own houses.

"We used to drink river water and we had no health and sanitation facilities, no schooling for the children," said Zakir's wife, Bashir, recalling their former lives. "For us, who were born and grew up on the boats, having a home and being able to live a normal life is like a dream."

Speaking at the handover ceremony, UNHCR Representative in Pakistan Neill Wright thanked the government of Pakistan and, in particular the Punjab administration, for providing the land. "Access to shelter is a basic human right," he said. "I am proud that together with government and non-governmental partners, UNHCR has been able to support the government in assisting some of the most vulnerable victims of the devastating 2010 floods."

In addition to the shelters in Punjab, UNHCR has constructed nearly 30,000 additional homes in the provinces of Sindh, Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, which were also affected by floods in 2010 and again in 2011.

http://www.unhcr.org/4fbcd6f09.html

Comment by Riaz Haq on July 6, 2012 at 4:56pm

Here's a Daily Beast article on Bahria Town gated communities in Pakistan:

This unlikely playground for wealthy Muslims is the vision of Khan's boss and father-in-law, Malik Riaz Hussain, a 59-year-old billionaire Pakistani contractor. Set between the capital Islamabad and its sister city Rawalpindi, Bahria Town is the "masterpiece" of his 40-year career, a $6 billion project he has funded solo to avoid having to deal with outside investors. Its nine phases, too vast to fully appreciate without standing on one of the plateaus that overlook them, will one day mesh together into a planned residential city for 1 million people. The project broke ground in 1996, and already, many of the 50,000 luxury properties in the development are owned by wealthy Pakistan expatriates who swooped into Bahria Town after 9/11 to buy second homes amid fears they would be driven out of places like London, New York and Los Angeles. Equally important was the security and serenity that Bahria Town provides, which drew Pakistan expats and a smattering of wealthy Arab Muslims away from places like Dubai.

The complex offers amenities (24-hour armed security, schools, hospitals, a fire department, retail shopping, restaurants and entertainment centers) that go above and beyond those in many of the gated communities that have become so popular in countries from the United States to Brazil. Given the nation's security issues, it's especially easy to understand why the rich here want to cloister themselves. Rival Pakistani developers, including one owned by the military, have begun copying Hussain's vision, constructing their own gated communities in the suburbs of major Pakistani cities such as Karachi. Hussain himself is developing a second such site in Lahore, where former prime minister Nawaz Sharif already lives in a gated community called Model Town.

Hussain's original inspiration for the mega-community came from the pre-planned town of Reston, Virginia, just outside Washington, D.C. Materials and design inspiration have been imported from everywhere. In the center of roundabouts sit giant Spanish fountains costing $500,000 a pop; the main streets are lined with palm trees brought in from Thailand; grass for the local golf course comes from the U.S. state of Georgia; the education expert for the 1,100-acre university being built is from Seattle. "When I see America, when I see Britain, when I see Turkey, when I see Malaysia," Hussain says, "the only thing I think is, 'Why not Pakistan?' "

This is Hussain's key notion—that Bahria Town is a world away from Taliban and Qaeda militants, the assassination of Benazir Bhutto and weekly suicide bombings. "This is the real Pakistan," Hussain told NEWSWEEK.

http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2008/02/23/safe-behind-their-...

Comment by Riaz Haq on July 6, 2012 at 5:10pm

Here's an LA Times story on gated communities in Pakistan:

Reporting from Rawalpindi, Pakistan — The houses and manicured lawns slope up the artificial hill edged by unbroken sidewalks and white picket fences, as children play and residents exchange pleasantries.

This sprawling subdivision called Bahria Town — "Come home to exclusivity," it boasts — operates its own garbage trucks, schools, firehouse, mosques, water supply and rapid-response force — a kind of functioning state within a nonfunctioning one. And all supplied without the bribes you'd pay on the outside, residents say.

"I like living here," said Abdul Rashid, a sixtysomething retired government worker. "It's like you're in a little protected country — tidy, utilities work, the family can relax. If there's any problem, you just ring up security."

The jarring presence of a middle- and upper-class retreat in this increasingly violent nation has been paved, in part, by the involvement of the country's powerful military. Benefiting from laws put in place during British Empire days to reward friendly armies and militias with land grants, the military now controls about 12% of Pakistani state land, by some accounts. And its privileged position allows it to partner with and otherwise route valuable tracts to favored developers.

Bahria Town and its partner, the military-run developer Defense Housing Authority, occupy twice as much land as Rawalpindi, the garrison city 30 minutes from the capital, Islamabad.

In the posh Safari Villas subdivision, past Sunset Avenue and College Road, Mohammad Javed, 69, surveys his pocket garden before heading into his three-bedroom corner house with a beige sofa ensemble and Samsung flat-screen TV. Houses in the neighborhood run from $25,000 to $60,000, well out of reach of most Pakistanis.

Bahria Town has been a hit not only with moneyed Pakistanis but also with returnees. Javed, who owned a gas station in Canada before retiring, hopes to replicate his North American lifestyle. Bahria's protective walls bring security, he said, although he still won't let his grown children visit lest something bad happen beyond its confines. "We meet in Thailand or Canada," he said.
-------
"No one besides the military has such access," she said. Bahria Town advertised on a recent Sunday for retired major generals and lieutenant generals to fill positions at the company, Siddiqa said: "These are his keys" to greater access.

But for resident and food industry entrepreneur Shaheryar Eqbal, these are minor issues relative to what Bahria Town delivers.

"The government should take these communities as a model and replicate them," he said. "The army already has a joint venture with Bahria Town. Things work. Pakistan must get through this terrorism phase, but this could really be the future."

http://articles.latimes.com/2011/oct/06/world/la-fg-pakistan-gated-...

Comment by Riaz Haq on September 13, 2012 at 10:06am

Here's an ET story on Naya Nazimabad, a new gated community in Karachi:

After many years in Karachi, a housing society was launched on Friday for people who may want to escape the commercialisation of their neighbourhoods but cannot afford to buy pricier property in say DHA, PECHS or Mohammad Ali Housing Society.

Naya Nazimabad City, a project of stockbroker and businessman Arif Habib, is located at a drive of 20 minutes from Water Pump Chowrangi in Federal B. Area. Another big broker, Aqeel Karim Dhedhi, has also put his weight behind the project.

Naya Nazimabad’s sponsors want to outdo Defence Housing Authority (DHA) and Bahria by completing the project in time.

“We are not targeting the people who live in Defence or Bath Island,” said Ovais Sohail, the project manager. “Our clientele will come from Gulshan, New Karachi and Nazimabad.”

The project will be developed in phases with the first one to be finished by 2015. “This entire city will take ten to eleven years to complete.”

Sponsors have hired around 150 personnel of the Frontier Constabulary for security of the project, which is located near the violence-prone Qasba Colony and between Pukhtunabad and Baloch Goth. The number of FC guards will be increased once residents move in, an official said.

Naya Nazimabad, with hills on one side and Manghopir Lake on the other, will house 300,000 people in single-storey units and flats. Since the development of the homes depends on demand, developers were unable to say exactly how many houses will be built.

Hospital, schools and markets are part of the project.

Naya Nazimabad will have its own bylaws. “It’s not like you can buy the plot and construct whatever type of house you feel like,” said Sohail. “The bylaws need to be followed. We will continue to work as the administrator.”

A single-storey house covering 160 square yards is being offered for 3 million rupees, with a 1.2 million-rupee debt component.

The chairman of AKD Securities, Aqeel Dhedhi, said that the project drew on inspiration from the Askari and Navy Housing Scheme projects. “There are no gated societies in Karachi,” he claimed. “Naya Nazimabad will have gates on all three societies that will be properly guarded."
------------
According to him, a well-developed society needs over 1,000 acres of land. “Getting that in Karachi is near-impossible. The city stands divided on ethnic lines. And for all those schemes coming on the Super Highway, security remains a concern.”

Naya Nazimabad is spread over 1,200 acres, most of which belonged to Javedan Cement plant, a company of the Arif Habib Group.

While manager Ovais Sohail was sure that they would be able to provide basic amenities, a lot of questions need to be answered. Karachi’s water utility is under increasing criticism for failing to meet the needs of tens of thousands of people. How would it ensure a supply to Naya Nazimabad? Sohail explained that it helped that they are located right near Hub, the dam from where Karachi gets its water. “Both the main supply conduits pass near the project,” he added. “And I don’t see any reason for us to be denied the supply.”

http://tribune.com.pk/story/294569/naya-nazimabad-city-big-business...

Comment by Riaz Haq on September 19, 2012 at 11:13pm

Here's an Express Tribune story of real estate boom in Faisalabad, Pakistan:

Yet unlike stories of most other business shutdowns, Crescent Sugar Mills’ decline came not because of economic slowdown, but rather the economic success of the city – and especially the neighbourhood – it is located in. The factory is 100-acre complex in Nishatabad, a neighbourhood in Faisalabad that used to be on the outskirts of the city, but has increasingly become host to residences that house the city’s growing affluent middle class.

In the 1960s, Nishatabad was on the outskirts of the city, which allowed farmers to bring their sugar cane to the factory easily, using large trailers and trucks. As the decades wore on and Faisalabad’s middle class grew, however, many of the outer areas of the city began going through gentrification, and became residential neighbourhoods.

With the advent of more residences, the city government began placing restrictions on the movement of trucks and trailers that brought in the sugarcane to the factory. Many of the roads that had been used by the trucks were blocked off altogether for heavy traffic. As a result, the company’s logistics cost increased significantly, making it difficult for the mill to compete in the highly commoditised sugar market.

“With every passing crushing season, our mill’s financial health was going from bad to worse. We had no choice but to close down the unit permanently,” said Naveed Gulzar, a director at Crescent Sugar Mills.

But the higher transportation cost appears to be only one reason for the mill’s closure. Another, more compelling reason, appears to be the gentrification of the neighbourhood itself. The Crescent Group owns 150 acres in Nishatabad, with the sugar mill taking up 100 acres and a paper board mill (shut down about a decade ago) taking up the remaining land.

While both of these businesses were going through squeezed margins, the value of the real estate on which they were sitting was skyrocketing. At a certain point, it no longer made sense to manufacture low-margin commodities on prime residential real estate less than 10 minutes drive from the Faisalabad city centre.

And so the group has decided to shut down the factory, sell off the machinery, bulldoze the factory buildings and instead construct a residential colony, with all sorts of amenities, including a shopping mall, a hospital, schools, and colleges, said Gulzar.

The Crescent Group is not looking to exit the manufacturing business altogether but will no longer be in the sugar business. Instead, the board of directors has decided to open up a cotton spinning mill – that manufactures cotton yarn – for export. The factory, however, will be in a rural area, for which the group has already bought land.

“This land is too expensive to set up a factory here,” said Gulzar. “It is prime Faisalabad real estate.”

http://tribune.com.pk/story/434474/shifting-trends-economic-boom-sh...

Comment by Riaz Haq on December 18, 2013 at 10:12pm

Here's News story on gated communities in Karachi:

KARACHI: Nestled between Safari Park and apartment complexes that define Gulistan-e-Jauhar; lies the KDA Overseas Housing Society. Getting inside the securely guarded compound means offers a glimpse into a lifestyle very different from the crime infested areas that surround the society.

Children are seen riding merrily on their bikes with no adult supervision, while families and individuals can enjoy a peaceful evening along tree covered lanes.

It’s a scene that is at odds with what goes on outside. In general, Jauhar – as it’s called – remains crime ridden and violence prone. Most residents wouldn’t dream of a walk on their own, let alone with families. Increasingly, those who can afford it are moving to safer locales – the overseas society amongst them.

It’s a trend that’s increasing across the city. Gated communities in Karachi have increased by at least 20 percent due to the volatile law and order situation.

The rising threats of kidnapping for ransom and extortion are also major reasons that citizens prefer to live in barred streets.

However, as supply remains limited, gated communities tend to be expensive. Aqeel Karim Dhedi, Chairman of AKD Group, said peole prefer Clifton and Defence due to stability in rental and sale prices.

Dhedi said gated communities have better security arrangements. No outsiders are allowed to enter without reference from residents. This enables residents to enjoy a peaceful environment with their families. Children can move around without any fear. He added that new gated communities are offering a variety of facilities including sports complex, parks, health club, and play grounds, super markets, mosques, schools, shopping arcades, health centers and much more.

Besides the luxuries, another reason to move into a gated community is that it reduces the maintenance cost for security, sanitation, and other general utilities as a fixed monthly charge. The same is much higher in case of a normal residence. For example the maintenance cost in Creek Vista apartment is Rs.10,500 with additional charges for generator and water.

But it’s the new upcoming projects - apartments and houses that redefine the elite urban living experience- that are gated communities in the real sense. Apartment complexes include high speed and personal elevators, servant quarters and backup power. All things required for everyday existence will be available within their barriers.

Mohammad Shafi Jakvani CEO CITI Associates deals with properties in Defence, Clifton, and Shara-e Faysal. He said that the demand for gated community has made their prices appear to be on fire.

This demand that has led to the development of schemes such as LuckyOne at Rahid Minhas Road, BT Icon in Clifton, Com3 Clifton and AKD’s ARKADIAN in Defence Phase VIII. A joint venture between DHA and AKD group, it’s expected to be launched just after Eid. The prices are expected to be in the range of Rs.40million to Rs.50 million, Mohammad Shafi Jakvani said.

Com3’s prices are in the range of Rs.20million to 40 million depending upon the size and location of the property. Three to four bed rooms apartments and duplex houses (two floor apartments) are being offered on 40 months installments, a Com3 Official told the News.

LuckyOne is the first project to offer high end residences for the upper middle income group in the down town area. There will eight towers 1232 apartments of three and four bedrooms, with all facilities available in any of the upcoming gated communities. The most important thing is that the project will generate power itself to avoid load shedding, said Nasir Aziz, technical director at Luckyone .

http://www.thenews.com.pk/Todays-News-3-192729-Gated-communities-of...

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