Karachi, a Clean City Once, Is Now a Trough of Urban Squalor

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KARACHI, Pakistan, July 10— Once Karachi was the cleanest city in the East, with tidy streets. At midday the British drove ‐to beach huts for a swim in the cool Arabian Sea.

The Talk of Karachi

“Now we are a city with every conceivable urban problem,” said Abbas Hussain Shah, the burly, fast‐stepping director general of the Karachi Development Authority. “Lack of water, sewerage, drainage, housing, transportation—name the problem and Karachi has it. We are trying to deal with these things, but it’s like climbing a wave that tends to overtake you each time.”

The Pakistani Government Is struggling to lift Karachi, the nation’s former capital, out of the urban squalor that keeps at least 200,000 people sleeping on the streets and more than a million living in hovels made of burlap bags and mud. To the Government —as well as to local planners—Karachi is an embarrassment.

“What has happened to the city hurts me no end,” President Zulfikar Ali Bhutto said recently. “We have to make efforts to improve it, clean it, do something. We’ve had this wholesale influx of refugees, hordes of them, and now we have a city of slums and disease. We have to do something now.”

If Karachi is gripped by intensifying chaos and despair, it is also the most throbbing city in Pakistan. The literacy rate is the nation’s highest More than 80 per cent of large‐scale business is in Karachi, which provides nearly half the income‐tax revenues.

On the negative side, what especially disturbed the Government was a recent statement by a Thai health official who was quoted as telling a World Bank meeting that Karachi was rated the dirtiest city in the world, followed by Calcutta. The official later denied making the comparison, but Pakistanis concede that the city is swollen with packed slums and swept by miles and miles of human misery.

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