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Historical Landmarks and Architecture Face Neglect in Karachi
   2015-12-26 19:44:53    CRIENGLISH.com      Web Editor: Guan Chao

A file photo of a historical building in southern Pakistan¡¯s Karachi. [Photo: Xinhua]

Pakistan's port city of Karachi is full of history. Yet years of neglect have left many of the town's colonial era structures in a state of decay.

CRI's Victor Ning reports.


Karachi's old town center boasts an impressive list of historic landmarks and heritage sites. The architecture serves as a good reminder of the city's multi-faceted past. However, instead of being preserved, many of these old structures have been abandoned or are being allowed to fall apart.

Dr Noman Ahmed chairs the Department of Architecture & Planning at the Nadirshaw Eduljee Dinshaw (NED) University of Engineering & Technology. He explains that economic incentives are driving the phenomenon.

"In many cases, the buildings that we have identified, they actually exist in places where the land values have increased tremendously. And as a consequence, the owners and occupants are of the view that if these buildings are allowed to deteriorate and completely get demolished, then maybe, there will be a time, when they will be able to get them removed and construct new high-rise, high-density structures, which will be more lucrative and rewarding for them."
Environmental damage has also contributed to the deterioration of these buildings. Air pollution, proximity to the ocean and local industries are all contributing factors.

Yasmeen Lari runs the Heritage Foundation, which aims to save the city's historical sites. She says the public should raise their awareness of the value of these buildings.

"So, I think, all the politicians have to be very mindful. And unless they are mindful, I feel, they are¡­ either they make them into touristic attractions, so they destroy heritage from that point of view, because rather than keeping the authenticity and integrity of the structure, they start making them modern, or making them look new, which is, again, not the thing to be done. So, there is a lot of awareness that we have to bring about among our politicians, among the general public. "

The Heritage Foundation has helped to catalogue Karachi's architectural legacy, and a list of 600 historical structures that should be preserved has been published. It also lobbied successfully for a law that bans destruction and demolition of these buildings.

However, experts say sometimes the buildings can be de-listed so high rise developments can replace them.

The local government has launched preservation efforts. It added another 1,000 more buildings to the initial list of 600. Dr. Niaz Abbasi serves as the Secretary of Culture, Tourism and Antiquities for the provincial government of Sindh. He says lack of funding has been a hindering factor.

"Whichever is building in a dilapidated condition and it requires some urgent intervention, Government of Sindh is providing funds and we are doing the conservation work there. But certainly it requires a lot of funds."

The lack of funding seems to be a recurring theme, despite massive support by international governments such as the US and Germany, in addition to local and international organizations.

Preservation work is also carried out on a small scale by private individuals and charities. Even when funding isn't an issue, the lack of building materials, along with a shortage of skilled labor and expertise, has also challenged restoration efforts.

For CRI, I'm Victor Ning.



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