Karachi Needs to Welcome its ‘Visitors’

Nov 24th, 2014 | By | Category: Pakistan

796164-Anwarcopy-1416769736-316-640x480In Karachi, a critical cause for urban expansion and haphazard growth patterns has been our incapacity to accommodate, in terms of provision of services and integration, the large number of migrants that have found their way into Karachi, mainly from other parts of Pakistan.

In many other highly populated cities worldwide, successful optimisation has taken place for gaining productive dividends offered by a multi-ethnic, multi-lingual and multi-religious mix of population by facilitating a vibrant cultural and artistic sense of the city and by benefiting from the diverse skill sets and innovations that such communities offer.

Unfortunately in Karachi, instead of merging and enriching ourselves socially and culturally, we are becoming polarised along ethnic, religious and political divides.

There is now a new trigger to mass scale migration; climate change. Prolonged droughts that manifest in creating food insecurity, and large-scale flooding adversely impacting housing and livelihoods of communities are some of the climate change scenarios causing migrations.

A large number of communities from rural Sindh recently found refuge in Karachi due to the floods. Such migrations are likely to increase in scale and magnitude, and Karachi being the largest employment provider of the country is the favoured destination for these migrants. However, is Karachi prepared for this and can this possibly evolving trend be put to a beneficial use?

Lisa-Michéle Bott, a student of the University of Hamburg, Department of Earth Sciences, Institute of Geography, has conducted her thesis for her MSc in Geography – Migration and Adaptation to Climate Change in Pakistan: Theoretical Framework and Stakeholder Perception -in 2013. She has argued that, while in the media and many policies the relationship between migration and adaptation is still stigmatised, there is a positive potential for considering migration as part of the solution.

Her findings indicate that while [labour] migration is already a common strategy for livelihood and risk diversification in Pakistan, migration is still excluded from any plans for national climate adaptation. Bott highlights the fact that Pakistan is highly vulnerable to climate change. In 2010, one-fifth of the country’s land area was inundated by the largest flood in its history. Her research in Pakistan investigated migration as an effective contribution to climate adaptation, either by the reduction of vulnerabilities or by functioning as a livelihood strategy.

According to her findings, under favourable conditions, migration can contribute to the development and adaptation to climate change. She developed a theoretical framework of migration as an opportunity for adaptation to climate change, by combining strategies for adaption with opportunities to migrate. She has looked into the possible contribution of people leaving Pakistan and settling abroad and finds that emerging trans-regional and national social networks and transfer of remittances and information enable people to better prepare and act for climate change adaptation.

Empirical results in her work show that migration can work as a substitute for the lack of state services to a certain extent. However, she cautions that this does not mean that governments are released from their responsibilities. Migration cannot be the only resource to build adaptation measures on. By contrast, national governments and the international community are in charge of providing an enabling environment and to involve migrants as active agents in adaptation plans for action. However, she feels that for migration to actively contribute to adaptation measures in Pakistan, barriers such as low literacy rate and lack of knowledge and awareness about climate change need to be overcome.

She concludes by arguing that the image of migration has to be changed now, and that by recognising the potential contribution of migration for adaptation to climate change means to involve people and to empower them to adapt and make them more resilient.

She also stresses that the presented strategies should be tackled regardless of climate change, but for development, human rights and disaster preparedness in general.

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