The Economist Intelligence Unit has released a new report on the liveability of major cities around the world according to which, Karachi is ranked fourth from the bottom amongst the 132 cities ranked. Karachi was also in the bottom 10 in the 2005 installment of the index.
At the very top of the list are Vancouver, Melbourne, Vienna, Perth and Toronto, in that order, starting with the best. And at the very bottom are Kathmandu, Karachi, Lagos, Dhaka and Algiers, in that order, ending with the worst. (I have not yet been able to get hold of the full report so cannot say which other Pakistani cities are listed and at which rank; if any reader knows this, please do share). The weighted index is measured from 0 to 100 in per cent points – with 0% being exceptional quality and 100% being intolerable. Karachi’s Liveability is placed at 58.6% on this scale.
According to The Eonomist’s website:
With low crime, little threat from instability or terrorism and a highly developed transport and communications infrastructure, Canada and Australia are home to the most liveable destinations in the world… While liveability considers factors of recreational and cultural activity, the “big city buzz” can hamper the scores of some cities, although not to the extent that a city will present significant challenges. Global centres such as New York, Tokyo, London, Hong Kong and Paris may find themselves let down precisely because of their size and attractiveness. Traffic congestion and higher crime rates associated with large urban centres have, to some extent, offset the obvious cultural gains of living in such locations. This has also been compounded by fears that large centres like London and New York will remain targets for high-profile terror attacks. Despite this, most major centres do not present any significant challenges to liveability.
Of the 132 cities surveyed, only nine cities present the worst-case scenario in which most aspects of living quality are severely restricted, reflecting general improvements on a global scale in areas such as education, health care and infrastructure. Four of these are in Asia, mainly South Asia. The other five are in Africa (accounting for three) and the Middle East (accounting for two). The threat of terrorism and civil unrest is a major contributing factor to the cities that suffer from the worst liveability scores, as are poor development indicators. Algiers is the least liveable destination in the survey, with a score of 64.7%.
It is, of course, sad but not really surprising that Karachi comes out where it comes out. As this blog has discussed on so many occasions, it is a city (like many other in Pakistan) beset with problems. Traffic congestion, infrastructure collapse, bad planning, unprepared for its own weather, a near-perpetual energy crisis, political unrest, terror incidents, and much more. Of course, as we have also highlighted, Karachi also remains a city that is alive with colorful memories, intellectual discourse, incredible food, a zest for life, talented people, some really far out attractions, a fascinating history, buzzing markets, wonderful architecture and much more.
It would be too easy to concoct theories about how this ranking is some grant Western conspiracy against Karachi, against Pakistan, against Islam. It is not.
You can quibble about whether Karachi is the 4th lowest ranked or should be the 8th or the 10th or the 20th. But you cannot deny the fact that it has some very serious problems – as do, but more than, all other major cities in Pakistan. These are not problems that can be solved by erecting tall towers. They need deeper, more meaningful and more real solution… not just from government, but from all of us. The question, of course, is not just why the ranking is what it is, but what it would take to improve it.
Note: Thanks to TeethMaestro’s post at Karachi Metroblog for alerting me to this.