Karachi Going High: 1947 ft Building on the Horizon

Posted on February 28, 2007
Filed Under >Adil Najam, Architecture, Economy & Development, Environment, Politics
Total Views: 130121

Adil Najam

Speaking at inaugural ceremony of the Bagh Ibne Qasim in Karachi, General Musharraf announced that one of the tallest buildings in the world is planned to be built in Karachi.

How tall, you ask? Well, the word from the top is all of 1947 feet. One assumes that this number is no coincidence. I guess there will be something special on the 14th floor and somehow August will also be commemorated.

According to the Daily Times (Feburary 28, 2007):

One of the tallest buildings of the world will be constructed in Karachi, President Pervez Musharraf told a ceremony in connection with the inauguration of Bagh Ibn-e-Qasim here on Tuesday night. The president referred to a project pertaining to a beach and island’s development, and said this would be a mega project of international standard. He said that land for the project would be reclaimed from the sea and added that the centre of the project would be a 1,947-foot high building. “Inshallah we will make it. We must show the world that this is an emerging, progressive and dynamic country and we are second to none. We know how to handle ourselves. We know what progress and prosperity means and that is what we need to show to everyone,� Musharraf said. The project would not affect the environment, he added.

There has been, of course, much fanfare about the Centaurus 7-star Hotel project in Islamabad, and I remain skeptical about the hyperbole accompanying these projects until I actually see them completed. I will reserve my comments on the trumpeted building itself until I see actual plans and designs for it and until it actually materializes in reality. One has heard of too many such grandiose projects that never transpired to get all excited about them just yet. In this case, the legality and appropriateness of the sale of the island where this is to be built remains in question.
However, I find the logic presented by General Musharraf to be rather confusing, even disturbing. I certainly share his desire to be seen as “an emerging, progressive and dynamic country” that is “second to none.” However, it escapes me how building a huge tower will make as any of the above. Moreover, I have absolutely no idea what he means by “we know how to handle ourselves” or how constructing such a building will demonstrate that we do. Most importantly, I do know that “progress and prosperity” is to be measured by means other than the height of one’s buildings.

I do not wish to sound cynical. I really do not. If this actually happens, and if it is well designed and well executed, I will join with my fellow-Pakistanis in a collective bhangra. But, until then, I remain skeptical mostly because the motivation to build this seems misplaced. There could be many good reasons to build such a grand project. And there are many good ways to achieve the objective of demonstrating that Pakistan is “an emerging, progressive and dynamic country” that is “second to none.” But neither is the best match for the other.

To be fair, I think the other things that Gen. Musharraf said in the speech – which were not reported in the story about the tall building – were more on the mark on how to demonstrate that “we know what progress and prosperity means.” For example, according to The News story on the same event the President did show a deeper understanding of the city’s challenges and priorities:

President Musharraf listed a lack of clean drinking water, the electricity shortage, and a lack of cleanliness as Karachi’s current problems. He said the electricity problem would also be resolved, and that the city had required 2200 megawatts of electricity per year but now with a population of 15 million its power requirement has risen to 3300 megawatts. Karachi’s demand has increased by 50 percent, he added. But he said We will resolve this problem. Referring to the city’s water problem, he said he had provided K-III for 100 mgd water and now he would back up the K-IV water project. President Musharraf said that Karachi city should also be cleaned and for this purpose negotiations were be held with a private firm for a solid waste management project which would resolve the cleanliness problem.

However, the same story also points out that the President “directed environmental experts not to create hurdles in the development of the city” and went on to say:

If we have to make roads for the development of the city and for this if we have to chop the trees, we will do it but then we will also plant more trees.

He was obviously referring to environmental objections to the development of the islands off Karachi. This attitude of seeing environmental concerns as ‘hurdles’ to development does not bode well and is at least two decades outdated in the policy thinking on sustainable development. Having environment and development go together is not only possible; it is absolutely necessary for countries like Pakistan and cities like Karachi. So, President sahab, have your tall building if it pleases you; but, please, do not pit environment versus development in this way. It serves neither the interests of development, nor of the environment, and certainly not of Karachi or of Pakistan.

76 responses to “Karachi Going High: 1947 ft Building on the Horizon”

  1. […] just read this post on All Things Pakistan about plans for a 1947 feet building in Karachi. 1947 was the year of independence for Pakistan and holds a lot of significance, but 1947 feet (or […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *