The social issues of Karachi examined within the framework of environmental concerns.

Arif Hasan highlighted the impact of poverty on education, indicating that many families in Karachi can only afford to send one child to school. He emphasized the importance of considering the city’s old buildings in discussions related to climate change.

In Karachi, the launch of the second edition of the five-day winter school titled “Environmental Change, Societies at Risk, and Social Vulnerabilities in South Asia” at the Institute of Business Administration (IBA) commenced with a series of insightful discussions by experts. This event, jointly organized by IBA and the Centre for South Asian and Himalayan Studies in Paris (CESAH, CNRS-EHESS), featured an array of discussions shedding light on the intertwined aspects of environment and society.

During his keynote speech, architect and town planner Arif Hasan not only delved into the technical implications of climate change but also underscored its profound social impact on the city. Hasan elaborated on Karachi’s societal and infrastructural challenges while emphasizing its diverse nature, noting its uniqueness within the broader context of Pakistan.

Pointing out the city’s ethnic diversity, Hasan highlighted that while Lahore and Peshawar have dominant linguistic majorities, Karachi boasts a mosaic of ethnicities and languages. He lamented how political turmoil in the 1990s led to divisions among Karachi’s residents, with visible security concerns prompting affluent individuals to construct towering walls, resembling fortresses.

Simultaneously, the majority of Karachi’s population faced housing shortages, resulting in the creation of makeshift settlements known as katchi abadis. These settlements expanded horizontally, erecting multi-story structures lacking proper ventilation, shops cropping up on ground floors.

In this context, Hasan brought attention to the educational dilemma faced by families grappling with poverty. He highlighted that due to financial constraints, many families could afford to educate only one child, leading to internal strife and limited opportunities, particularly for girls.

Moreover, Hasan questioned the focus on new building designs and settlements in conversations about climate change, raising concerns about the fate of old buildings and settlements. He emphasized that these areas remain densely populated, lacking amenities like parks or proper sewage treatment, leading to far-reaching consequences.

The event also featured other speakers such as Prof Nausheen H. Anwar, who discussed the impact of extreme heat on Earth’s landmass, and Dr. Sylvie Fanchette, who shed light on densely populated deltas grappling with climate changes. Additionally, Dr. Bishawjit Mallick addressed the concept of voluntary non-migration based on factors of livelihood resilience.

IBA Executive Director Dr. S. Akbar Zaidi, geographer Dr. Remy Delage, and Michael Boivin of CESAH, CNRS-EHESS extended a warm welcome to the students and participants attending the Winter School.

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