There is nothing which makes you proud like seeing your country and city prosper breaking norms and stereotypes! Something similar took place with the ‘City of Lights’, Karachi!

Termed as ‘Historic Karachi’ the city’s monuments from back in the days of British Raj were featured on World Monuments Fund website.

The Mendoza Building on Arambagh Road, near Pakistan Chowk, lies abandoned, 2011. Photo: HC-DAPNED

According to the WMF website, the development of megacities, urban agglomerations that now house tens of millions and continue to grow. Few cities illustrate this trend more dramatically than Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city and only port.

At the time of the partition of British India in 1947, Karachi was a major centre of commerce, with a population of approximately 450,000. Since then, the port city has seen an almost 50-fold increase in its population, a soaring growth rate set in motion by the population exchange between the two new countries and subsequently fueled by continued internal migration from rural parts of Pakistan.

The historic Max Denso Hall and Library on Muhammad Ali Jinnah (originally Bunder) Road is well-preserved but under-utilized, 2011. Photo: HC-DAPNED

This massive growth imperils the preservation of Karachi’s historic fabric, depriving its citizens of a unique cultural legacy that is visible from the imposing former offices of foreign and local businesses, to the grand residences of merchants, industrialists, and army officers, and to the landscaped open spaces that surround them.

Even though a large number of historic sites have been granted legal protection, the results of a recent survey were dispiriting: out of a sample of 700 buildings that were landmarked during the 1990s, 10 percent were demolished and 30 percent were found in a state of abandonment and neglect—a shocking rate of attrition.

The Yousuf Mansion on Muhammad Bin Qasim (originally Burnes) Road, 2011. Photo: HC-DAPNED

In recent years, the relaxation of zoning regulations has exacerbated the pressure on the historic urban environment, as urban planners try to address the mounting need for housing, infrastructure, transportation, energy, and employment.

The Nizam Mansion on the busy intersection of Muhammad Bin Qasim and Shahrah-e-Liaquat Roads has been abandoned and neglected for decades, 2011. Photo: HC-DAPNED

The 2018 World Monuments Watch calls attention to a slowly unfolding crisis and urges stakeholders, including property owners and development agencies, to seek new solutions for the revitalization of Karachi’s built heritage.