Withing the space of two days, two different structures have suffered critical failure in Karachi; both with devastating consequences.

On Friday, at least 70 people were treated for chlorine poising due a gas leak at Engro Polymer & Chemicals Plant in Karachi’s Port Qasim area. A day earlier, 14 people, including women and children, died and 17 others suffered injuries when an under-construction building in the Gulbahar area of Nazimabad fell upon two adjacent buildings, bringing all the three multi-storey buildings crashing down; even now the death toll continues to rise.

Barely 2 weeks ago another mysterious leak at the Qemari port area left 14 dead and hundreds hospitalized. These highly dangerous and frequent collapses point toward a failure of the city’s management – specifically regarding its construction standards, building regulations, zoning laws and safety inspections. The Gulbahar tragedy is a glaring depiction to the extent of this laxity. Extra floors added in contravention to laws, and residential buildings built in inadequate space. It is the job of the city management to prevent such structure from being approved in the first place.

Not less egregious are the lapses on industrial properties. Facilities handling such large quantities of unsafe chemicals need the strictest enforcement of safety regulations. Across the world such buildings and their adjacent infrastructure are the first priority of inspectors – in Karachi two incidents happened weeks apart, both harming hundreds.

Karachi - the fifth largest city in the world by population - is an ageing metropolis which is spread far and continues semi-planned sprawl. High population density and poverty exasperate the deteriorating living standards further.  If the Sindh government and Karachi administration continue to ignore the proper maintenance of the of the city the potential for disaster is immense.