One would expect that Karachi, as the country’s largest city in terms of both population and total area, would also be somewhere close to the top in terms of living standards for its nearly 15 million inhabitants. But this is far from the case, and the Supreme Court (SC) confirmed as much in a ruling centred around illegal encroachments in parks, playgrounds, pedestrian walkways and other amenities in the city. The order by the SC warned of an imminent “collapse” of the city and questioned the provincial and local governments willingness to work on the development of the city.

Remember, this is the city that contributes the most to the economy of Pakistan; letting it slowly sink to the depths of underdevelopment will not only affect the city, it can potentially devastate the whole country. One can lay the blame for the worsening condition of the city on the provincial government of the Pakistan Peoples’ Party, which has controlled the province since 2007 without any tangible development seen in the metropolis since then.

It is indeed important for the city to made more liveable, and that includes improving on public services such as sewage, water treatment plants and greater allowances for the construction of pedestrian walkways, parks and other green areas that not only look to improve the city aesthetically, but also counter issues such as rapid degradation of the environment through pollution and offer such much needed shelter for the city’s inhabitants.

The problem however, cannot only be solved through the anti-encroachment drives most political parties are fond of; Karachi has vast swathes of land illegally occupied with makeshift housing solutions and merchants using this land to set up shop. However, it is important to remember that apart from the land mafia, many members of these communities are mostly impoverished and the government evicting them without providing an alternative will be tantamount to a death sentence for many.

In the haste to follow the apex court’s orders, the local government will in all likelihood hasten to remove visible signs of encroachment from the city, which will affect the poorest, but will hesitate on taking on the powerful land-grabbers that have actually caused the city to fall into its current decrepit state. For Karachi to brought back out of the mess it is in, long term plans about improving the state of amenities in the city will have to be developed, with sustainability in mind to ensure that any development in the city is both lasting and caters to the welfare of its citizens.