Over two centuries from a small fishing village endowed with a fine natural harbor, Karachi has today grown to a bustling city of over 12 million inhabitants. Karachi is still the country’s largest city offering major employment opportunities which in turn attract a continuing influx of workers and their families from all over Pakistan. The City’s ports serve as the principal gateway for Pakistan’s external trade and play an important role in the East/West shipping trade link. The climate is generally moderate though in periods of high humidity (which average 75%) temperature can reach 110 F degrees in May and June while in January may drop to 40 F degrees. The city lies in the monsoon belt and generally received its main rainfall in July and August, with an annual mean of about 291 millimeters.
Karachi was the capital of Pakistan uptil 1959 when the seat of Government was transferred to Islamabad. Since that time the population has multiplied and continues to grow at about 5% per annum, somewhat higher than the 4.5% national urban average. The city remains the capital of Sindh Province and houses about 29% of the entire provincial population in one million dwellings covering a metropolitan area of over 3600 sq. km.
The economy of Karachi is mainly based on trade and industry. There are over 2000 industrial units in the organized sector producing a wide range of goods such as textiles, paper and cardboard, leather, glass, rubber and plastics, garments, pharmaceuticals, detergents, food and beverage etc. Concentration of units in heavy industries such as shipbuilding, ship breaking and repairs, steel making, vehicle assembly, electrical goods oil refinery and machine tools are also found. The city is also a center of learning having a number of universities, five polytechnics, over fifty colleges and more than 3300 primary, middle and high schools. Health care is delivered by some 10 major hospitals, a large numbers of clinics and dispensaries. Karachi continues to be the country’s main financial centre.
The city is built on flat topped parallel hills devoid of vegetation, with wide intervening plains between the two dry river beds of the Malir and Lyari rivers. These rivers only flow for short periods of the year and act year round as recipients for the city’s waste water.
The predominant impression of the city is of a mixture of fine civic buildings, modern office blocks and hotels, high rise apartments, spacious villas, and medium to high-density housing developments randomly interspersed with low income or slum type dwellings. It is estimated that about one-third of Karachi’s population lives in such slum areas known locally as “Katchi Abadis”. Efforts are being made by KMC to upgrade and regularize such areas and some form of control is beginning to emerge.