A solution, one that acknowledges ground realities as opposed to taking a top-down approach, was recently proposed by the local chapter of an equine welfare charity. Highlighting the vital role Karachi’s donkeys play in moving the city’s refuse, particularly in underserviced areas, as well as the risks to donkeys and their owners, it proposed not only providing adequate support and services to these informal workers, but also integrating them with Karachi’s municipal and solid waste management authorities.
The suggestion is sound, as it manages to address several overlapping issues at once: providing public services to vulnerable communities; regularising informal livelihoods; and building a culture for animal welfare.
Tens of thousands of Karachi’s households rely on the operations of donkey carts. Relatively small-scale interventions such as veterinary care for working donkeys, social safety nets for their owners, and training and resources to limit exposure to health risks, can mean the difference between sustainable livelihoods and deeper poverty.
This, of course, is only one part of the equation to resolving Karachi’s garbage crisis. But, given the pollution-linked and vector-borne diseases associated with it, policymakers must acknowledge that accountable, responsive governance is not brought about through flashy infrastructure projects alone.
A pro-poor strategy that recognises the needs of marginalised communities can be both efficient and humane.