Although Larkano is a 300-year old settlement, it was never an important urban centre in the past. Construction of the old Ghar Canal increased the importance of Larkano which strategically located to the southern bank of this canal started growing rapidly. Urban growth followed a western direction. The construction of the railway line (Karachi-Quetta main line) to the west of the city did not manage to divert growth from this direction and the city soon expanded on both sides of the line. Finally, growth towards the west encountered a more formidable obstacle, Rice Canal, and changed course following a northeast-southwest axis. In the recent years, scattered development spread on both sides of the Rice Canal after several new bridges were constructed. Sachal Sarmast Colony and Vakeel Colony which can be called the posh areas of Larkano are located across the Rice Canal.
Throughout its various stages of development, the city never followed an organised pattern or a street plan. For this reason, Larkano presents an ad hoc, or 'spontaneous' type of development. At present it exhibits a 'radial' form complemented by a number of semi-circular streets. The road network in the city provides a number of north-south direct links, but lacks, badly needed, direct and effective links between its eastern and western parts. It is hoped that this situation will improve after the overhead bridge is opened to traffic.
As per the 1985 ODP survey, building conditions in Larkano are appalling since almost 50% of the stock could be safely used only for a period of 5 to 10 years. A survey crried out in 1990 shows that although limited improvement of the building stock happened during the last years, and the situation regarding the building stock conditions remains percentage wise more or less the same. The worst building conditions are found in the city centre and in the Katchi Abadi areas (slums) at the periphery of the city. Due to this situation, extensive housing reconstruction programmes should be undertaken in order to replace dangerious structures in the city.
Larkano grew from a small village alont the southern bank of Ghar Canal to an important city comprising many mature residential neighbourhoods and some recent housing extensions. The various residential areas in Larkano can be grouped as follows:
New areas found to the south of the city are incorporated in a functional way to the urban tissue; whereas areas found to the north and northwest are scattered at a distance from the main city.
If compared to the rapid population increase of the city, very few new residential areas exist in Larkano. This fact has serious repercussions on urban development (compact development whith the city limits, overcrowding, unauthorised development) and is attributed to the following reasons:
Inability of the city to expand in a proper and formal manner has resulted in the creation of many katchi abadi areas which at present consitute the only substantial outlet of residential growth in the city. According to information recently collected from Larkano Division HQs, there are 13 katchi abadis in the city covering 121.4 ha (300 acres) and housing about 30,000 people (17% of the city population). Most katchi abadis are found to the north, northwest and southwest of the city centre, beyond the compact city areas.
Three major employment-zones exist in Larkano, i.e. the administrative-cum-institutional zone, the Central Business District (CBD) and the industrial area. The first two zones can be easily identifies in the city. Industrial development occurs mostly to the north and northwest of the city (beyond Rice Canal) in a rather haphazard manner. However, an industrial area is on the making in the norht and it is hoped that this area will constitute a proper location outlet for industries in the future attracting scattered installations.
All employment zones in Larkano include substantial residential development. This residential development occurs either on upper storeys of two- or three-storey buildings in CBD or in distinct small blocks within the remaining zones.
The Larkano CBD is found in the easter part of the city and is bound by the railway track and the now reclaimed course of Ghar Canal. This area has an intricate pattern of narrow streets and faces numerous congestion problems. Bandar Road is the main traffic artery in the CBD. Numerous encroachments have reduced this road to a narrow commercial street.
The administrative-cum-institutional zone is located within a triangular area bound by the Rice Canal and the railway tracks (main line and Sukkur branch). Almost all important administrative offices are located within this zone. Beside offices, institutions such as Chandka Medical College, the Civil Hospital, and the Degree College are located in this area. Large housing estates for state employess exist also within the zone.
Larkano acts as a regional centre for commercial activity, specifically wholesale and retail trade. This fact is attested by its high average share of employment in trade activity. In 1985 the city had 3750 commercial establishments, run by around 11,000 persons including self-employed owners.