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Citizen Voices

Challenges Of Urban Sprawl

Globally, over half of the population lives in urban areas today. By 2045, the world’s urban population will increase by 1.5 times to 6 billion. To cope this, city’s leaders must move quickly to plan for growth and provide the basic services, infrastructure, and affordable housing for their expanding populations’ need. (World Bank Report)

Cities are deemed to be a platform where interaction of different ideas, talents, goods, business services, firms, and human creativity happens. All these factors are considered to be a catalyst for growth and development of an economy. Since last 5-6 decades, Pakistan has been facing low economic growth and development. Cities performance is closely linked with the growth and development of a country. Florida et al. stated bluffly that “cities have become the basic platforms for global innovation and economic growth, supplanting the corporation as the fundamental organizing unit of the contemporary economy.”

Cities are the places where innovation and human creativity developed. History of cities reveal that great empires and cultures have been developed around cities. Cities make a lot of sense for humans where they are not far away from each other. Schools, shops, and hospitals are more easily accessible. knowledge-spillover effect is more prominent in urnan than in rural areas.

Most of the productions are taking place in the cities and productivity of any city determines the richness and poorness of the country. Statistics show that more than 80% of global GDP is generated in cities.

Moreover, urban transportation in Pakistan is focused on cars, widening of roads, building redundant bridges and underpasses and the recent trend of fenced Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) systems. Pedestrian paths are poorly designed. Despite the fact that the world is beginning to make the use of the car in inner city more expensive for more people and energy-friendly community. Encouraging mixed use density will enable walkability and connectivity in cities.

During a virtual webinar, Ken Greenberg (an architect and urban designer from Toronto) said, enabling the shift from the mid-20th century land-use segregated, auto-oriented city to a more sustainable, compact, mixed urban form. A key component of this shift is a reassessment of the reliance on the automobiles, the technology that drove it and its appropriate place in the urban context. Moreover, in a second equally powerful paradigm shift we are now on the rebound from the post-war car-centric vision. Big forces propelling this are-Economic, Demographic and Environmental.

Urbanization in Pakistan is taking place very rapidly as investigated that Pakistan up to 70% is now urbanized. Pakistan hosts some of the large cities of the world, such as Karachi, Lahore, Faisalabad etc. having tendency for urban sprawling as evident from Faisalabad.

Pakistan’s City planning is inspired by the Harvard advisory group, some donor, foreign consultants; the American suburban model with cars is followed. Moreover, we have very rigid American style zoning system with deep separation between commercial centers, housing center, schools and hospitals. There is a very deep aversion to letting downtown development. Our downtown have no pedestrian or zebra crossing which is prerequisite in today’s cities planning .

Moreover, we built highways within city center with no walkability and rare sidewalks. We have no parking charges yet, no zoning for the poor, and no place for business, and street vendor is almost banned.

To build 5 million houses outside the cities is another dilemma. PM offers the package through subsidy and mortgage even though these people have no jobs, no profile to obligate mortgage; how this could work is questionable.

Pakistan needs immediate steps towards removing impediments to ensure well-functioning of cities and smooth economic growth. Following are some recommendations:

  • The presence of Cantonments of army within the city hinders business activities, demolishing it will reduce government expenditure and increase revenue and on the other hand will stimulate entrepreneurship and commercial activities.
  • The much-hyped youth bulge of Pakistan reflects in government youth packages. Pakistan must pull out all the stops for increasing growth and developing employment opportunities.
  • Cut-throat competition in cities may hinder the growth process. City’s authority should regulate such type of competition in cities.
  • Devolution and people-centric city government is needed for cities to work efficiently.
  • City cores should be allowed mix used (commercial, residential, recreational and educational). It will solve the transportation problem mostly. Introduce cycles instead of heavy vehicles. It will reduce the pollution problem and will also mitigate the impact of COVID-19 in this pandemic time
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Naya Daur