The Rawalpindi Development Authority (RDA) recently built a wall around a piece of land in the Dhoke Kaku Shah neighbourhood, where construction work on a 90-kanal public park is to begin soon. While a public park is good news for the residents of any community, this park has brought an entire package of nuisance with it. A section of the wall, built to secure land for the park, now runs across a pathway, which had been in use for decades by the residents of the area and enabled them to access their homes. That access is now no longer available to them as the wall has blocked the entry to the houses in the vicinity. The residents have made every effort in search of relief, including approaching a former PML-N MNA and filing a case in a civil court, but to little avail.
The above case is one of many examples of the authorities’ lack of urban planning acumen. Our cities and towns have witnessed planning disasters, with citizens often not being left with any option, but to accept their ‘fate’. Effective urban planning is meant to make the lives of citizens better, but here too often we see the lack of ability of planners to foresee the kind of impact projects may have on citizens. In addition, too often, projects have been approved without any environmental impact assessment and residents adversely impacted have been made false promises of compensations that they never receive. While the Dhoke Kaku Shah case may have only had a negative impact on a limited number of residents, it reflects a much bigger problem. It is important that the authorities realise that a nation’s economic fortunes often depend on how well-integrated urban planning is with the country’s economic policymaking. There is too much reliance on temporary solutions and big-ticket, highly visible projects, and too little on the well-being of citizens. While the RDA may eventually be successful in bringing the affected residents to a point of compromise, there is little doubt that our planning departments need an extensive overhaul.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 6th, 2016.
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