We all know that planning in our major cities is nightmarish. The infrastructure in the largest centres, like Karachi and Lahore, is close to collapse as people pour in, desperate for a better life. A report from Bath Island in Karachi explains what has gone wrong and why. The report speaks of a total lack of coordination between the agencies involved in approving new buildings and providing them the infrastructure they need. While 15 new apartment blocks are to go up in that locality, each housing some 10 times the people who lived in the older residences they replace, the city’s water board says it was not consulted and cannot provide this necessity to them. While the Metropolitan Corporation and the Sindh Building Control Authority are part of the “master plan” under which approval is given, it seems the water board has been left out completely.
The top city administration says it is trying to sort out matters. But the fact also is that very similar scenarios exist everywhere. The haphazard planning, in virtually every urban centre, has created a situation that resembles chaos. This is visible in many areas of Karachi and Lahore, but also in cities such as Faisalabad, Hyderabad and Rawalpindi, as well as others. Clearly, we need better planning with all relevant agencies involved in this process. But we need also to think about just how many people our cities can accommodate. Beyond better urban planning, the migration from rural and smaller urban areas across the country also needs to be looked at. It is simply not sustainable. More work opportunities need to be created in places everywhere and more amenities provided to check the tide of people entering the biggest cities, while at the same time, putting in place a plan to check the collapse of the structures intended to meet the needs of people. The fact is that they are under tremendous strain anyway and without better planning and organisation can simply not survive as pressures on them grow.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 9th, 2013.