By: Engr. Sarfraz Nawaz
Imran Khan’s Vision for the Future
It is a well-known fact that Pakistan is facing a housing crisis, especially in the urban areas of the country, due to a number of factors. The burgeoning population of the country has spurred rural to urban migration that is taking place on an unprecedented scale at present. In addition, Pakistan is fast losing its green spaces, curtailing the country’s capabilities to fight the menace of climate change. This scenario presents a bleak picture of the Pakistan of future as the state lacked planning to effectively deal with the intertwined issues of population growth, housing crisis and environmental degradation. However, recently, Prime Minister Imran Khan came up with a vision for the country’s future cities when he tweeted a picture of a Pakistani city in the future, featuring tall buildings that will serve as ‘vertical cities’, allowing for more green spaces.
Although individual family units have become the popular choice for residence among Pakistanis in recent years, the solution to accommodate the country’s burgeoning urban population lies in multi-family housing. It is in this context that Prime Minister Imran Khan recently banned the construction of housing schemes on agri lands in Punjab. Saying that parks and trees should be protected, the premier directed the Punjab government to ensure the protection of agricultural lands in the province. He further directed the relevant authorities not to allow any housing scheme on the cultivatable lands. In his tweet, PM Khan shared an image showing future look of Lahore’s Azadi Chowk and said, “My vision for our future cities: to allow buildings to rise vertically & allow for more green spaces as Pak is one of the most environmentally-threatened countries. Avoiding large sprawling built-up areas will also allow easier provision of amenities to our urban dwellers.” He further stated: “Also, we are in the process of making laws to allow buildings, built to international safety standards, to go as high as in other cities across the world.”
Pakistan is the seventh-most populous country in the world. According to the 2017 census, its population is 207.7 million and has grown at the rate of 2.4 percent per year in the intercensal period. Its urban population, on the other hand, has grown at the rate of 2.7 percent per year during the same period and is estimated at 75.5 million. This growing population is the key factor behind rural-to-urban migration that is taking place at an unprecedented scale. This densification of population in cities is causing severe damages to the environment. Pakistan is already among the top ten countries worst hit by climatic changes. Karachi, the commercial and economic hub of Pakistan, has faced severe heat waves during the recent years and the biggest reason sought for this is the elimination of green spaces from the city.
Currently, the expansion of urban centres, in the absence of land- use planning or its implementation, is swallowing up valuable agricultural land and damaging the ecology of the regions in which the cities are located, depleting water resources and polluting water bodies. It is also destroying geological formations, forests and natural drainage systems. This is causing flooding and bringing about a rise in temperature, creating heat island effects in the urban areas especially in the high-density high-rise informal settlements. If unchecked, these environmental hazards will increase. There is a need for new building design and technology which is affordable for low-income groups (especially with relation to insulation of external walls and roofs of buildings and planting trees) to deal with the effects of climate change.
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