Managing Urbanisation In Pakistan

Managing Urbanisation In Pakistan
The term “urbanisation” is used to describe both, the process of transforming rural populations into and creating urban populations and is also the relative proportion of the population of an area that is urban and not rural.

Urbanisation takes place through the process of change or transformation of rural populations and places into urban.  There is no universally accepted definition of what makes a place or the population that resides there 'urban.'  However, generally, a place becomes and is classified as urban through one or more of the following,

  • Administrative or legal designation

  • The majority of the population being engaged in non-agricultural activities

  • Possessing a given set of (tertiary) services or institutions

  • Population size (there is no agreed or common threshold)

While the distinction between urban and rural has its uses, it is relatively easy for a government to create urban places.  Even population size can be easily modified by extending or indeed limiting the boundaries of a place and thus combining two or more places into a single settlement.

Since urbanisation requires or is accompanied by the addition of newer activities, urban areas are seen as being more advanced, and urban places tend to have a snowballing effect, growing larger faster over time.  Often this leads to an inability of some services to keep pace and rapid population growth may also be accompanied by rapid change and break away from tradition and traditional lifestyles.  Where these changes are also accompanied by the failure to provide essential services in keeping with population growth, the result is “messy” urbanisation.

Current Urbanisation in Pakistan

Pakistan has the highest rate of urbanisation amongst South Asian countries, but the lack of government action and attention has not made use of many of the potential benefits.  As a result, there has been the creation of a markedly dual system: urban and rural. The urban system has the benefit of modern institutions and organisations but is market based, and access to the system is income dependent. The rural system is largely traditional and is low cost but also low quality and is largely inefficient and unsuitable for modern socio-economic needs.

Employment in the rural areas is largely agricultural based, and jobs are low paid and allow little opportunity for growth or development.  The education provided is generally of low quality and unsuited for rural needs and provide few opportunities for development.

The only option for advancement is by migrating to an urban area. However, the cities are unable to cope with or absorb migrants and the influx of large numbers of rural migrants results in the creation of a dual system in cities, with pockets and areas of essentially rural lifestyles and housing, services, infrastructure with incomes and employment opportunities for the migrants limited to the lower-paid jobs or in the informal sector.

The current form of urbanisation, which results in ever-expanding cities converting productive agricultural land to low density, high-cost housing is both ineffective and inefficient. Moreover, it is at the expense of an expanding pool of low paid labour.  However, instead of the present system, or calls for halting rural-urban migration, the need is to increase and extend urbanisation to the rural areas.

Indeed, there is an increasing trend in many rural areas to adopt urban lifestyles especially since the introduction of mobile phones and mass-communications. Not only has access to communication reduced some of the effective distance, but has also made rural populations, and the youth in particular to seek more effective income generating activities.

Managing Urbanisation

There is a need to reconsider our understanding and approach to urbanisation.  We need to extend the benefits of urbanisation and to that extent urbanise the rural areas and to speed up urbanisation.  At the same time, we need to reverse and counter the adverse effects of urbanisation particularly in urban areas but also in rural areas.  In short it is not a question of urban versus rural so much as speeding up and spreading urbanisation through a positive, managed process.

Managing Land use: to move away from the practice of low-density land-use and land development.  There should be a 20-year moratorium on the development of agricultural land and the extension of limits of urban areas or the creation of new towns and municipalities.  To enable this, we should move away from low-rise development not to high-rise but to “slow-rise” development through a process of gradual increase from the current single-story development to an eventual 4-story development utilising the current footprint of buildings.

Managing housing: to move away from single-story housing to 3 or 4 story development of existing housing units through a process of incremental development, largely for the use of the same family rather than multiple-family development through mid or high-rise development of flats. This form of incremental development not only conserves land but promotes the development of communities by keeping generations together instead of scattering them to ever-expanding suburbs.  By virtually eliminating land as a component of housing, it makes housing more affordable and accessible.  Incremental development of housing also makes it more affordable.  We should move away from the use of fired brick and concrete blocks to compressed earth and to the production of standardised components and elements to improve quality and lower costs.

Managing services: while it goes with saying that basic services should be available to all, by promoting a smaller footprint, service runs and therefore costs will be reduced. To make infrastructure services more effectively managed, we should move away from city-wide systems to more locally managed and locally responsive systems, incorporating solar and perhaps wind-powered systems.  A move away from city-wide or even national systems to community-based services such as health and education will also provide more employment and management opportunities for women.

Managing employment and economic development: Pakistan has made considerable progress in using loans and grants along with technical and managerial support for income-generating activities amongst women and in rural areas. These and other such practices should be expanded and extending to cover urban areas as well as youth and men.  More progressive agriculture practices, including the use of collective and cooperatives should be introduced not only for more effective and efficient management of production but also to make land use more efficient.

Managing environmental impact: should become a primary consideration in the development or introduction of new practices and policies, especially regarding renewable energy and waste and the conservation, use and re-use of water.

Managing Government and institutional intervention: to a more supportive, facilitating rather than controlling role and approach using the principle of subsidiarity rather than hierarchic centralisation. Wherever possible we need to move government to a more co-ordinating function, supporting and working with communities, decentralising services and institutions, moving from inspection and control to facilitating development.

Managing Climate Change: so that negative impact of natural events can be minimised through better planning, preparedness and prediction. This needs a better assessment of both the likely events and of their impact.  As well as making more use of the increasingly sophisticated prediction and assessment tools, cities need to involve and engage with citizens to lessen the risks and negative impact of their building, construction and development activities which can only come from a more engaged and informed citizenry.

Managing Urban Areas: At the moment the responsibility, or rather the task of management of urban areas, is dispersed amongst a multiplicity of technical and administrative organisations with varying degrees of political oversight. Regardless of the quality, experience or dedication of the personnel involved, the result is that there is wasteful duplication, woeful gaps, and dissipation of energies.  The task of urban government is precisely that: maintaining law and order, applying rules and regulations, implementing land-use master plans, regulating transport and so on.  Promoting and enhancing the economy and employment opportunities is not their primary concern.  What is needed is the ambition and aspiration on making cities successful.  What cities need are urban managers: consultants who comprehend cities as enterprises and whose reputation and remuneration is linked to the success of the city.  Both large and small cities should be encouraged to engage Urban Management Consultants.  Such a profession and perhaps skills may not yet exist, but as with so many other enterprises, the time has come to enable and empower cities.