This item was first posted in October 2019.
Pakistan is suffering from chronic underinvestment in urban planning.
The leading newspaper in the Punjab has run a story about unfilled professional planning posts, noting some of the negative consequences. The article in Dawn, states that “Many professionals working in the public and private sectors have either left or are planning to proceed abroad.” It quotes the Lahore Development Authority as saying “The situation is worsening as the government has failed to address the issue and the situation is causing shortage of town planners in various departments.” A survey by the Young Town Planners Association of Pakistan has found that there are 20 unfilled posts in the LDA. The picture is mirrored in other urban centres across the country. Planners are resigning and moving abroad. When posts are filled, the jobs are often given to non-planners such as building inspectors, engineers or administrators. The Pakistan Council of Architects and Town Planners claims that as many as 700 of their members are being forced to seek employment in the private sector or abroad because of the reluctance of the public sector authorities to recognise the need for their skills. The result is a failure in delivery of major urban plans and housing projects.
When I was last in Lahore, about four or five years ago, roughly two-thirds of Pakistanis still lived in the countryside. However, with urbanisation running at around 3% a year, the fastest rate in the region, the expectation is that by 2025 half will be in the cities. Factor in high demographic growth, poverty and climate vulnerability, and it is easy to see not a crisis in the making, but a crisis unfolding that will have long term consequences. Providing safe water, reliable energy supplies, adequate housing, health and education, jobs, safe streets and clean air for all is simply not going to happen without a transformation in governance. It will also require a fundamental revamp of a planning system that remains a legacy from British colonialism, ill-tuned to 21st century needs.
My World View blog inspired my last visit to Lahore can be read here.