Published Date: Dec 16, 2015
Pakistan’s growing cities
8:37 a.m., Dec. 16, 2015–The University of Delaware School of Public Policy and Administration (SPPA) hosted a research seminar last month on the challenges presented by rapid urbanization in Pakistan.
The seminar was moderated by SPPA doctoral student Muhammad Naveed Iftikhar and featured experts from the U.S. and Pakistan.
The experts’ briefings, delivered both in person and by video link from Pakistan, were followed by a lively and enlightening question and answer session.
The seminar began with a keynote address by Michael Kugelman, senior associate at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for International Scholars and editor of the recent book Pakistan’s Runaway Urbanization: What Can Be Done?
Pakistan is urbanizing at an annual rate of 3 percent, the fastest pace in South Asia, and experiencing the development of a number of megacities.
Karachi’s population grew 80 percent between 2000 and 2010, the largest increase of any city in the world, and is predicted to increase another 50 percent to 19 million by 2025. Lahore’s population will increase from 7 to 10 million.
Further, the number of Pakistani cities with populations between half a million and a million will have risen from two in 2000 to 11.
Kugelman said urbanization is both promising and problematic for Pakistan. On the one hand, it could boost the country’s sagging economy. On the other hand, urbanization will put an immense burden on an already stressed labor market and severely test the state’s ability to provide basic services including housing, transport, education, jobs, health care, water and energy to its urban population.
Participating by video link from Pakistan, Nadeem Javaid, chief economist at Pakistan’s national planning commission, and Vaqar Ahmed, deputy executive director of the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI), contributed their insights about steps already being taken and additional steps required to manage these challenges effectively and take advantage of the opportunities they present.
Javaid shared the salient features of the government’s Vision 2025 plan and other efforts of federal and provincial governments to deal with the urbanization challenge.
He pointed out that half of the country’s population is younger than 30 years, which presents significant opportunities for development as well as challenges.
Job creation in Pakistan’s cities is crucial, Javaid noted, in order to absorb existing residents and new entrants in the labor force. He also highlighted Pakistan’s efforts to design and implement evidence-based policies through research on behavioral aspects of urbanization and city management in the country and planned improvement in data availability and quality through initiatives that include enhancements planned for the country’s next census.
Ahmad’s remarks focused on the role and perspective of civil society regarding urban policy and management. He emphasized the need to promote domestic commerce and make cities inclusive for everyone in Pakistan.
Ahmed also highlighted the ongoing role of SDPI in providing research, advocacy and policy support for addressing urbanization and other key economic, social and political challenges in Pakistan.
Following the presentations, discussion among the presenters and other seminar participants highlighted the usefulness of comparative analysis and cross-national sharing of policy research and experiences.
For instance, several participants had recently returned from a study trip led by SPPA professor Jonathan Justice that examined urban management in Seoul, Korea, a global megacity that experienced the challenges and opportunities of very rapid growth in the late 20th century before stabilizing at a population of about 10 million.
Although some details of context differ, there are opportunities for cooperative exchange of strategies and lessons learned from Korea’s and Seoul’s ultimately successful responses to the challenge, particularly given that urbanization is one of the least researched areas in Pakistan.
Other insights contributed by UD students and faculty identified the importance of engaging in a range of both comparative and country-based analyses of urbanization in historical and geographic contexts beyond a narrow focus on North American and European cases.
As one SPPA student pointed out, it is important to distinguish between aspects of urban life and development that are relatively generic and so readily facilitate adoption of imported solutions and those that reflect unique historical and spatial characteristics and meanings, such as the role of South African cities in the development and maintenance of the former apartheid system there.
The conversation was stimulating and continued vigorously until the day’s available time ran out.
Given the strength of the intellectual connections newly formed as well as reaffirmed in this seminar, a representative said SPPA expects continuing engagement among participants going forward. This will afford opportunities for faculty, students, and urban-management practitioners to continue sharing insights and putting them to work in real-world settings.
A video of the seminar is available online.
Copies of Pakistan’s Runaway Urbanization can be obtained from the Wilson Center.
SPPA’s ongoing seminar series includes three to four research presentations each semester by SPPA faculty, staff and students, as well as selected experts from UD and beyond. Continuing the mission of SPPA to bring scholarly research and knowledge to bear on real-world problems of urban affairs and public policy, the seminars include a wide range of academic as well as applied research. SPPA welcomes participants from throughout the UD and Delaware communities. For more information about the series, contact Justice at email@example.com.