Floods, earthquake, suicide attacks and ongoing war on terror have strong implications on the landscape of the country, especially the urban sprawl. The existing mismanaged urban sprawl has resulted in acute shortage of services and increase in urban population resulting in the creation of slums without basic amenities. A recent report on Asia reveals that more than 50 percent of the city population lives in slums and informal settlements.
The urbanisation trend in the world will turn the globe urban soon. By 2030, an overwhelming majority of the population will live in urban areas. This will place enormous pressure on the cities and their management. The devolution through the 18th amendment will empower the provinces and they will have the powers in finding financial and political solutions to their problems. Now they have the liberty to develop policies, regulation and standards. It is thus imperative that the solutions for the changes wrought by the demographic change and by the constitutional amendments must fit the challenge.
Under the 18th amendment, 17 departments have been devolved to the provinces and very few subjects retained by the federal government. It put enormous responsibilities on the provinces in terms of proper planning and management of the provincial resources. The more vibrant a provincial economy will be, the more it will attract migrants from all over the country that will create pressure on the urban sprawl. Amidst such situation, it is highly important to look into the dynamics of the land or real estate market in the province.
There is a need to adopt new models of development encompassing the involvement of private sector into public service delivery mechanism by promoting public-private partnership. However, there is likelihood that opportunity offered by 18th amendment will be lost if urban issues are handled through the rural mindset.
Implementation of the 18th amendment clearly shows the state of affairs as conflict arises transferring ministries. Lack of vision at the provincial level will definitely affect effective handling of the transferred ministries due to lack of absorptive capacity and human resource. It has a strong bearing on the provinces and their development pattern which will also encompass the urbanisation issues at district level.
Provinces have not yet developed urban policy, although efforts are made at planning and development boards to devise strategies to streamline issues at grassroot level. The significance of urban policy has gained more importance in the post devolution scenario. The government has to develop policy with a vision to create urban excellence centres across the province, focusing on intermediate cities and streamlining urban problems in large cities like Karachi.
The current state of solid waste management, water and sanitation, urban transport and health and education show the inability of the governments to cope with the expected urbanization.
Solid waste management is marred with financial, social, and economic constraints. The existing service delivery mechanism amidst inadequate policies demand of the provincial management to formulate the SWM policies to cope with the growing needs of urban settlers.
Shortage of human and technical resources indicate requirement of investments to be pumped in to bridge these gaps. The technical machinery should be adopted while keeping in view the local environment and suitability. It is well documented that more than half of the waste goes uncollected in the cities. The vibrant CSO in the country has to play an important role for “Zero Waste” through attitudinal shift.
The government has to rethink their policy as SWM services are not charged. Increased urbanisation will make it difficult for the provincial managements to develop financially sustainable services.
Water and sanitation is no exception and marred with multiple problems leading to low and inefficient service delivery. Health of urbanites is going to be an issue due to lack of waste water treatment plants. Pakistan Council of Research in Water Resources (2004) conducted water quality test in 14 districts in the country and found high amount of arsenic in the water. They concluded that 83 percent of the samples are unfit for the human consumption.
The technical, economic and financial constraints also vitiate the service delivery in cities. One of the experts calculated the estimated cost of US$5 billion for the replacement of old and retarded satiation system in Lahore. Think of replacing the old sanitation infrastructure in ten large cities in the country, requiring billions of dollars which seems a dream. They lack urban water policies at provincial and city level.
A few departments overlap their functions. Transport is the best example to quote here as it is managed, maintained and developed by different agencies. In Lahore city alone, there are more than ten departments looking after the transportation affairs and, still, the Lahorites face acute problems. Police, district government, provincial transport authorities, national highway and many others control transport affairs in cities. Mismanagement on their part has become a norm.
Erratic growth pattern during the last decade has resulted in the increase of poverty, which has now focused more on the urban poor living in slums of the cities. The achievement of Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) has become a dream for federal and provincial governments. The new development model of the country presented by apex planning body envisages cities as engine of economic growth to alleviate poverty. However, the provincial government has to draft local economic development strategies to transform the cities into growth engines.
Provincial governments have to formulate “provincial urban commissions” with the mandate to gauge urbanisation trends in the provinces and suggest measures to streamline urbanisation. Secondly, the commission must also be mandated to develop SWM, WSS, transport and urban land and housing policies and help cities to devise strategies as well. Further devolution to the lower tiers of governments is a prerequisite for better management of growing urbanisation. Provincial finance commission should be announced for better resource allocation among the cities.
The writer is a researcher at Sustainable Development Policy Institute in Islamabad and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
This article was originally published at: The News
The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the viewpoint or stance of SDPI.