Sustainable Citie’s Development Goal & the Situation of Pakistan


According to UN Habitat- the United Nations agency responsible for sustainable human settlements- the 21st century is the Urban Century because over 50 percent of the global population out of 7 billion is now living in urban areas and the rest are tend towards the urban centers. In 2014, Climate Summit, Heads of 100 states including Pakistan unites before the UN General Assembly talk about the Climate Change. After giant Climate March in New York, 17 SDGs were adopted out of which goal 11 was about the cities and human settlements to make them inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.

Cities are playing a major role in global consumption, production GHG emission, waste and poverty. Cities are contributing 50 to 70 percent GHG emissions from different sectors. We are almost half way to the “critical decade”, when our planning and actions will decide about our success and the failures which could be at the cost of the coming generations.

We are about 7 billion people on the planet Earth and we are unable to supply all 7 billion with the electricity alone. About 2 billion people do not have access to the electricity at the moment. Urbanization has its own challenges but of course it has the opportunities at the same time. Such opportunities may be in the form of social innovations or in the technical innovations.

When we are talking about Sustainable Urban Transformation, it means we are considering cities as the potential source of knowledge transformation, taking the stake holders on one platform to talk about sustainability and innovations and can make the dreams into reality.  Thus there are three main areas lies under Sustainable Urban Development i.e, Innovation and Business, Planning and Governance and, Lifestyle and attitude/ behavior.

Pakistan remained at tenth position regarding the long run Climate Risk Index during last one and the half decade (Global Climate Risk Index 2015 published by German Watch). On the other hand the country ranks at third position regarding climate change vulnerability index. Thus, a big challenge is ahead!

All the above three areas of Sustainable Urban Development are inter linked and compliment and supplement each other.

Sustainable means the use of resources without exploiting the future generation needs. Thus, sustainable cities mean the cities which provide people high living standards without using more natural resources or involve high cost of natural resources. Sustainable cities means the places where people want to live in an efficient manner, with quality of life and with positive attitudes and considerations. There are several examples existing in the world for such cities. We have to learn how we can use energy more efficiently and more intelligently both at work and at homes. Innovation and Green Business is the call of this high time. We can save energy everywhere, from industries to the homes, from wash rooms to the big industrial plants. We can turn our cities into heaven if we do not let our industries throw their waste into our rivers or throw our towns without treatment, as we observed from Ansari Sugar Mill on way to Badin , which has turned the area into the most foul smelly area. The mill owners though are paying a chunk amount into charity and the Zakat every year which may be their priority or social obligation or a way to satisfy them at the cost of the lives of people surrounded and hence the ecology.

When we study the cities phenomenon all around the world, we came to know that cities are giving standard living to the people and in return the people are so considerate and positive so that they are giving back to their cities to grow them more efficient economically and environmentally. Amsterdam is a very good example in this regard. In 1970s, they decided to take out the solution of the traffic congestion and they promote cycling. People of Amsterdam have adopted it in a very innovative way. Now the local governments of several Scandinavian cities and the cities of Europe are promoting the same by giving easy access to the cycles so that they can reach the destination easier and earlier than the cars. The cycles are promoting health on one hand and don’t use any fossil fuel on the other. Similarly, promoting walking also needs to be followed by some people – friendly policies and traffic rules like the facilitation during the road crossings, the allocated pedestrian path ways etc.  The  issue of traffic congestion can also be resolved by giving easy access to the public and efficient transport by developing a people friendly infra structure of buses, bullet trains , trams and other efficient and cheaper means of transport which consume less fuel per mile as per passenger so that everyone can access it equally and efficiently, without any loss to the national economy. For example, in Islamabad if we do the cost benefit analysis of the Metro Bus service, then I am pretty sure that it is going in the deficit. The unnecessary mega infrastructure development and the subsidy given to the consumers are the steps needs to be revisited. This is simply unethical and uneconomical to use the tax payers’ money in such mega projects for few people. The promotion of such interventions also involve a political will because it is also the matter of how that society is taking the things and reacting about the specific culture and the phenomenon. In developing countries like Pakistan, to have a car is a status symbol. But like Amsterdam, if their president rides a cycle then the citizens feel proud to do the same. There is also need to work on behavioral change of drivers, which are mostly illiterate and are not educated for this specific issue, which are also a factor in increasing the noise pollution and smoke in the environment.

Similarly another issue is the use of energy in the buildings in urban centers is huge. In hot weather, everyone is looking for mega shopping and entertainment malls like in big city centers. In such scenario, the poor house hold level power supply gets short and the citizens suffer from shortage of electricity. Countries like Pakistan which is self sufficient in Sun light and in several parts with wind energy, if use innovative local technology to use it in a better way than the energy crises can be addressed.  Secondly, in hot countries, we need to revisit our architecture. In modern architecture, our architect has followed the western style blindly which is not environment friendly in our case. Our environment is totally different from the environment of Europe or cold countries. We have to follow the old Hindu style architect prevailing in many parts of the country, having high roofs, big ventilators, big doors and windows, some special kind of air ventilators in the roofs called badigars , so on and so, which promote passive housing. Furthermore, we can have options of Green Walls, Green Roofs and Green Buildings , low content of water and the renewable energy. This approach is called Virtual City Experimentation i.e., a design approach to catalyse action in the context of rapidly emerging disruptive challenges to the fabric and life of cities. We cannot follow any one blindly but we should adopt the things wisely. We have quit our several environment friendly practices and adopt blindly the Western practices like the use of foam in the furniture and quit the traditional charpai, which is more environment friendly in our case. Giving preference of foam chairs on fine knitted wooden chairs have introduced several diseases in such hot weather.

This is also the matter of attitude and behavior of using spaces in an efficient manner to make them greener inside and outside the homes. Rain water harvesting is also another superb idea. Urban agriculture is a fantastic idea but needs to be promoted and facilitated by the local government . Kitchen Gardening is very cheaper and fun activity which can give great results.

Solid waste management is another big problem of our cities. If we talk about Islamabad, which is considered as the most organized and planned cities of Pakistan, have also ample examples of failure in solid waste management. SWM also involves the sensitization and training of the citizens that how they can keep the paper, cans and other household waste separate, even our educated people really need this training. Though this is another question that if our people start doing segregation of the trash, whether our local government or CDA is enough capacitated to reuse it??  People are least bothered about the cleanliness of their streets, even of the space in front of their doors, though they and their children use it for playing and sitting in the evening. We are least bothered to put the trash into the waste bins at public places and never train our children to do so. Our kids also feel good to throw the trash out of the glass window of the car, following the parents and most of the elders. On the other hand, most of the public places lack the proper and required number and size of the installation of waste bins and their maintenance. We have a big force of energetic youth and they love to volunteer themselves in the positive image building of the nation and the community service. This big force can be utilized to make the country green and sustainable. Time to time, we have observed some college and university groups celebrate World Earth day, environment days or world water days by collecting the trash which people throw into the sea at our sea side in Karachi. By doing so the youth wants to deliver the message that still they are hopefull that we will be changed, secondly they want to urge you to get change now. They want to say that “It’s enough now! Please stop and don’t make our sea and our earth dirtier!” They are the real change agents!

Our research institutes like PARC/ NARC has done several successful experiments for sewerage treatment, waster water efficient management and biogas. There is need to reinvestigate that why the Biogas is failure when we apply in the field and what are the user friendly modes of all the above technologies, which can be adopted by people and industries quickly and effectively.

Urban infrastructure (which includes streets, sewers, roads, telecommunication, buildings, parks etc) can advance sustainability and green economies or other way round as well. If we take the example of Karachi, the poor designing or under passes fails to drain when it rains or the low quality material use in over head bridges fall over any time like Man-o-Salwa from the sky, which doesn’t provide the food but eat the lives of several poor people.

When we are talking about the Government, we should consider the four governing modes, which put the impact. Firstly, Self Governing means how municipalities govern its activities; Secondly, Governing by Enabling means that how municipality or local government is bringing the stakeholders together; Thirdly Governing by Provision means it has sufficient hard as well as soft infra structure and finally Governing by Authority means if they are not given powers then they wouldn’t be able to give the results and then all the resources and policies go into vein.

Talking more about Governing by Provision, although it is encouraging on federal level that Government of Pakistan ( GOP) is spending more than 6% of the budget on climate related indicators.[1]But thrust is still there when we look into the matter minutely at the provincial levels, which shows the considerable need in increase of the budgetary allocations at the provincial level. When we are analyzing the Annual Development Budget, we can observe that out of net annual development programme[2] (305,000 million), 9000 millions were spent on QA Solar Bahawalpur in FY 2014-15 and 11000 millions are decided to spend on saafpaniprogramme in FY 2015-16 (out of 333,000 millions of Net annual development programme) which is not substantial.

As far as the policies are concerned, the important aspect is to keep the policies ambitious but realistic politically and economically. We need quick policies on one hand and the adoptable or flexible on the other so address the day to day changes in the urban conditions. Most of the policies and laws still exercising in Pakistan in several very important sectors like revenue and irrigation are of British era.

There is need to combine Energy Planning and Urban Planning. Local Governments have played a decisive role in changing such conditions all over the world. Besides, civil society actors, media and the private sector can also make the difference by putting their due share in this regard. Smart Sharing is another innovative idea by the citizens, for the citizens and from the citizens. They can use sharing the knowledge with other people that how they are taking steps to make their cities greener and sustainable thorough mobile phones, internet and other communication means. We can develop fossil fuel free cities models for Karachi , Lahore and all other big cities. This is the time when we can start to take our cities as Urban Living Labs and try to convert them into Greener, Resilient, Safer and Sustainable, from household to the industry. But to responses the Climate Change as commitment in Climate Summit, Urbanization is not neutral. It is political. Some agendas may get priority over other and others may get marginalized. We find that several mainstream actors are involved including governments, civil society actors and international donors. Such priorities and matter of political will needs to be addressed through several ways because without a political will it is almost impossible in Pakistan.




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[2] “Annual Development Programme (ADP) is composed of public investments made in different sectors of the economy in a given year by the Government. These investments are not only instrumental in accelerating economic growth and development but also define and open up economic opportunities for the private sector and other stakeholders. ADP with its sectoral composition reflects the development priorities of the Government and thus, has a pivotal role in guiding the strategic direction of the provincial economy”