Friday, October 5, 2012

Pakistan expected to add 5-60 million to its urban population by 2030

Urban planners, environmentalists and development experts have stressed on the need for developing viable plans for well-planned towns and cities so as to make them sustainable engines for economic growth.

Experts pointed out that expanding towns and cities due to urbanisation are posing serious risks to the existing infrastructures in urban centres. It has become a daunting challenge for urban planners to ameliorate the ailing infrastructures and make them climate-resilient to survive future possible climate change-induced natural disasters.

They were addressing members of civil society organisations and officials of government departments and ministries on the occasion of the World Habitat Day 2012. The Federal Ministry of Climate Change, in collaboration with the UN-Habitat, marked the event under the theme of ‘Changing Cities, Building Opportunities’.

The United Nations has designated the first Monday of October every year as the World Habitat Day (WHD). This year, the day was celebrated on October 1 throughout the world, including Pakistan, by the UN-Habitat.

Addressing the participants, Federal Ministry of Climate Change Secretary Mahmood Alam said that cities are growing at a fast pace and aspirations of the nations are visible in large metropolitan cities.

The cities have emerged to be the hub of production of goods, services, trade and business as well as technological advancement. However, it has become palpable that modern trends in economies and information technologies are steering cities towards sites of innovative production and knowledge, he remarked.

He said, “Urban enterprises, industries and transport sector are the key sources of greenhouse gas emissions. These emissions of poisonous gases in the atmosphere have contributed in rapid temperature rise and become cause of torrential rainfalls with increasing intensity during the last two decades.”

The federal secretary told participants that Pakistan by 2030 would have approximately 55 to 60 million population added to its urban areas. And, the growing urbanisation would lead the cities to play exceeding important role in the national uplift. Given the realisation, it is felt that surging urbanisation and industrialisation will place urban environments under virulent pressures.

Talking about government’s sensitivity to this grim foreseeable scenario, Mahmood Alam said that the government has hammered out the ‘New Growth Strategy’, which stresses on creative cities as places of culture, learning, harmony, productivity, efficiency, creativity and equity for ensuring sustainable development.

The National Climate Change Policy, which has been approved by the federal cabinet on September 26 this year, provides recommendations for sustainable urbanisation and measures to tackle with emerging climate challenges, he recounted.

He further said, “The federal cabinet, while approving the policy, has desired to create Islamabad as climate change-resilient model city and this initiative will help other cities of the country to follow suit.”

Planning Commission of Pakistan Deputy Chairman Dr. Nadeem said the cities are increasingly becoming places of attraction and meeting places for industrialists, scientists, technologists, traders and businessmen to share their problems and discuss possible solutions to their common socio-economic problems.

He underlined the need to build new cities and manage them in way that they would be climate-resilient, centres of equal socio-economic opportunities for every one and brim with sound basic life amenities.

Ministry of Climate Change Director-General (Environment) Jawaid Ali Khan urged the business leaders, corporate sector to join hands with the government to improve basic life amenities and services in cities.

Those who also spoke on the occasion included Resident Coordinator of the United Nations in Pakistan, Timo Pakkala, Country Programme Management of the UN-Habitat in Pakistan Siamak Moghaddam, former Senator Saadia Abbasi, Peshawar University Regional Planning Department Chairman Dr Amir Khan and Heritage Foundation Chairperson Yasmeen Lari.