Most developing countries are witnessing large numbers of people from villages migrating to cities in search of jobs and better educational and health facilities. Pakistan too is experiencing an ever-increasing number of villagers moving to cities bringing pressure on the economy as well as social and civic services. As a result of this migration, the population of Lahore city has doubled, from seven million, over the past 20 years stretching facilities thin. This is also contributing to air pollution. Currently the city has the dubious distinction of being the most polluted city in the world in terms of its air quality.
Most of the migration and the resultant urbanisation have taken place largely due to lack of planning. A majority of migrants end up living in low-income areas due to their inadequate income. In these localities, there is no proper access to water and sanitation and there is insufficient and weak housing. The increasing population in Lahore, like all major cities of the country, has not kept pace with employment opportunities, and health, educational, housing and transport facilities. The government says it is short of financial resources to do the needful.
In Lahore, despite the presence of Metro trains and large numbers of private buses, though rickety and adding to air pollution, public transport is highly inadequate. A number of housing societies, both authorised and illegal, have sprung up to accommodate the new arrivals. These accommodations are being built on farmland, and this is reducing food production in addition to decreasing greenery. The authorities failed to implement the Lahore Master Plan 2020, which was prepared 20 years ago. Another master plan is under preparation. It remains to be seen how this is going to solve problems of urbanisation.
Since most people come to cities due to economic reasons and lack of basic facilities in villages, it is a better option to provide them with jobs and other necessary facilities near their homes.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 22nd, 2021.