Urban Poverty Alleviation – Policy Orientation

Below is an excerpt from the seminar paper given on this topic. The full paper is available for download as a PDF file (75KB) here: Urban Poverty


1.1 The New Mind Set

Poverty alleviation is a term and concept that is being used, discussed and applied in a big way in Pakistan for the last couple of years. This term is creating a mindset that increasingly ignores the causes of poverty and seeks only to address their effects. The fact that poverty is the creation of macro and micro level economic and physical planning is ignored.

In the urban areas this mind set has already created a de-facto situation where two different methodologies, one for the rich and the other for the poor, have evolved. They have different standards, technologies and procedures of implementation. For the poor areas, the technologies and standards are still in the process of experimentation and exploration and are as such half baked.

As a result, official plans give the poor areas as compared to the richer areas, less water per capita; poorer road specifications; open drains and soak-pits for sanitation instead of underground water borne sewerage; and less public open space per capita although the poorer areas have higher population densities. In addition, in the rich areas private health clinics administer immunization whereas in the poor areas immunization camps are set up although most poor areas also have private practitioners. The architecture of government facilities, for the rich and poor areas also differs considerably. The list of differences in planning standards and procedures is endless. These trends, most of which are now being supported by poverty alleviation programmes, along with the privatization of university education, are dividing our cities for good and creating conditions for social strife and civic conflict. There is a need, above everything else, to question the financial allocations that considerably favour the richer areas rather than the shared institutional, recreation and cultural spaces of the city centre and the low income residential and work areas. Here it must be said, that unlike the past, there are strong lobbies in the urban areas today that, if supported by legislation, can pressurise the state into changing its inputs and planning processes so that they are more equitable. Unfortunately, most of these lobbies have also started to look at our cities as two separate entities which require two separate forms of development.

The methodologies and strategies of a number of important NGO development projects are being promoted for poverty alleviation planning. The fact that the principles and procedures developed by these projects are equally valid for the richer areas of the urban centres and for the more affluent farmers in Pakistan is completely ignored.

The mind set described above has entered Pakistani universities, research organizations and most NGOs. Pakistan has been invaded by poverty alleviation experts and loads of money for poverty alleviation programmes. From the looks of it, it seems that we will soon have poverty alleviation as a subject at the university level, and after that we will have our own poverty alleviation experts.

Any policy orientation related to poverty alleviation must take into consideration the issues discussed above.

1.2 Basis of Observations/Data in this Paper

The observations, policy directions and statistics given in this paper are based on the work of Orangi Pilot Project (OPP); Urban Resource Centre (URC), Karachi and the Department of Architecture and Planning at the Dawood College, Karachi and their partner organisations working in Hyderabad, Sukkur, Muzaffargarh, Multan, Faisalabad, Lahore, Okara, Gujranwala, Rawalpindi, Sialkot and Mingora. In addition, the authors have a long association with donor funded projects in Pakistan and the knowledge gained through this association has also been fed into this paper.

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