Physical Infrastructure: Urbanisation and Urban Services

1.  Three Axioms

1.1       In a deficit economy, there can be no effective macro level planning (except perhaps in economistic terms) without an understanding of micro level processes and needs.

1.2       A plan is as good as the organisation that implements it.

1.3       For effective planning in a Third World country an optimum relationship between needs, resources and standards has to be arrived at and since all three are dynamic this dynamism has to be accommodated.

2. The Process of Urbanisation

2.1       For tackling major urban issues in Pakistan an appreciation of problems and an understanding of conventional or even of more radical solutions to them is not enough. What is needed is an understanding of the process of urbanisation and of the actors involved in it and their roles, and an incorporation of them in the formal planning process.

2.2       In almost all cases urbanisation in Pakistan precedes planning. Land for housing; basic services; house building credit and technical advice; loans for small businesses; health and education services; and increasingly transport as well, are being provided by a mix of small entrepreneurs and community action.

2.3       The success of these informal actions varies from settlement to settlement and is related to the financial, managerial and technical resources available with the entrepreneurs and within the community. It is also related to the awareness levels of both these actors, their political connections and lobbying capability and capacity.

2.4       The enormous financial, managerial, technical and organisational resources available with this massive informal sector in Pakistan are not taken into consideration, let alone inducted or supported, in the formal planning and implementation process. Often the two processes are seen as antagonistic by the state agencies and since their political relationship is an unequal one, the informal sector is often persecuted.

3. The Constraints of the State

3.1       The state in Pakistan is the planner and implementer of development and the provider of urban services. However, it cannot fulfil its role because it lacks the financial, administrative, technical and institutional capability and capacity to do so. In addition, since its planners are not fully aware of the processes at the micro level and do not take informal sector operations into consideration, their development is incompatible with the sociology and economics of urban populations in general and low income settlements in particular.

3.2       Operation and management of infrastructure also pose problems due to a failure to collect revenue; mismanagement; a system of accountability that is so centralised that it becomes meaningless; and often the wrong choice of systems.

3.3       The above system of planning, implementation and O&M of infrastructure is further promoted by the absence of an institutional link of the planners with conditions at the grass roots. Links that do exist, such as the local bodies institutions, are weak and so are the institutions themselves.

3.4       The whole process described above, along with the development of an unacceptable informal sector, promotes social anarchy, environmental degradation and administrative helplessness.

4. The Constraints of the Entrepreneurs and Communities

4.1       The entrepreneurs and communities involved in urban development both respond to deeply felt needs. They have no vision of the future. In addition, they lack skills, both managerial and technical, and as such much of the development they create and services they provide are substandard and often exploitative in nature. They have no means of improving the quality or scale of their operations.

4.2       Entrepreneurs and communities can only operate at the neighbourhood or settlement level and not at metropolitan or municipal level. Though they can lobby with city governments and development authorities they cannot coordinate their actions with each other or with the larger planning process.

5. Towards New Solutions

5.1       Is it possible for the state sector urban planning and implementation process to make use of the experience and resources of the entrepreneurs and communities involved in development? Is it possible for the state to become a facilitator rather than a provider, at least at neighbourhood and settlement level? If it is then what will be the concept, objectives and approach of the new planning process and what sort of change in attitudes and perceptions will be required at the level of planning and implementing agencies? What will be the nature of the new institutional arrangements? What will be the advantages of these changes and their larger social, economic and political repercussions?

5.2       These are some of the questions the paper will try and deal with after expanding on the process of urbanisation and the constraints of state agencies, entrepreneurs and communities. In support of the response to these questions, the programmes of the Orangi Pilot Project in Karachi, the Khuda-ki-Busti project in Hyderabad and the Catholic Social Services will be sited along with other NGO and government programmes.

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