Urban and Regional Planning – Past Precedents and Future Prospects

There are many examples of this new form of planning. The Moscow Master Plan 2020 was based on a health survey of the city. The plan aimed at removing the physical conditions that were responsible for different types of diseases and adverse health conditions. Recently in London a congestion tax has been levied which has solved London’s automobile congestion problems which numerous and expensive traffic engineering projects were unsuccessful in doing. In Delhi after a Supreme Court judgement, all public transport has been forced to adopt CNG as fuel. As a result, environmental conditions in Delhi have improved.

This new whole new world of planning has only been adopted by Europe and Japan or in half measure by certain Latin American cities such as Curitiba and North American cities such as Boston. It is still in the process of research and experimentation and of being turned into teaching material and theory. However, in the Third World, planning and teaching are both still deeply entrenched in the modernist paradigm and its concepts although the best examples of community participation and “sustainable development” in both rural and urban development are to be found in the work of Asian and Latin American NGOs. But none of this work has yet been adopted as policy and nor has it become teaching material.

In Pakistan enormous changes have taken place in both urban and rural areas. In the rural areas cash has replaced an old barter economy and its institutions. Fertilizer, pesticide, hybrid seeds and credit requirements for them have created new classes and serious environmental and health problems. Mechanisation of agricultural production has introduced tractors and harvesters and they have physical needs which are met in an ad-hoc manner in the absence of planning concepts and standards. The Suzuki revolution of 1970’s changed the mode of marketing agricultural produce and with it the location of mandi towns also changed. All this has increased the urban-rural link and is bringing about major social, physical and economic changes in both the rural and urban areas. In planning education we do not deal with these issues either.

According to Architect-Planner Reza Ali’s research, Pakistan is much more urban than what the census tells us. We need to understand this. Furthermore, Reza’s work establishes that we are now not dealing with urban settlements but with urban regions consisting of numerous interlinked urban settlements who share common resources and collectively pollute the natural environment of the region. These are also issues that we do not deal with.

With neo-liberalism, globalisation, the WTO regime and structural adjustment a whole new world that conflicts with the concepts of the green movement and sustainability has emerged. Because of our balance of payment deficits International Financial Institutions (IFIs) no longer permit us to make major investments in infrastructure, transport and social housing. All these are supposed to be developed and financed by the “market”. We have also been asked to remove subsidies on health and education. In practical terms what this means is:

  • Privatisation of water, electricity, transport, solid waste management through a process of international tendering.
  • Infrastructure projects are to be built on a BOT basis. On a BOT basis they are far more expensive than government built projects of a similar nature and their running costs are also higher because of exorbitant profiteering by contractors.
  • Housing is to be delivered through the market as well. This means that land value will determine landuse in the absence of subsidies in favour of the poorer sections of the population.

In a nutshell, projects are in and planning has to adjust to this reality. Also, the new paradigm has put and end to the process of the democratisation of education. Planning and planning education has to understand these new realities and the planning professional has to work around them to deliver meaningful and affordable development to his city and region.

What does all that I have said above mean for Karachi? It means that the city of Karachi has to be properly documented. Its existing infrastructure has to be identified and mapped. The directions of its growth and the reasons for them have to be understood. Who does what in the city and how has to be determined along with the relationship between the various actors. This documentation is meaningless if it does not include the physical, social and economic, and political dimensions of the informal sector. Projects have to relate to these realities. For tackling the issues of congestion and pollution it means segregation and local and through traffic; quadrupling the railway line from Karachi to Pipri and building a container terminal over there as a result of which container traffic will no longer enter the city; extending the oil pipe line from the refinery to a point on the National Highway beyond the city so that no oil tanker enters the city. It means shifting the inner city wholesale markets to the Northern Bypass; segregation of through and local traffic in areas such as Saddar and Lea Market and the creation of pedestrian precincts in these historical areas; CNG for all public transport and the creation of a landuse plan and its implementation where environmental and social considerations determine landuse rather than land value. For housing it means credit for land (without which access to the market is impossible) and the collective ownership of land so as to prevent speculation. Similar approaches for the other sectors also need to be developed.

However, you can only do what is being suggested if politicians are supported by knowledge. This relationship is crucial. In many countries politicians have think-tanks or linkages with research and academic institutions. As a result, their decisions are backed with analysis and facts. In addition to informed politicians, you need planning institutions that are effective, autonomous and free from political interference. Most of our institutions have been ruined because of interference from those who wield power, often undemocratically. You also need active civil society participation. Karachi is lucky for it has an informed and active civil society. However, officialdom views it with suspicion and hostility. And finally, you require transparency and accountability in the planning and implementation process and for this there are numerous models from which to choose and there is also the possibility of innovating.

But the most important aspect of planning for the future is an understanding of those who are going to live, work and use and develop the city of the future. Karachi’s younger generation, age group of between 15 and 24 years, is very different from its elders. It has very different social indicators. For instance, Karachi’s overall literacy is 68.44 per cent of which male literacy is 72 per cent and female literacy is 64 per cent. In the age group of 15 to 24 years, literacy is 78 per cent with no difference between male and female literacy. In the 1981 Census 37.45 per cent women in the age group of 15 to 24 years were married. In the 1998 Census only 27.68 per cent of women in this age group were married. Television is the main source of information for 76 per cent of Karachi households, nuclear families are increasing rapidly, and women students outnumber men in universities and professional colleges. These are new realities. They have new requirements for recreation, culture, entertainment, education and transport. Can planning education grapple with some of these issues?

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