Part 2 of this series discusses the solutions employed by 3 Asian countries to reduce slum proliferation. This article will discuss slums in the context of Pakistan and shed some light on the way their growth is handled by Pakistan.
Slums are most likely to increase in times of rising urbanization rates, in regions with high-income inequalities, and are most common in big urban cities. The largest number of slum dwellers in Pakistan reside in its 3 major cities; Lahore, Karachi, and Islamabad.
The first informal settlements in Pakistan emerged after the Indo-Pakistan split in 1947 when many refugees flooded Pakistan at a time when it was the least prepared to give them all shelter.
Later in the 1970s, Pakistan’s housing sector took another hit when refugees from Bangladesh flooded into the country, increasing slum population to approximately 38% of the total population.
In the late 1980s, an increase in urbanization led to an exponential rise in rural to urban migration, and by 1990, the slum population had hit its all-time high at 51% of the total population.
Lahore’s current population is estimated to be around 10.2 million. According to the Lahore Development Authority (LDA), almost 30 percent of on-record localities fall under the category of slums. This means that more than 3 million people in Lahore, live in some form of kachi abadis. With the previous government’s focus on infrastructural projects, slum proliferation has been on the rise as more room is made for new roads and bridges.
The government has resorted to regularization as a form of development of slums. The Punjab Directorate General of Katchi Abadis set up by LDA has been responsible for the regularization of more than 140 katchi abadis under the Punjab Katchi Abadi Act in Lahore, through which they grant lease-holding rights to slum dwellers while their living standards remain somewhat similar.
Unchecked urbanization and mushrooming of residential societies in the areas surrounding Islamabad, is displacing many low-income citizens from their homes, hence forcing them to settle in the city.
In the past 15 years, Islamabad has attracted a large number of economic, environmental, and social migrants, which has increased the number of slums in the city. The city, once prided for being the first planned city of the country, is now home to many unplanned localities.
The Capital Development Authority (CDA) stated in 2001 that the slum dwellers who moved to Islamabad before 1995, would not be uprooted. Although this did provide some form of security for already settled slum residents, more work needs to be done related to affordable housing in the city. The few projects that do exist, lack basic services such as electricity and running water supply.
Karachi has the largest slum in Asia – Orangi Town. Covering an area of 8,000 acres, it is home to approximately 2.5 million people. This means that there are approximately 35 people living in 1 kanal.
The majority of people living in this area are street vendors and labourers. With low income, they are not able to afford necessities such as medical care, proper hygiene, and quality food.
After 1971, due to the population explosion in Orangi Town, the government partially legalized the slum. Land titling was introduced by the government to give the residents some security, and community-driven upgradation projects were promoted.
In 1980, the Orangi Pilot Project (OPP) was launched by an entrepreneur who noticed that the slum was self-organizing to fill the gaps in public services. This project has now expanded and is known world-wide for leading community-driven sewerage projects, water supply, micro-credit and much more. 90% of the slum now has sewer pipes and splits its bill between the residents of the area.
Slum proliferation is a problem across Pakistan, and it is also part of the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN, as goal 11 states “make cities and human settlements, inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable by 2030”. As a signatory to the sustainable goals of the UN, Pakistan needs to make efforts into the housing sector to ensure that it upholds its promise and makes the lives of the 40% of its citizens – that reside in slums – better by providing them with a decent standard of living. As discussed in Part 2 of this series, Pakistan should take a look at other Asian countries which are trying to do their part in improving the lives of slum dwellers in their country.