en.ppostnews.com: Pakistan’s population has been booming – we have swelled from 132.35 million to 207.77 million in just the last two decades. As cities continue to expand their peripheries – and agricultural land continues to take the brunt of mass migration towards urban centres – we have to stop and ask ourselves if the choices we are making are sustainable. Could apartments be the future? Perhaps.
According to the Sixed Population and Housing Census 2017, 36.38% of Pakistan’s total population lives in cities, this has increased from 32.52% figure last recorded in 1998. The percentage rise recorded for growth in population of the main cities is even more startling. In Lahore alone, the population has increased by 116.32% since 1998. The situation is more or less the same for all major cities of Pakistan including Islamabad, Karachi, Rawalpindi, Peshawar, Quetta, Faisalabad, Hyderabad, Multan and Gujranwala.
Impact on agriculture
In order to provide accommodation to the people who shifted to these cities in the last two decades, we noticed huge expansion in main cities. Several hectares of fertile land, which was otherwise used for agricultural purpose has been converted to housing societies. It is so sad to see that the underground water level in many of these societies is so high that the developers cannot offer efficient underground electrification systems in these otherwise expensive localities.
Not just this, the gross agricultural production in the country is also decreasing – an alarming sign for a country whose economy relies largely on these products.
Disruption in resource distribution
Such unplanned hikes in population numbers also brings along a serious imbalance in how resources such as water, electricity, Sui gas and even employment are distributed. We have seen the repercussion of such a rapid population rise in Karachi, where water is becoming scarcer every day. Now, on the orders of the Supreme Court of Pakistan, construction of additional units on built structures has been banned, which will bring further chaos to the market, which is not ready to deal with such sanctions.
What we need to move towards is smarter planning and smarter cities. The problem is not the number of people but the manner in which our cities are expected to accommodate them. The end game needs to include sustainable solutions as a key ingredient, otherwise it’s all for naught.
How can the apartment system help?
According to a news report shared by the local news media in August, the Punjab Government has decided to ban usage of agricultural land for developing housing societies. The bill is yet to be presented in the Punjab Assembly. The same report also speaks of the government looking to promote flat system in the province in order to give accommodation to more families. Once the bill is passed, the law shall be applicable to all cities and union councils of Punjab. In other words, it is already time for real estate developers active in the province to set their priorities accordingly.
This could only be a step in the right direction if it is done in a sustainable manner. Simply building apartments in the place of houses will not be solution enough, the government also needs to ensure that the infrastructure, facilities and amenities needed for this kind of a focused population boom (courtesy apartments) can be practically tackled.
The money factor
For the homeless in Pakistan, the existing value of property and the amount of money required to build houses is getting out of reach. In addition to that, cost of developing a housing society is getting higher in terms of material, machinery and labour. In the meanwhile, we haven’t seen real estate developers and the concerned public departments very keen at offering affordable housing solutions. Even the affordable housing societies do not provide enough facilities to be called as properly maintained localities. For some developers, offering affordable units could be possible in form of apartment communities.
Market Report for August shows that genuine buyers are keeping the realty market alive and running around the country. In such a case, it is important that the market provide options that make sense to people in terms of affordability and convenience – and apartment projects is maybe the only viable option. But unless this decision makes practical sense we are only setting ourselves up to disrupt our urban centers.
Whether or not you agree with me, your feedback is important; speak to me in the comments section below.