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KARACHI: Rural to urban migration is taking place on an unprecedented scale in the country and at present the state has no plans for dealing with the migrant influx and political parties have failed to fulfil the promises related to housing schemes, regretted researchers of a Pakistan housing report.

The research co-authored by Arif Hasan and Hamza Arif was prepared for the Asian Coalition of Housing Rights as part of a larger development and planning unit project of the University College London. It observed that as per Census 2017, the country’s population was 207.7 million and had grown at the rate of 2.4 per cent per year in the intercensal period. Its urban population, on the other hand, had grown at the rate of 2.7pc per year during the same period and was estimated at 75.5m.

For the first time in Pakistan’s urban areas (especially in Karachi and other larger cities), people were seen sleeping under bridges, on roundabouts, pavements, and open-air ‘hotels’, the report added.

In Karachi and other larger cities, people now can be seen sleeping under bridges, on roundabouts and pavements

However, it regretted that the state was not in a position to provide them with homes and their options of living in katchi abadis in the absence of the availability of land near the ever-expanding urban centres are becoming difficult due to an increase in cost, distances, and the inconvenience related to commuting.

Referring to housing scheme-related policies introduced by various political parties, it said that very little of the policy recommendations had been followed, except for support to the builders in accessing loans, reducing taxes on them, and increasing the number of katchi abadis for regularisation purposes.

It alerted that the expansion of urban centres was swallowing up valuable agricultural land and damaging the ecology of the regions in which the cities are located, depleting water resources and polluting water bodies. It is also destroying geological formations, forests, and natural drainage systems.

This was causing flooding and bringing about a rise in temperature, creating heat island effects in the urban areas, especially in the high-density highrise informal settlements. If unchecked these environmental hazards would increase, the report warned.

It recognised that more recently the courts had taken cognisance of the lack of housing opportunities for low-income groups, demolition of informal settlements and corruption in the real estate sector. They also took notice of problems in water supply and sanitation services and established a special tribunal to review them. However, there was considerable cynicism regarding the ability of courts to bring about meaningful change.

The report stressed that with the support of academic institutions and civil society, the movements against urbanisation could draw interest from the political authorities and the courts of law for implementation.

Published in Dawn, August 17th, 2018