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Creating Urban Villages


About 40% of the people in Pakistan live in Cities and an estimated another ten percent in peri-urban areas that have all the characteristics of an urban area but are not legally urban. People living in rural areas keep on migrating to cities in search of better employment, better health & education facilities and a better quality of life. This would continue to be so, till almost 70-80 of the people in this country start living in the cities, ranging from small towns to megacities of Karachi and Lahore.

This migration makes good economic sense, not only for individuals and their families but for the nation as a whole, since it’s the cities that are engines of growth. There is a direct correlation between the level of urbanization and the per capita GDP of a nation. There is hardly any country that is less than 65% urbanized and is a developed country.

However, the quantity of urbanization is not enough. We need quality as well. Unfortunately, Pakistan has not been very successful in maintaining the quality of cities in terms of infrastructure, housing, air quality, and services of transport, water, sanitation, waste management etc. In most of the large cities, the situation gets more complex, as the capacity of urban institutions doesn’t match the challenges.

We have been struggling with solutions…. But with little success. The best model we think is the DHA, Bahria Town, and similar private gated communities for the rich. But these colonies for the rich won't solve the problems, associated with large cities, as slums and ghettoes shall keep on developing side by side. What we lack and need is more inclusive & Sustainable development.

There is a large segment of society, including decision-makers who believe that urbanization needs to be contained to minimize the negative impact of cities. The answer they find is in integrated rural development to reduce migration. But this strategy is not likely to work, as villages would remain villages.

A city is defined by densities (upto 30,000 per sq km) and better-paying jobs, pucca and better housing, services of water, sanitation, waste management, transport, education, health and entertainment etc. While villages have more community living, better air quality, no congestion, and easy access of vegetables, milk, food etc., but little potential for wealth generation.

There could be a win-win situation. We can create a model of human settlements that has the positives of both villages as well as of cities, while avoiding the negatives of both? The answer is an Urban Village.

In simple words, rather the people migrating from villages to cities, let’s take the city to the rural areas. The concept can be explained better with a couple of examples:

A city is dependen