Is It All Planned? Really?

An%20Embassy.jpgWe have heard stories about Islamabad being the first planned, and by some accounts, the only planned city in Pakistan. While it may have been true some half a century a go, it’s more of an urban myth now.

Islamabad, like other major cities in the country, suffers from the problem of poor real estate and social-sector planning. It has expanded without the capacity to cater to an ever-growing population. Resultantly, restaurants, schools and other businesses are opening up in residential areas. When it comes to allocation of real estate, the CDA has indulged in doling out land to generate revenue. This means that land is purchased by those who can afford it. This strategy does not provide opportunities to the poor segments of the population; indeed, it gives options to the rich and the influential at the cost of the deprived.

Let’s take some examples.

Islamabad has over 1,000 schools illegally operating in residential areas. The logic is that there is no facility to open these schools elsewhere and dislocating them to areas such as sectors I and H would be inconvenient. This is certainly a noble concern for the children of the elite who would not really be inconvenienced if they have to drive a little distance to reach their schools.

While we are at it, let me add to the list by pointing out the illegal mosque and madrassah in the greenbelt of F-8 sector. This mosque was constructed illegally under the patronage of (late) General Zia-ul Haq and is known for its firebrand imam who vociferously opposes the government and its policies.

In the same F-8 sector, there is also an elitist school, which like other private schools cannot be legally opened in a residential area. This school is also an illegal entity. However, in this case, higher authorities intervened on behalf of the school administration to force some select neighbours to sign a no-objection-certificate to allow a school to be set up and run in the residential area. The Bosnian ambassador was prevailed upon to sign the certificate. Other neighbours were not even asked.

I am sure many of us have noticed a plethora of NGO offices, and Diplomatic buildings smack in the middle of residential areas of E, F, and G sectors.

We shouldn’t be surprized or frustrated when it comes to a CDA’s recent change in construction laws to allow construction of an extra floor in all five-storey luxury apartment buildings. Earlier, residential buildings in Islamabad could not have had more than 10 storeys, but the CDA management permitted construction of over 10-storey buildings without revising the master plan of the federal capital. The authority has also allowed construction of an additional storey in all buildings in class-III shopping centres located in all commercial and residential areas.

Remember that the capital has been placed in seismic zone-II making it mandatory for all builders to construct highrises that can sustain an earthquake of up to 8.5 intensity. “Adding” a floor without the redesign of the complete structure can lead to another catastrophy like the Margalla Towers.

It is time that the real-estate distribution, town and civil planning and other related policies are re-structured to keep up with the “ever growing” population needs of the city

2 Comments so far

  1. haris (unregistered) on March 4th, 2007 @ 10:18 pm

    San Francisco,L.A,Tokyo,Istanbol are all in high siesmic zones and a lot can be learned in construction practices and implementing standards from these.Even in our country the Army Barracks in Quetta built during British rule are still used and have survived the up and lows of times.Ignoring the quake proof design in multi-story buildings will be an act of criminal negligence if God forbid something bad happens again.

  2. Abid Siddiqui (unregistered) on March 15th, 2007 @ 9:58 am

    Yes schools and NGOs operating in residential area are the main cause of traffic jams.

    This should be stopped, but actually they cannot stop them as most of the schools and NGOs are owned by the people who are running the state

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