Established in 1989
Supported by UNFPA and
the Kobe City Government
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PERSPECTIVE OF URBANISATION IN PAKISTAN
Pakistan is the eighth most populous country of the World and has one of the highest population growth rates. The population of the areas now constituting Pakistan was 16 million at the turn of the century, 32.5 million at the time of independence (August 1947) which increased to 84.253 million in 1981 and to 120 million as of today. Therefore, today, Pakistan's economy is facing a great challenge to fulfill the basic needs of its population. The whole structure of Pakistan's socio-economic development will be adversely affected if population continues to grow at the current rate of around 3 percent per annum. At present 36.8 million (31 percent) Pakistanis are living below the poverty line, 46 million (38 percent) are illiterate adults, 25.87 million (70 percent) children between 5-14 years of age are out of school, 53.55 million (45 percent) people do not have access to safe drinking water and basic health services, 97.58 million (82 percent) are without access to adequate sanitation, 12 million (62 percent) children under the age of five are malnourished. Despite these facts 534 babies are born every hour.
The Prevalence of a high fertility has resulted in a high proportion of children and high dependency ratios. Due to the unfavourable age structure, more funds are being diverted to meet the immediate basic needs of the population, thus shrinking the socio-economic development of the country. If population growth remains unchecked, it will increase to 150 million by the year 2000, further aggravating conditions with over-populated land, over-crowded cities, over-strained social services and basic utilities and social and political unrest.
Pakistan's urban population is one of the fastest growing in the World. The urban share in total population was about 17 per cent at the time of independence. Recording a sustained increase, it went up to 28.3 per cent by the year 1981. The number of town and city dwellers in overall population in 1981 was 23.827 million and at present is 38.4 million. If the urban population continues to increase at the present rate, which is around 4.7 per cent per annum, it will be more than 58 million by the year 2000. The following table gives the percentage distribution of urban/rural population over the last nine decades:
Pakistan: Urban-Rural Distribution
Urbanisation is a natural consequence of the process of industrialization and rapid population growth, while the latter acts as a push factor for sending people out, to ease pressure on land, the former pulls them, by providing better job opportunities and infrastructure and service facilities in cities. The progressive widening of rural-urban socio-economic disparity in Pakistan has rendered rural areas particularly unattractive to the younger generation, whose socio-economic aspirations are higher than those of their parents.
A micro analysis of population distribution at city level reveals that large urban centres dominate over small centres in Pakistan. The small towns with populations of less than 25,000 accounted for 22 percent of urban population; towns between 25,000 to 50,000 had only a 14 percent share in 1951, which decreased to 10 percent in 1981; while those having a population of 50,000 to 99,000 increased from 7 percent in 1951 to 10 percent in 1981: large and medium-sized cities, with a population of l00,000 or more, had a large share of urban population. Their number was 9 out of a total of 197 urban agglomerations comprising 2000 or more persons in 1951, which increased to 29 in 1981 and their share of urban population increased from 55 percent to 65 percent. The following table shows the population projections of 29 cities for the year 1992:
The concept of medium-sized cities adopted by the UNFPA refers to cities with populations of one to four million, including cities which are projected to have less than four million inhabitants by the year 2000. According to this definition, there will be 42 medium-sized cities in
Pakistan by the end of this century (out of which 10 cities were selected for the "Second Asian Urban Enquiry" conducted by AUICK of Kobe, Japan). It has been further estimated that by 2003 (the end of the ninth Five Year Plan) the number of "million class" cities in Pakistan would increase to nine. Overall, large and medium-sized cities (100,000 to 1,000,000) would be 88, accounting for 78 percent of the country's population.
This rapid urban expansion is changing the face of the cities. It is estimated that half of urban dwellers are poor or very poor. As families multiply and rural migration accelerates, slums are growing and squatter settlements are springing up at an ever-increasing rate, along riverbeds, on hill slopes, in playgrounds, in parks, on unoccupied state land and even the diminishing reserved forest lands. These factors have repercussions on urban ecology and would generate and further aggravate a whole range of urban problems of serious dimensions such as town planning, environmental and water pollution and sanitation. Apart from these problems, agglomeration of population has also resulted in overcrowding; witnessed in schools, colleges, clinics, hospitals, parks and places of public utility. The gregarious nature of creation of ethnic groups, rural-urban migration, concentrated and unplanned industrial growth and neglect of rural development are responsible for the unwanted growth of urban localities.
The implications of this kind of fast urbanization in relation to human well-being and environmental quality can be summed up as:
a) declining environmental quality in urban areas through air, water and
soil pollution, noise, modifications of microclimates and loss of
b) severe degradation of the surrounding environment and ecological
systems of urban hinterlands, exerting heavy demand on their
c) demographic transformations through migration from rural to urban
areas which have severe social, economic and environmental
d) inadequate housing, transportation, public services (water,
sanitation, schools, health, etc.) which threaten human health and
quality of life;
e) high rates of unemployment and related social pathologies, such as
f) increased number of urban poor who are vulnerable to deficiencies
of food, water, fuel and other basic needs;
g) massive increases in public expenditure in cities at the cost of other
sectors of national priorities;
h) the threat to political stability; and,
i) the threat to environmental sustainability.
We must now think about the best solutions to urban problems; if not, it will be an uncontrolled social, economic and political disaster for this country if a large low-income population is without formal housing, potable water supply, drainage, health, education, electricity and gas supply, satisfactory road access and transportation facilities.
* The author is a Sociologist, Free Lance Consultant for Population, Family Planning, Women-in-Development and Honorary General Secretary of MSJ Research Institute - an NGO dedicated to social sector research in Pakistan.