By Nuxhat J. Khurshid
Today Islamabad presents a grim picture of once serene city as urban sprawl poses a serious threat to the capital city unless timely measures are taken by city administration
Until around mid-90s Islamabad used to be a beautiful lush green city that offered its residents with ample greenery and serene environment. People from far-flung areas considered Islamabad as a quiet and calm place to live. Basic facilities like health care, education, housing, water and sewerage system used to be remarkable. However over the times these standards have significantly compromised due to huge population influx.
Urban sprawl mostly happens in the backdrop of underdevelopment in rural areas. People in rural areas have witnessed numerous problems such as unemployment, education, health and hygiene, lack of resources such as water, electricity and gas. These issues forced them to move to major cities for a better life. Such is the case with Islamabad.
Originally Islamabad was planned to accommodate a particular number of population. But over the years huge influx of population has constrained its resources. Islamabad’s estimated population touched the 2-million mark in 2012 which means the capital’s population has more than doubled since the last census in 1998 which put the population at 800,000.
In last few years, a hundred per cent increase has been witnessed in localities on the outskirts of the capital like Bhara Kahu, Banigala, Tarnol, Golra, and sectors I-11, G-11, G-12, F-12 and H-13.
To accommodate increasing population new residential sectors had been launched as G-13, 14 and 15 which extend along the western corridor whereas C-12 and D-12 located at the foothills of Margalla with more sectors to be launched in coming years.
With the growth in population, accommodation in main sectors of Islamabad became insufficient and costly due to which people have moved on to the suburbs like Barakahu, Chak Shahzad and Banigala.
Originally suburbs like Barakahu and Chak Shehzad were designed to supply fruits, vegetables and dairy to the main city. However over the time with population influx from small towns and villages, the initial plan has been violated severely. Consequently, irregular and random constructions in these areas have constrained amenities to the citizens of the city.
One of the crucial issues is increasing issues of demand and supply of water. The Capital Development Authority (CDA) can hardly cater to the water demands of all of the residents of the capital city. In addition, most of the water filtration plants are not maintained which causes health problems among the residents. Many sectors such as G-9, 10, 11 and 13 get insufficient supply of water, and to some sectors, such as G-14, CDA doesn’t supply water at all. Unregulated use of water is yet another common practice which is affected by drilling and extracting ground water. This ultimately affects the groundwater recharge which, in turn, affects water supply to users.
Today Islamabad presents a grim picture of once environmentally serene and beautiful city. Good governance is perhaps the magic wand that will solve the miseries of the city. This resolution can take place only if the government extends the boundaries of development to rural areas. It should take keen initiative in solving the issues by constructing educational institutions, hospitals and other recreational centers in the countryside. As good governance will be effective enough to provide gas, water and electricity to remote areas, it will also create job opportunities in these far-flung areas thus limiting urban sprawl to a considerable extent and keeping the population and development of big cities to a manageable level.