Student architects to help build 5 mln cheap homes in Pakistan

An aerial view of Orangi town, Karachi August 26, 2016. (File/ reuters)
Updated 19 September 2019

Student architects to help build 5 mln cheap homes in Pakistan

  • By 2030, more than half of Pakistan's projected 250 million citizens are expected to live in cities
  • Prime Minister Khan banned the use of farmland for new housing

BANGKOK: An ambitious plan to build five million affordable homes within five years in Pakistan will tap student architects and use local materials and new technologies to keep costs low, a senior government official said on Thursday.
Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan has committed to build four million homes in rural and urban areas, and one million homes in peri-urban areas over the next five years.
It is the biggest government-backed housing program ever attempted, and will meet half of Pakistan’s needs, said Zaigham Rizvi, chairman of the federal task force on housing.
“Affordable housing is not just an issue in poor countries; it is an issue in nearly every country,” Rizvi said on the sidelines of a housing forum in Bangkok.
“But the promise of ‘housing for all’ is usually nothing more than a political slogan, and rarely implemented because of a lack of will or because the institutional framework is lacking,” he said.
By 2030, more than half of Pakistan’s projected 250 million citizens are expected to live in cities, compared to 36% now, according to the United Nations.
About a quarter of the country’s population currently lives below the poverty line, according to the Asian Development Bank.
Authorities in Pakistan are developing more than two dozen pilot villages in Punjab, the nation’s most populous province, using common lands — wasteland or grazing land — and unused public lands, Rizvi said.
The homes are designed by student architects who will use technology and local materials to keep costs low, while taking into account cultural and geographical needs.
“We want to engage the youth in solving the nation’s problems. In the village, they are not used to high-rise buildings, so they will be at most one-story buildings,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
“Similarly, most homes keep cattle, so there will be a common area to keep them,” said Rizvi, a former consultant to the World Bank and the UN’s housing agency, UN-HABITAT.
It is hoped the pilot projects will be scaled up once deemed a success, he said, adding that several local and foreign firms are keen to build the low-cost homes.
The government will tailor financing schemes for people who want to become homeowners but may not have bank accounts or have only a seasonal income, he added.
Globally, about 1.6 billion people live in inadequate housing, with most living in slums and informal settlements in cities, according to UN estimates.
In neighboring India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has pledged to provide “Housing for All” by 2022, with a goal of building 20 million urban housing units, backed by subsidised loans and incentives for developers.
The rapid growth of cities in Pakistan is expected to accelerate the conversion of farmland into built-up land.
Earlier this year, Prime Minister Khan banned the use of farmland for new housing, in a bid to stop cities encroaching on agricultural areas.
Housing had traditionally not been a part of urban planning, which had led to a piecemeal approach, said Rizvi.
“With increasing urbanization and migration, housing has to be a critical part of urban planning. Otherwise we risk neglecting the needs of millions of vulnerable people,” he said.


Pakistanis among dead in Madinah bus accident

Updated 17 October 2019

Pakistanis among dead in Madinah bus accident

  • The crash took place when a privately chartered bus carrying 39 pilgrims collided with a loader
  • Reports indicate only four bus passengers survived the tragedy, some in critical condition

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Thursday expressed profound grief and sorrow over the tragic road accident that claimed the lives of 35 pilgrims in Saudi Arabia.

According to media reports, the accident happened when a privately chartered bus carrying 39 passengers collided with a loader near Madinah at about 7pm on Wednesday.

Pakistan’s foreign office confirmed in a press statement that “the deceased also include a certain number of Pakistani nationals.”

“Of the four survivors,” the handout continued, “there is one Pakistani named Mr. Akbar, who is seriously injured. The Pakistan Consulate General in Jeddah has established contact with him and is in touch with the concerned Saudi authorities and staff of the King Fahad Hospital, Madinah, to ascertain details of casualties of Pakistani nationals.”

Reacting to the development, the foreign minister said his ministry was in touch with the Saudi authorities to ascertain the causes of the accident.

“Our diplomatic mission is in contact with the Saudi authorities to ensure that the injured get the best medical facilities and the bodies of the deceased are smoothly flown back to Pakistan,” Qureshi added.