Islamabad was planned as a scenic cum modern capital, therefore rightly prides itself as ‘Islamabad, the Beautiful’. The city fascinates the visitors who are spellbound by the natural beauty as well as masterful planning of its architects that has made it a real gem in the foothills of the Margallas. It is a beautifully designed city. However, the urbanization influx has adversely affected the city, its dwellers and the working class of Islamabad. While the employment and educational opportunities are continuously attracting increased number of people from the surroundings as well as all over the country, the requisite infrastructure like residential areas – govt quarters, shopping areas and health/ educational facilities have not been able to keep pace with the requirement of the population dependent on the city. The need/ demand to review its master plan is therefore being heard quite frequently.
The hottest issue is that as the capital lacks compatible residential facilities, hundreds of thousands of people working in Islamabad have to therefore unnecessarily commute on a daily basis to and from Islamabad. This not only puts unnecessary strain on meagre transportation resources but also wastes precious human hours. Moreover, these individuals despite working in Islamabad for prolonged durations are unable to rent/ buy any property in Islamabad due to exorbitant prices, resulting into very few middle class/ lower middle class people, other than govt servants, living in Islamabad.
The city has therefore been effectively turned into ‘The City of Elite’. This deprivation has caused heartburn and deepens the divide within the society. Lack of attention to the suburbs has marred the outlook of the surroundings – continuous neglect resulting into mushrooming of housing societies without appropriate planning and CDA oversight. The area around Islamabad is, therefore, being turned into haphazard dwellings which will be difficult to control and might prove hazardous from the security point of view.
Unlike other capitals, Islamabad lacks life. The city does not have desired number of recreational spots where commoners could flock to. For this reason, Islamabad gives a haunted look on festivals, as majority of people proceed to their hometowns.
As compared to other world capitals, Islamabad is very thinly populated with a lot of land underutilised. Govt accommodation is mostly single storey covering a lot of space, while housing only a few. Employees have to wait for approximately 15 years before any chance of getting govt residence. Construction of multi storeyed buildings for govt and private sectors duly supported by related infrastructure and facilities without compromising on international standards of open space, environment and recreational areas would ease the difficulties of citizens to a great extent, besides turning the city into a vibrant and dynamic destination. These measures are also required so as to create facilities that would generate sufficient revenue for the CDA for a considerable period of time.
It has also been observed that to meet its developmental needs, CDA raises revenue through annual/ occasional selling of plots. One wonders as to how long this can continue; selling of precious assets for routine maintenance/ development can be suicidal. A study aimed at ‘Optimal Space Management of Islamabad Capital Territory’ should therefore be carried out with a view to recommend ‘Land Utilization’ and Spatial Policy that will provide required residential facilities to the masses employed in Islamabad, simultaneously recommending options that would provide sufficient revenues to the CDA for its annual budget.
Course correction and review of the master plan of the capital after 55 years of its conception is the need of hour. Basic issues of non-availability of sufficient residences for govt employees, overall development of Islamabad Capital Territory (with due focus on suburbs) to include housing schemes for the common people, provision of requisite space for private educational institutions and hospitals within reasonable distance of living areas and environment friendly recreational projects in line with efficient Land Utilisation and Spatial Policy are mandatory so as to make the capital a vibrant, dynamic and buzzing city.
The writer is a student at IIU, Islamabad