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November 8, 2019

‘Smart cities should be inclusive, integrated and resilient’


November 8, 2019

Urban planner Farhan Anwar believes that when we talk about sustainable or smart cities, it’s not only about renewable energies but cities that are inclusive, integrated and resilient.

“The dividends of a city’s growth should be for everyone,” Anwar explained on Thursday while speaking at a consultation session on urban mobility that was arranged by Shehri. The NGO is presently engaged in conducting a three-year project — Climate Efficient Urban Mobility and Smart City Growth — sponsored by the office of the Friedrich Naumann Stiftung Pakistan.

The project aims to develop collaborations between the government, the civil society and private sector stakeholders for initiating a narrative on sustainable urban mobility in Karachi that can then lead to action on ground.

Under this project, critical government and civil society stakeholders have been engaged in the city. Additionally, a strategy paper presenting practical and solution-based approaches for implementing sustainable urban mobility practices has already been prepared.

Also under way is research related to three further publications that bring into the mobility context of Karachi smart transportation practices such as transit-oriented development (TOD) and TOD station area design, universal access and the interface between mobility planning and overall urban land use planning.

Mobility-liveability link

Anwar said they want to initiate a narrative on sustainable urban mobility in Karachi. In our city, he said, transport planning is just about getting someone from one point to another.

“There’s no understanding on how mobility-related interventions can improve liveability,” he said, adding that transport-related projects can increase economic opportunities. When we talk about sustainability in any aspect, he explained, it has to be about its economic, environmental and social implications.

He said that across the world, there’s a paradigm shift in terms of urban planning regarding how cities are being developed, for a number of reasons: one of which is climate change.

“Climate change is a phenomenon which is considered the most important challenge faced by humanity,” he said, adding that by 2007 the urban population had increased more than the rural around the world.

The urban planner said that according to conservative estimates, it is believed that by 2050 over 75 per cent of the world population will be living in cities. That is the reason, he said, cities are to be looked in a very different way.

BRT system

Speaking about the bus rapid transit (BRT) system, Anwar said Green Line being constructed in Karachi from Surjani Town to Guru Mandir is a first-generation design.

“It’s just a corridor. It has no space for a secondary service,” he said, adding that if a passenger disembarks the bus and still has to walk for 30 to 45 minutes, then what’s the use of that transport.

He said that in other cities of the world, like New Delhi, the authorities are promoting intermodality. “They have introduced bicycles. You get out of the metro and you have a bicycle stand. You pick a bike and go to another bicycle stand and leave the bike there.” He also spoke about the use of inducting non-motorised transportation modes in Karachi. “Can the city have bicycle lanes and public bicycle stands in the future?”

Walkable city

The urban planner said that people generally ask how Karachi can become a walkable city. “A walkable city doesn’t mean that you walk from one corner of the city to another. It means that your destinations are at walkable distances from your neighbourhoods.”

The markets need to be walkable, he said, and explained that it doesn’t mean that one should walk all the way from Nazimabad to Teen Talwar.

A student of the Habib University, Shanze Farooq, made a presentation on the need of having modes of intermodality and feeder services connected with the BRT lines, particularly Green Line. She explained that in Green Line there’s a segregated corridor, but asked how a commuter can get to that corridor. “There are lots of spaces around it [the corridor] that aren’t at five-minute distances,” she said, adding that those places aren’t accessible for the BRT.

“There have to be modes of transport in the middle to cater to the commuters far away from the corridor,” she said, and shed light on local solutions to this problem. She talked about an app that is becoming common in Karachi. It’s a bus-hailing start-up that allows customers to book fixed-rate rides on buses and vans in their network.

It was founded in Lahore earlier this year and got special equipment amount funding of $2.2 million (approximately Rs342.32 billion). “It has a potential together with Green Line to make transport more accessible,” said Shanze.

Rameen Iqbal, a student of the Institute of Business Administration (IBA) and the CEO of a scooter rental service, informed the participants about her service that is now operating at the IBA. Amna Iqbal, a student of the Habib University, facilitated the interactive discussion at the session.