NATIONAL INFRASTRUCTURE A TALE OF GROWTH AND UTTER NEGLECT

A look at all the major cities of the country would reveal pathetic state of affairs in maintaining and developing basic civic infrastructure.

KHALID BUTT, Bureau Chief, Lahore
Aug 28 - Sep 03, 2006

Pakistan has certainly come a long way from what it had inherited on independence by way of its national infrastructure. Whether in terms of industrial growth, communication network, roads, railways, cities and the civic amenities the country has marched far ahead. In education sector, look at the number of mushrooming universities, colleges, schools and vocational institutions as well as the development of industries and cities to cope with the galloping population growth.

The modernization of communication network, expansion of roads, bridges, railway routes and tracks as well as upgrading of the highways, waterways, ports and shipping and even aviation is all before us. There has been a singular change from the past. But where are we heading? And how successful have been our efforts to keep this expansion on track to meet our national aspirations? An answer to these questions is difficult to describe for giving an overall picture.

Let us first start from Punjab and its capital, the city of Lahore. The historic city has been on the crossroads of many civilizations and subjects of much folklore. Known as a city of immense charm, full of gardens, parks, old havelis, modern mansions, historical monuments, it was also the hub of one of the great network of roads and railway network in good old days.

The British had created an efficient railways system, which linked the sub-continent from one end to another. In Pakistan, we got our share of old NWR and ER in the two wings. Later, it became Pakistan Railways, the old GT Road, built by Sher Shah Suri, was an engineering marvel but it retained its characteristics even after the independence. Later on we improved our highways, adding first the National Highway, then Super Highway and lately the much celebrated National Motorway of an international standard and specification.

New roads were built all over Punjab linking many inaccessible areas through new bridges and shortcut roads to bring about a revolution. Same sort of expansion was visible in the railways network throughout its system, which saw many new tracks and routes being added, notably linking the once cut off Dera Ghazi Khan to the main railway system. The same sort of expansion was visible in all other provinces Sindh, NWFP and Balochistan. The new motorway being completed to link Gwadar, is the most noteworthy example.

Let us look at the state of major and smaller cities. After Lahore, the once well run and managed cities like Faisalabad, Multan, Sahiwal, Gujranwala, Gujrat, Sialkot, Jhang, Bahawalpur, Okara, Rawalpindi and Jhelum are today busting at seams with their bloated population, dilapidated municipal system and complete chaos to offer even a semblance of basic amenities like water, sewerage, and other services which are so essential for its smooth running.

A look at all the major cities of the country would reveal pathetic state of affairs in maintaining and developing basic civic infrastructure. Both Sahiwal and Faisalabad, which I often visit, were once model towns for their cleanliness and orderliness. Both now represent a picture of utter confusion. Sahiwal is full of garbage and dung cakes plastered all over the walls, buffaloes and cows in the streets, making flow of traffic almost impossible. So is the state in other towns like Gujranwala, Gujrat, Jhang, Sargodha and Multan, which were once cities with special charm and ambience. Now they represent utter confusion and a run down system to maintain city clean, orderly and pollution free.

Lahore, once a model city, now has heaps of garbage and open sewerage and flowing gutters on Queens Road, Lawrence Road and many areas of Defence, Gulberg, Garden Town, Samanabad and Iqbal Town, notwithstanding tall claims of our dynamic and youthful City Nazim.

The mushrooming of commercial buildings and plazas in the congested areas of the city have broken roads and streets, making Lahore one of the most depressing cities, sans any planning or control of its authorities. What role being played by LDA to rectify this situation is hard to ascertain, since CDG goes on harping the pet theme of progress, which is nowhere to be seen.

A front-page picture on all national papers showing falling debris of an unauthorized 12-storey building in downtown Shah Alam Market tells the story of criminal neglect. The same neglect is to be found all over Punjab in upkeep of roads, streets and municipal facilities. When I look around in other provinces, especially in Karachi, Peshawar and Quetta, I find the same story of lack of efforts to keep up the infrastructure of the cities with the growing demand and pace. There is need for the President and Prime Minister to look into these obvious failings and order remedial action on emergent basis.

KARACHI SUBMERGED IN RAINS WATER

Death toll

26

Railways losses

between Rs250 mn to Rs300 mn

Karachi rain

78.8mm

Industrial production loss

Rs 2 bn to Rs 3 bn

Exports losses

$15 mn to Rs 20 mn