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‘Poor urban planning endangering ecology,environment of megacities’

Expansion of cities without urban planning has resulted in devastating impacts on ecology and environment, observed vice chancellor of the University of Karachi (KU) Prof Dr Muhammad Qaiser, on Wednesday.

He was addressing the inaugural session of the South Asian region’s first two-day long conference on urban ecology, organised by the Department of Geography held at the varsity’s Jinnah Auditorium.

Reclaiming habitats once disturbed or destroyed has become impossible, he said, urging government authorities to keep urban planning and ecological preservation into account when carrying out development plans.

“The country’s population is increasing at an alarming rate as Pakistan’s population has doubled in only 25 years, with 200 million people residing only in Karachi – a city which had a population of a mere 150,000 people in 1947.”

He said it was the duty of lawmakers to look into urban planning and environmental conservation since it was one of the most pertinent global issues.

However, University of Berlin’s Prof Dr Salman Qureshi in his keynote address opined that biological scientists had a misguided and disturbing perception about urban ecology, according to them it tends to disturb ecosystem of the cities and endangers nature.

This perception, according to Prof Qureshi, must change since urban ecology had become an imperative field of study in this age of globalisation and urbanisation.

He further added that the emotional state of people was quite vital in an urban atmosphere since they must be stress-free in order to give in their maximum. Recreational activities, especially street cricket were important to ensure adequate health and social integration of an urban locality’s inhabitants.

“In Karachi, plants and trees are being cut down to widen roads, a practice highly dangerous for the environment. But unfortunately, political parties of the metropolis have different priorities when it comes to development, one wants to focus on roads, the other on parks,” the professor maintained.

He, however, referred to Islamabad as a prime example of a modern, planned city. “South Asian megacities need urban planning since their conditions are not too good.  As many as 52 percent area of Mumbai consists of slums.”

Prof Dr Cristian Ioja, head of department of regional geography and environment at the University of Bucharest, Romania, on the other hand, observed that Eastern Europe underwent major social and economic changes including of spatial planning after the fall of communism.

He further said that transition from a centralised to a decentralised system produced significant changes especially in urban ecosystems.

“The increased involvement of public in decision making has favoured the occurrence of complex environmental conflicts which has complicated the administrative process,” he opined. “Global climate change is likely to have serious impacts on Europe and European Union is playing its role to cope with it,” Prof Ioja further claimed.

Assistant professor at the geography department, KU, Dr Salman Zubair, while presenting his paper mentioned that poor urban planning and transportation system of Karachi had created serious social, economic and ecological problems for the city.

“Karachi is the seventh largest megacity of the world and ranked fourth among cities with the highest number of road crash fatalities. More than three million registered vehicles on road are contributing to traffic problems.”

According to his study, 33 percent of road crashes in the city are caused by erroneous road designs; 42 percent of the city’s population under high threat of road crashes, noise pollution and air pollution.

“A mass transit system is urgently required to make the urban transport system more sustainable and safe.”

Azmat, Zeeshan. ‘Poor urban planning endangering ecology,environment of megacities’, The News, January 19, 2017.

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