Pakistan Institute of Development Economics



Problems and Prospects of Urban Environmental Management in Pakistan

Discussions on environmental conditions often assume that urbanisation contributes to the degradation of the environment. However, urbanisation per se is not detrimental to the environment. Concentrations of population and economic activities through urbanisation offer opportunities in providing environmental infrastructure and health services costeffectively, because of economies of scale. It also provides opportunities to effectively internalise environmental costs; because concentration of economic activities reduces user charges and costs of tax collection, enforcement, and wastes management, which are essential to environmental protection. Nevertheless, while providing opportunities the process of urbanisation also generates environmental pressures. A nation that is unable to utilise the opportunities and alleviate the pressures through integrated environmental, economic and physical planning finds that mismanaged urbanisation can pose enormous environmental and economic problems that become increasingly difficult to solve with time. Unfortunately, Pakistan is one of the countries which have not managed the process of urbanisation effectively. This paper, after tracing the urbanisation trends in Pakistan, discusses the existing and emerging environmental impacts and risks. The country is at the stage of risk transition where modern risks caused by industrial and traffic pollution, such as chemicals, heavy metals and noise, combine with the traditional risks such as bacteriological and parasitic infections caused by inadequate infrastructure facilities particularly water supply and sanitation. The paper also analyses the responses to urban environmental problems in terms of approaches to sustainable urban development. Finally, it outlines the holistic policy directions to environmentally sound and sustainable urban development, including institutional, regulatory, economic and participatory measures.

Muhammad Aslam Khan