Student architects to help build 5 mln cheap homes in Pakistan

An aerial view of Orangi town, Karachi August 26, 2016. (File/ reuters)
Updated 19 September 2019

Student architects to help build 5 mln cheap homes in Pakistan

  • By 2030, more than half of Pakistan's projected 250 million citizens are expected to live in cities
  • Prime Minister Khan banned the use of farmland for new housing

BANGKOK: An ambitious plan to build five million affordable homes within five years in Pakistan will tap student architects and use local materials and new technologies to keep costs low, a senior government official said on Thursday.
Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan has committed to build four million homes in rural and urban areas, and one million homes in peri-urban areas over the next five years.
It is the biggest government-backed housing program ever attempted, and will meet half of Pakistan’s needs, said Zaigham Rizvi, chairman of the federal task force on housing.
“Affordable housing is not just an issue in poor countries; it is an issue in nearly every country,” Rizvi said on the sidelines of a housing forum in Bangkok.
“But the promise of ‘housing for all’ is usually nothing more than a political slogan, and rarely implemented because of a lack of will or because the institutional framework is lacking,” he said.
By 2030, more than half of Pakistan’s projected 250 million citizens are expected to live in cities, compared to 36% now, according to the United Nations.
About a quarter of the country’s population currently lives below the poverty line, according to the Asian Development Bank.
Authorities in Pakistan are developing more than two dozen pilot villages in Punjab, the nation’s most populous province, using common lands — wasteland or grazing land — and unused public lands, Rizvi said.
The homes are designed by student architects who will use technology and local materials to keep costs low, while taking into account cultural and geographical needs.
“We want to engage the youth in solving the nation’s problems. In the village, they are not used to high-rise buildings, so they will be at most one-story buildings,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
“Similarly, most homes keep cattle, so there will be a common area to keep them,” said Rizvi, a former consultant to the World Bank and the UN’s housing agency, UN-HABITAT.
It is hoped the pilot projects will be scaled up once deemed a success, he said, adding that several local and foreign firms are keen to build the low-cost homes.
The government will tailor financing schemes for people who want to become homeowners but may not have bank accounts or have only a seasonal income, he added.
Globally, about 1.6 billion people live in inadequate housing, with most living in slums and informal settlements in cities, according to UN estimates.
In neighboring India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has pledged to provide “Housing for All” by 2022, with a goal of building 20 million urban housing units, backed by subsidised loans and incentives for developers.
The rapid growth of cities in Pakistan is expected to accelerate the conversion of farmland into built-up land.
Earlier this year, Prime Minister Khan banned the use of farmland for new housing, in a bid to stop cities encroaching on agricultural areas.
Housing had traditionally not been a part of urban planning, which had led to a piecemeal approach, said Rizvi.
“With increasing urbanization and migration, housing has to be a critical part of urban planning. Otherwise we risk neglecting the needs of millions of vulnerable people,” he said.


EU safety agency suspends Pakistani airlines’ European authorization

Updated 01 July 2020

EU safety agency suspends Pakistani airlines’ European authorization

  • The step has been taken due to concerns about the country’s ability to ensure compliance with international aviation standards
  • PIA expects the ‘earliest possible’ lifting of suspension after action by the government and the airline

ISLAMABAD: The European Union Air Safety Agency (EASA) has suspended Pakistan International Airlines’ (PIA) authorization to fly to the bloc for six months, the airline said on Tuesday, in a major blow to the country’s flag carrier.
Separately, the safety agency said it took the action due to concerns about the country’s ability to ensure compliance with international aviation standards at all times.
The suspension follows Pakistan’s grounding of 262 of the country’s 860 pilots — including 141 of PIA’s 434 — whose licenses the aviation minister termed “dubious.”
“EASA has temporarily suspended PIA’s authorization to operate to the EU member states for a period of six months effective July 1, 2020 with the right to appeal,” PIA said in a statement. It added it would temporarily discontinue all its flights to Europe.
Confirming the move in an emailed statement, the EASA referred to a recent investigation by Pakistan which it said showed a “large share” of pilot licenses to be invalid.
Pakistan’s grounding of the pilots followed a preliminary report on a PIA crash in Karachi that killed 97 people last month.
PIA said it is in contact with the EASA to take corrective measures and appeal against the decision, adding that it expected the “earliest possible” lifting of the suspension after action by the government and the airline.
The EASA also suspended the authorization of another Pakistani airline, Vision Air International.
Vision Air International did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.
Following the EASA’s decision, the UK Civil Aviation Authority said it, too, was withdrawing PIA’s permit to operate from three of its airports, as required under law.
“PIA flights from Birmingham, London Heathrow and Manchester airports are suspended with immediate effect,” a spokesman for the UK authority told Reuters.
The three were major flying destinations for the airline.
Meanwhile, Pakistani pilots and their union, the Pakistan Airlines Pilots Association (PALPA), say there are discrepancies in the government’s list of pilots with licenses deemed dubious and are demanding a judicial investigation.
PIA and private airline Air Blue have also queried the list with PIA saying 36 of its pilots mentioned had either retired or left the airline, while Air Blue said it no longer employed seven of nine pilots on the list.
“It contains names of highly educated and qualified pilots who have passed all the tests,” PALPA’s president, Chaudhry Salman, told Reuters. “We want a fair and impartial resolution to this matter.”
An official at Pakistan’s aviation ministry, Abdul Sattar Khokhar, said they did not have full details of the discrepancies. “The issue is being sorted out in consultation with airlines and civil aviation authorities.”