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.

Pakistan says in touch with 150,000 nationals in virus-hit Italy

Updated 21 March 2020

Pakistan says in touch with 150,000 nationals in virus-hit Italy

  • Says diplomatic mission in Italy is in touch with the nationals, 2,000 of whom are students
  • Italy has so far reported more than 3,400 deaths, including one Pakistani

ISLAMABAD: Italy is home to about 150,000 Pakistani nationals, concentrated mostly in the the country’s north — Lombardy region with Milan as its capital, the Foreign Office (FO) said on Thursday.

 “Our Embassy in Rome and Consulate General in Milan are in constant contact with the Pakistani community,” FO spokesman Aisha Farooqui, said in an official handout.
The statement comes at a time when the death toll in Italy from the deadly virus has surpassed that of China.
“The Embassy as well as Consulate General had set up 24/7 help lines to provide services and information to the Community at the start of the outbreak.” Farooqui said.

Pakistani diplomats are also coordinating with education institutes across Italy where nearly 2,000 students from the South Asian country are currently enrolled, the statement read.

The death of first Pakistani national, Imtiaz Ahmed, from the contagion was also reported in Italy on March 11. With a population of 60 million, the European country has so far reported more than 3,400 deaths.

According to media reports, a visiting Chinese Red Cross team slammed Italy for not taking the quarantine requirements seriously, making it difficult for health authorities in the country to limit the spread of the virus.

Given that China has reportedly managed the viral outbreak, Italy has seemingly emerged as COVID-19’s new global epicenter.

Meanwhile, the total number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Pakistan jumped beyond 440 on Thursday after a sharp spike in numbers in Sindh and Balochistan.