Lack of Urban and Regional Planning in Gilgit-Baltistan

Syed Samad Shah

A famous Urban Planner S. B. Zisman  has said that, “The essential question of planning is not where to build, but where not to build”. The lack of proper Urban and Regional Planning in Pakistan, in general, and in Gilgit-Baltistan, in particular, has led to unparalleled and haphazard development. The Town Planners (Urban Planners) commonly known as ‘Doctor of Cities’ are the right professionals who play a pivotal role in planning and ultimately in policy-making of a country. In Pakistan, the dilemma is the lack of knowledge about the Town Planning profession and the role of Town Planners in the development of a country. As a result, uncontrolled development, messy transportation system, poor solid waste system, and environmental pollution is witnessed all over the country particularly in Gilgit-Baltistan.

In order to resolve the chaotic development and to introduce a proper building control system, different development authorities like Capital Development Authority (CDA), Lahore Development Authority (LDA), Peshawar Development Authority (PDA), are working in different provinces of Pakistan. These development authorities hire professional Town Planners (Urban Planners) to guide the growth of cities in a planned and controlled way without compromising the sustainable development goals. Also, there is a post for Town Planning Officer (TPO) in the local government system of different provinces. The same goes for Gilgit-Baltistan where two development authorities namely Skardu Development Authority (SDA) and Gilgit Development Authority (GDA) have been established respectively with the same goal.

Unfortunately, in Gilgit Baltistan, the scenario is quite surprising where no single Town Planner has been appointed so far in any of the development authorities since their establishment. The position of Town Planner in both the authorities is either vacant or is filled by other non-professional individuals. For instance, the role of a Town Planner is being played by a Civil Engineer or an Architect in these development authorities which is totally against the Pakistan Council of Architects and Town Planners (PCATP) Ordinance 1983.

Recently, a position of Town Planner was announced in Skardu Development Authority where the eligibility criteria in the advertisement posted by Career Testing Service (CTSP) clearly stated that the applicant should hold a bachelor degree in City and Regional Planning (Urban Planning) from a university recognized by the Higher Education Commission (HEC). Also, the registration of the candidate with the Pakistan Council of Architects and Town Planners was made mandatory. It made almost every planner stunned that the merit list of candidates accepted to appear in the interview included two Architects as well which is a violation of PCATP Ordinance 1983 which states:
“A Town Planner means,
1) A person holding a bachelor degree in City and Regional Planning (Urban Planning) from an HEC recognized university.
2) A person registered with Pakistan Council of Architects and Town Planners (PCATP).”
Further, clause 28 of PCATP Ordinance 1983 categorically consider appointment or adjustment of non-planner against town planning position as a legal offense.
It is, therefore, requested to the concerned authorities in Gilgit-Baltistan to fill the vacant positions of Town Planners in the respective development authorities on an urgent basis and to consider the above-mentioned criteria for the position of a Town Planner in future.

The writer is working as Assistant Manager Planning GB/AJK Region at Graana Group of Companies Islamabad-Pakistan

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