What will be the fate of Gilgit Master Plan 2040?

Syed Samad Shah

A master plan is a dynamic and comprehensive policy document that contains a conceptual layout to guide the planned development of a city. It includes policies, land-use maps, and proposals and is usually prepared for a period of up to 20-30 years. Different development authorities across the country are tasked to prepare and implement master plans for their respective cities to make them more sustainable, organized, tourist and eco-friendly, and resilient. For instance, the Capital Development Authority (CDA) and the Lahore Development Authority (LDA) are the custodians of the master plans of Islamabad and Lahore respectively. Consequently, these master plans are implemented by the concerned town planning directorates of the said authorities. The respective town planning directorates make sure that the development of the city is in conformity and accordance with the approved master plan. 

The first master plan for Gilgit city was prepared back in 1977 by the government of GB under the consultancy firm Pakistan Environmental Planning and Architectural Consultant (Pvt) Ltd.   The then master plan of 1977 attempted to incorporate all the important aspects of town planning including housing, transportation, land-use distribution, zoning, population forecasting, climate-resilient development so on and so forth. However, it turned out to be nothing but just a piece of paper due to multiple factors. One of the most important factors is the absence of town planning institutions followed by a lack of legal and political backing. Since then, Gilgit city has kept on growing haphazardly in the absence of any master plan resulting in some serious urban issues namely unparalleled urbanization, dilapidated buildings and roads, unintegrated transportation system, poor sewerage, and drainage system, and unplanned solid waste management in the city. The lack of land-use planning and zoning regulations in the city has exacerbated multiple natural hazard risks in the already susceptible and disaster-prone part of the country.

The aforementioned urban issues called for immediate action to control the rapidly urbanizing resource-scarce city. Therefore, the government of GB decided to prepare the master plan for Gilgit city till 2040. The task of preparing the master plan was handed over to the Gilgit Development Authority (GDA). Subsequently, a consultant Mot Macdonald Pakistan (MMP) was hired for the preparation of the said master plan. It is indeed a positive initiative taken by the government of GB. Now, when the master plan is in the final stages of approval, it is worth questioning whether this master plan will be implemented, or will it again be nothing but a waste of resources.

The answer, mostly being received is, “Yes, he master plan of Gilgit once approved will be implanted in its true spirit.” But, for that to happen, a town planning and building control institution will have to be established. So far, no such institution exists in Gilgit city.

Gilgit Baltistan needs town planning professionals who are the true custodians of master plans across the country. In the absence of a full-fledged town planning and building control directorate, the implementation of the most awaited master plan of Gilgit 2040 is not possible. It is hoped that the concerned authorities will consider the matter before the final approval of the master plan from the cabinet of GB.

The haphazard and unplanned development in the city can only be managed once the master plan is implemented. Furthermore, strict compliance with building control and zoning bylaws is equally important to make Gilgit a tourist-friendly city in general and a livable city for the residents and visitors, in particular.

The author is Assistant Director (Planning) at the Federal Government Employees Housing Authority, Ministry of Housing and Works. He is also a post-graduate research student of MS Urban and Regional Planning at National University of Sciences and Technology (NUST), Islamabad.


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