The prime ministers’ low-cost housing scheme is likely to kick off within month to build five million units.

The past policies such as Prime Minister Junejo’s five points, National Housing Policy 2001 and National Resettlement Policy 2002, KDA’s Satellite Town and a number of low-cost housing schemes of various development authorities are still to become habitat even after decades of their launching.

The objective is still not accomplished and scarcity of housing has increased manifold. At the moment, there is 8.5 million shortage of housing and the number is increasing yearly. Thus, fate of Naya Pakistan Housing Project will be no different.

As a result, the low income group moved to urban centres and established slums or squatter settlements over the state land, particularly on land of strategic, hazardous zones, under high tension lines, river beds, abutting drainage, along with railway tracks and amenity plots.

Now these slums constitute about 45pc of urban population. Punjab has about 1,300 urban slums and Sindh has about 2,000. The figure is gradually increasing.

The idea to build new five million units is attractive, but overlooking the existing slums of mega urban cities will be a major disillusionment to the 45pc urban population living in inferior conditions.

Realising the gravity of the past experience and in order to evolve an effective mechanism to control future growth of katchi abadis, it is imperative to undertake resettlements to equalise and uplift existing slums to alleviate the sufferings of the urban poor rather than constructing new housing.

The federal government needs to allocate ample seed money to convert Naya Pakistan housing project into resettlement plan. It should take up itself or ask provinces to build houses as per quantum of slums or katchi abadis in the respective province with vertical or horizontal housing structure and active public and private partnership to comply with the constitutional obligations and universal commitment envisages in the Millennium Development Goals.

M. AHSAN BUKSH,

Karachi, May 5.