The changing face of Islamabad — 30 years of urban expansion – Pakistan


In Islamabad, croplands, grasslands, and forests have been transformed into urban buildings, making it one of the quickest-increasing cities within the nation.

Cities are thought of key battlegrounds within the struggle towards local weather change, with fast urbanisation presenting probably the largest problem for coping with local weather-induced disasters, air pollution and biodiversity loss. At the identical time, cities have a serious impression on a rustic’s monetary well being and are sometimes seen as engines of financial progress.

Globally, cities are increasing rapidly. Half of the worldwide inhabitants already lives in cities, and by 2050, two-thirds of the world’s population is predicted to stay in urban areas.

People transfer to cities for a range of causes, together with higher entry to livelihood alternatives, healthcare, schooling, and social amenities. For many, cities function the hope for upward social mobility. Pakistan too is quickly urbanising and within the subsequent 20 years, there’ll seemingly be a notable increase in the number of urban areas throughout the nation.

This projected urban improvement, if achieved in an unsustainable method, presents a grave hazard to the surroundings and biodiversity, elevating considerations about its lengthy-time period viability as noticed within the context of Islamabad.

located at the base of the Margalla Hills on the Potohar Plateau, between 457 and 610 meters above sea degree, and is surrounded by thick Himalayan forests. Over the years, Islamabad’s inhabitants has ballooned from 0.117 million in 1961 to 2.4 million in 2023.

This exponential progress within the metropolis’s inhabitants could also be attributed to its beneficial local weather, considerable inexperienced areas, the presence of protected areas just like the Margalla Hills National Park [renowned as a tourist spot], its excessive expatriate inhabitants, easy accessibility to healthcare and academic amenities, and for being a hub for enterprise and commerce.

Unfortunately, such huge will increase in inhabitants set off fast urban expansion, inflicting substantial modifications in land use and the native ecology of cities. This results in the substitute of pure land cowl with impermeable urban supplies, leading to deforestation, habitat loss, disrupted ecosystems, and hurt to biodiversity. It contributes to changing native climates, will increase vitality consumption, and impacts air and water amount and high quality.

In Islamabad, croplands, grasslands, and forests have been transformed into urban buildings — housing societies, business markets, roads, and parking tons — making it one of the quickest-increasing cities within the nation.

number of research papers on urban sprawl in Islamabad have additionally revealed vital expansion of town’s constructed-up areas, ensuing within the loss of pure habitats. These modifications point out a rising urban footprint and the results of this steady expansion on the ecosystem.

The transformation of Islamabad’s land use land cowl between 1990 and 2020. — Data Source: Mapped and processed utilizing Landsat Satellite imagery by Richard Garstang Conservation GIS Lab, WWF-Pakistan.

urban heat island effect.

According to historic knowledge, the common temperature in Islamabad has elevated by 3°C between 1961 and 1990. UN-Habitat predicts that Islamabad’s future local weather estimates are much more regarding, with temperatures rising by 0.7°C till 2039 and a pair of.2°C till 2069. Additionally, sprawling cities can have a number of environmental penalties, corresponding to rising site visitors congestion, greenhouse fuel emissions, and air air pollution.

In 2016, Pakistan’s air high quality ranked fifth worst in the world, primarily as a result of industrial and vehicular emissions in addition to crop burning. If the present ranges of air air pollution have been to proceed, it might shorten the common Pakistani’s lifespan by 2.7 years.

Rapid urbanisation can have long-term consequences on excessive climate occasions, influencing each temperature and precipitation patterns. Islamabad is weak to those climate extremes, each in phrases of temperature and rainfall. According to the ‘Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment’ on Islamabad, town obtained 620 mm of rain in below 10 hours, the very best quantity rainfall in 24 hours recorded wherever in Pakistan prior to now century. Extreme temperatures have additionally been recorded, with the utmost being 46°C in June 2005.

Changes in urban land use, which regularly entail the substitute of pure surfaces with impermeable surfaces, can exacerbate urban floods. This occurs when precipitation can’t be absorbed adequately into the bottom, leading to extreme floor runoff and overburdened drainage programs.

The urbanisation of Islamabad has additionally resulted within the rising problem of urban flooding — a cloudburst in Islamabad triggered an urban flash flood within the E-11 sector and close by space, ensuing within the deaths of a mom and her little one.

Capital Development Authority, Islamabad’s inhabitants is projected to achieve 4.443 million by 2050. This improve in inhabitants, coupled with urbanisation, rural-to-urban migration, and local weather change, will even exert nice stress on its water high quality and availability.

The groundwater desk within the Potohar area has been depleted by 116m within the final 30 years, and water availability per capita has dropped dramatically, from 5,300 m3 in 1951 to 850 m3 in 2013.

Islamabad depends on sources just like the Simly, Khanpur, and Rawal dams, tube wells, and tiny water streams, however they’re unable to fulfill the demand. The most mixed water manufacturing from these sources is 84 million gallons per day (MGD), whereas Islamabad’s common water demand is 176 MGD — a shortfall of 106 MGD for many of the 12 months.

Residents mitigate this water scarcity by drawing from dug wells. The United Nations predicts that water consumption in cities world wide will double between 2007 and 2050, intensifying useful resource pressure and lowering freshwater provides. According to a research paper published in 2020, Islamabad has a extreme yearly groundwater depletion fee of 1.7 metres as a result of urbanisation and inhabitants improve.

In 2018, Pakistan developed the National Water Policy, with the intention of prioritising water conservation and the enhancement of groundwater recharge by means of varied approaches. One of them is rainwater harvesting, which might successfully handle urban flooding and groundwater depletion. In Islamabad, with an annual rainfall of roughly 1,300 mm, harvesting simply 50pc of this potential may balance the current water supply of 142 MCM supplied by the Capital Development Authority.

Moreover, WWF-Pakistan is implementing the “Australia-Pakistan Water Security Initiative” to advertise the Water Sensitive Cities (WSCs) Vision for Pakistan in Islamabad and Rawalpindi. WSCs make use of a nature-based mostly strategy to holistically handle the built-in water cycle, enhancing metropolis liveability, resilience, sustainability, and productiveness.

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