PESHAWAR: As Pakistan grapples with an ongoing population boom, the latest census results underscore the escalating demand for housing solutions.
This trend is particularly evident in Peshawar, the capital of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) province, where the city’s population is expanding at an annual rate of 3.99%, as reported by the Bureau of Statistics.
According to sources, this surge in demand for housing has led to the proliferation of gated communities, as many housing societies aim to capitalize on the growing need for shelter.
However, the rush to meet this demand has given rise to the challenge of illegal construction.
Professor Dr. Nafees Mohammad, Head of the Environmental Science Department at the University of Peshawar, highlighted the pressing issue, revealing that Peshawar requires approximately 1.5 million new houses annually to accommodate its expanding population.
Despite this need, numerous housing societies have begun constructing gated communities without proper approvals, exploiting the housing demand for their financial gain.
Furthermore, the data from the Peshawar Development Authority (PDA) also revealed that between January 2018 and November 2021, the authority received 237 applications for housing societies, with only 8 approved and 18 still under review.
However, a significant number of applicants chose to proceed with construction even before receiving official approvals.
As a result, PDA records show that Peshawar currently harbors 161 illegal housing societies.
Of these, 33 cases have been forwarded to the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) for investigation.
The Assistant Director at PDA, Dawood Shah, confirmed these figures, emphasizing that housing societies now fall under the jurisdiction of the local government department due to recent legislation changes.
This shift has prompted concerns about the fate of illegal societies and their potential demolition.
Besides, the environmental experts also raised alarm over the long-term consequences of unregulated urban expansion.
Professor Dr. Atta-ur-Rehman, Head of the Department of Geography and Geomatics at the University of Peshawar, expressed dismay over the rapid urbanization of Peshawar, resulting in a loss of green spaces.
He noted the lack of governmental efforts to protect the environment and promote sustainable construction practices.
Dr. Rehman highlighted the need for updated legislation that acknowledges the importance of conserving green spaces and water resources.
Without such legal frameworks, the unchecked expansion of housing societies into agricultural land could lead to a future characterized by environmental degradation, water scarcity, and food insecurity, he added,