It is interesting to hear my sister’s reaction in Houston when I tell her that I survive on my two wheeler bike for commute in Copenhagen. “How do you survive without a car?” she often asks as I tell her cycle is the ubiquitous feature of Copenhagen landscape. One cannot hide but develop an enthusiasm for this city for the various pleasures of life it offers in the most simple and sustainable way. You can cycle your way for any work and I mean it any work. If the cycle is not there, an excellent integrated public transport system of buses, metros, trains await you. I am from Lahore which is jammed with honking cars, motor cycles, buses and a recently launched intra city metro bus enough to make your time out of the home a living nightmare. Mind you cycling was the mainstay transport of the people in Lahore back in 60s and 70s, that was soon replaced by motorbikes thus adding towards degrading and fouling of the environment. Now fuel guzzling cars,noisy motor bikes and honking busses run in madness on the roads of Lahore. One spends more time in cars than doing something productive. Not to forget the extra costs like air pollution, noise, climate changes, accidents, waste fills and water wastage.etc. Copenhagen offers a breath of fresh air, literally. It tells you how life can be simple, sleek, and sustainable on the two wheeled cycle. I know one cannot make any direct comparisons between the two cities because of the small population and compact size of Copenhagen but Copenhagen can serve as a good example in more than one ways. It can tell Lahore not just about efficient transport system but also how an investment in city planning, urban development, transport infrastructure must take into account the environmental, social, economic and sustainable effects on the society as a whole.
“Copenhaganization” is a term coined by urban city planners from around the world who come to Copenhagen to look for ways to get people out of cars and onto bikes. I see Copenhagenization as a way to show my birth city and its developers both in the public and private sector that city development and urbanisation should aid and not frustrate its citizens. That urban development is a process in which research and observations, a thorough cost-benefit analysis of health, environment, private citizens welfare, transport, sustainable development is planned before undertaking any investment. It made Copenhagen what it is today. A thriving cycling culture, an excellent integrated public transportation, reduction of water wastage, less landfills, development improving the quality of life and preserving the architecture and last but not least making people and not cars happy are some of the ways citizens of Copenhagen enjoy Copenhagenization. Incinerated waste produces heat for the district heating system warming houses, while the district cooling systems have been installed to cool the buildings reducing energy consumption by 80%, improving the quality of life and preserving their architecture.While this is no easy recipe, as Copenhageners have to bear with a lot of subsidies removal and face high taxes, Copenhagen has also been ranked by Monocloe magazine as the most liveable city consistently from 2007 to 2013.
Unfortunately, the city planners in Lahore are devoid of any sustainable decision making for city development. Wanton urbanisation has defaced Lahore and made lives of its people a struggle who face the wrath of traffic jams, congested roads, an ill planned public transport, mental stress besides struggling with availability of basic amenities like electricity, gas and clean drinking water, an overflowing open sewerage and waste landfills in the residential areas. This is inspite of the fact that a lot of money has been poured on the city development. We got the mass transit bus without a thorough cost benefit analysis and huge costs like ages old trees culled on both sides of the Ferozepur Road.It is a sight sore to the eyes with lots of noise pollution.
Unplanned and uncalled for development has destroyed the fabric and beauty of Lahore. The development of smaller cities in the province of Punjab (Lahore is the capital city of Punjab) was totally neglected resulting in massive mushrooming of all what was needed for sustenance. The needs of smaller towns and cities were not catered for, Lahore thus became a hub of all development resulting in massive urbanization, this resulted in brutualization of the city hence we see what we see now. The irony is that there is no end to this frenzy, madness goes on, multiplying the miseries of its inhabitants.
Lahore has the potential to develop in a sustainable way. Private sector clients such as real-estate developers, infrastructure providers, and logistics companies should engage in solutions that support sustainability goals. Public sector should keep the interest of the public in mind before starting a frenzy of city development plans. Unfortunately, what the urban planners plan for the city are not in sync with the desires of its citizens. It in only when a vision for a sustainable city will be shared by the policy makers, the political leaders and the citizens that Lahorization will come to the surface. Lahore Development Authority and the likes of it need to pay heed to the Environmental Impact Assessment of the various development projects. The city development authority has to get rid of the politics and bureaucracy involved to give way to more sustainable measures for city development. Water, power, waste utilities need to minimise waste and improve services.Coverage of open sewers, waste landfills, cutting of trees, seasonal cleaning of canal and its green belt, environmental impact assessment of the buildings should take priority.There are many steps that we as a society can initiate.We can encourage bicycle culture or car pools etc. and thus save hidden costs for the numerous private cars that run on the road between homes, schools and offices.
The citizens of Lahore have to think in sustainable ways to enjoy a sustainable, relaxed and quality life style with many economic benefits. Lahorization to me is investing green on the city infrastructure that can thus bring socio economic benefits to the people.Theres a lot that we have to catch up with if we want to get back our lost grandeur and at the same time become a city of the future. We must remember that infrastructure is not only about transportation or urbanisation or even more roads. It is about the economy.When health, safety, and less congestion are kept the priority, investment and economic growth are likely to respond.