The days left to achieve Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) number 894 only. And while South Asia is on track to achieve three out of seven MGDs: halving extreme poverty, access to safe water and reducing maternal mortality, the region lags significantly on all the others by a hefty margin.
But what recently put the region under the limelight once again is the fact that it is amongst the least urbanised in the world, along with sub-Saharan Africa.
Urbanisation is crucial for raising the standards of living; creating new sources of income and increasing quality and access to services. The focus of the recently-launched Global Monitoring Report (GMR) 2013 is the rural-urban dynamics where it provides analysis on how increased urbanisation can be a poverty reduction mechanism.
One of the key findings of GMR 2013 is how generally the urban populations have far better access to the basic amenities defined by the MDGs. With the speedy pace of development in the developing world, urban poverty rates are predominantly lower than rural poverty rates.
But heres a caveat: If the forces of urbanisation are not managed speedily and efficiently, slum growth can overwhelm city growth, exacerbate urban poverty, and derail MDG achievements, mentions the report.
This is exactly what has happened in Pakistan. Over 200 cities and towns mark the geography of Pakistan, yet urbanisation is concentrated in a few large metropolitan cities where over 58 percent of the total urban population resides. With one of the highest population bulges in the world and lack of urban planning, the pressures on the few urban centres is massive.
On the other hand, small towns generally have poorer service delivery than large cities. These facts can be seen to align with what another recent UNDP update on the status of MDGs for Sindh depicted. Though the population estimates are outdated, urban poverty for cities and small towns in Sindh (minus Karachi) was found to be higher than rural poverty incidence.
In short, urbanisation needs to be managed. What would actually serve towards poverty reduction in the rural-urban realm is an integrated urbanisation strategy and complementary development policies.
Poverty Incidence in Sindh
Overall Rural Provincial capital Large cities Small cities & towns
31% 38% 10% 23% 40%