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EDITORIAL: The word ‘resilience’ means the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties, toughness. Cities or urban centres are therefore required to become resilient to a wider range of shocks and stresses in order to be prepared for climate change.

The city planners should see to it that commercial centres and industrial units are not sandwiched between residential sectors. Perhaps that was not in the mind of the layout planners of the nation’s new capital Islamabad. So here and there are main markets in the centre of every sector and a mini market in every sub-sector.

As if that was not enough to infringe upon the residents’ right to breathe fresh air, they allowed a full sector for industry in the centre of the city, and also earmarked a frill of fix-up workshops and eateries on the south-eastern edge of G sector and called it ‘Industrial and Trading Centres (ITCs),’ with residential housing in front of them.

It was bad and, mindless planning, but the city planners of the Capital Development Authority (CDA) went a step further to violate the residents’ right to fresh air by commercializing the residential properties situated in front of ITC Sector G9/4 also called Peshawar Mor.

The appeals against this decision have been upheld by the Supreme Court, as it pointed out that protection against climate change – which commercialization of housing opposite the ITC workshops and eateries tends to accentuate – is the citizens’ fundamental right.

The verdict of the two-member bench of the apex court, authored by Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah, is a rare piece of convincing argument in defence of citizens’ right to be protected against wrongly conceived and executed urbanization and reported in this newspaper.

It said: ‘’In urban living, climate change can impair the quality of life of a person, offend his dignity and deprive him of his property, or the right to fully enjoy this property’’. It observed that incorporating adaptation of climate resilience and sustainability in the policy decisions by the urban authorities is essential to actualize the fundamental rights of people and, therefore, form an integral part of the fundamental human rights of the people of Pakistan.

It is a constitutional necessity and of an overarching constitutional obligation, the judgement said, adding that before putting up a proposal for amendment or modification in the Master Plan or any scheme the urban development authorities need to ‘’tenuously consider the climate change angle’’.

Therefore, any conversion of residential neighborhoods to commercial zones is ‘’likely to lead to adverse environmental consequences on account of increased human and vehicular traffic and activity, and should not be permitted without proper investigation, forethought and remedial measures to control the roaring thermal environment’’.

Islamabad, once known as one of the world’s most beautiful and environmentally clean cities, is no more that Islamabad. The crystal clear mountain streams that once flowed through the city are now foul-smelling gutters. The brick-lined footpaths have disappeared; roads are cluttered with private vehicles, and thanks to the vehicle emissions, stars are no more visible in the night sky.

Were it Singapore the authorities would have regulated the number of vehicles on roads, suspended registration of new vehicles for a couple of years and brought more buses on roads. This has not been the case, but that doesn’t mean it should not be done now.

In the meanwhile, the judgement of the Supreme Court bench on rights of citizens to enjoy clear air and feel secure against vagaries of climate change should be read out loud and clear to all who are in any way connected with the governance and planning of Islamabad and other cities in the country.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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