Surviving Pakistans slums The extraordinary story

Surviving Pakistans slums The extraordinary story

“My family thought I had gone crazy,” he laughs.

Sabir comes from a family of nomads living in a slum on the outskirts of Lahore, Pakistan’s second largest city.

Surviving Pakistans slums The extraordinary story

Until this point, Sabir had never attended school. Squatting in flimsy tents with no electricity, running water or toilets, they were routinely harassed by the local development authorities and forced to relocate because of illegal encroachment.

Surviving Pakistans slums The extraordinary story

In Pakistan, the housing shortfall is estimated at 9 million units, according to a report published by the State Bank of Pakistan. Those unable to afford housing are driven to settle in undesired areas such as near open sewage channels or along the hazardous banks of River Ravi which floods every year.

“It is a national crisis,” says Dr Murtaza Haider, an associate professor at Canada’s Ryerson University whose research interests include urban development in South Asia.

“The state helps the empowered classes by giving them land for free or at nominal prices and withholding the land from the very poor.”

In Pakistan, the housing shortfall is estimated at 9 million units, according to a report published by the State Bank of Pakistan. Those unable to afford housing are driven to settle in undesired areas such as near open sewage channels or along the hazardous banks of River Ravi which floods every year.

“It is a national crisis,” says Dr Murtaza Haider, an associate professor at Canada’s Ryerson University whose research interests include urban development in South Asia.

“The state helps the empowered classes by giving them land for free or at nominal prices and withholding the land from the very poor.”

Estimates regarding the number of slum dwellers in Pakistan vary between 23 to 32 million people. The majority are street hawkers and day labourers that earn very little and are not able to afford medical care or school fees.

A challenging fate

Sabir was expected to work and contribute to the family income instead of going to school, much like the rest of the children in his community.

He, however, had a burning desire to learn how to read but his family had severe doubts. Sabir was the eldest of nine siblings and his parents needed the income.

 

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