The city of kings – Lahore’s growing out of hand

  • A city loved through the ages now needs regulation


Lahore is one of those enigmatic cities with a long and fascinating history.Estimated to be around 4,000 years old, the city of gardens – with its historic gates – has endured the test of time. According to UN World Urbanisation Prospects, it is host to over 9 million people and has always been a cultural and artistic hub. Despite being ravaged by invaders constantly in the past, Lahore has retained its charm to this day. A darling of the Mughals and the finely tended favourite of the British Raj, Lahore has been enticing people for centuries.

The Charm of Lahore

Being as long-lasting s it is, Lahore has traces of architecture and culture from innumerable sources. From Gandharan art to digital styles prominent today, it has everything. After all, the Lahore Museum does showcase this diversity through the two very significant sculptures of the Starving Buddha and the bronze statue of Queen Victoria, two leaders who were worlds and eras apart and yet, left their influence on Lahore. It is a city of beauty and contrasts where modern high rise buildings sit right down the road from tombs built in the Mughal area.

Lahore has always had a central role in the region and is the hub of cultural activity in Pakistan. It is home to organisations like the Alhamra Art Council, which promotes art and cultural activity in the city. Festivals. An eclectic variety of plays are staged by these institutions, ranging from Shakespeare to Punjabi love stories to French surrealist drama. Literature and music has always been appreciated by the populace of Lahore, as evidenced by the emergence of literary and music festivals in the past few years.

Lahore is also a hotbed for tourism due to its historical monuments. The grand Badshahi Mosque and the picturesque Shalimar Gardens are both UNESCO World Heritage Sites and are prime examples of the grandeur of ancient Lahore. The Walled City Project is also working on restoring the ancient gates of Lahore and making it a must-visit destination for both domestic and foreign tourists. Even the shops on the everlasting Mall Road and its post office are located in gorgeous buildings with marble facades from the British era. This hodgepodge architecture of the city, vastly differing in different areas, lends it a certain beauty that pulls people to it.

Perhaps the most well-known feature of Lahore is its fame as a haven for food lovers. The people of Lahore are known for being highly enthusiastic about food and thus it is no surprise that Lahore has three dedicated food streets. The old food street in Gawalmandi may not have its previous splendour anymore, but loyal patrons of its restaurants still visit it regularly. The alternative to this food street has been made in the most beautiful of locations, right next to the Badshahi Mosque, with colourful buildings and sizzling traditional food.For the more sophisticated lot with a more diverse palate, MM Alam Road holds a number of eateries of all types. Basically, no one can leave disappointed with the food in Lahore.

Lahore is also famous for its quality education at all levels. Pre-partition institutes like the Government College University, Forman Christian College, and Aitchison have been imparting international standard education for almost 2 centuries now. Lahore also has modern institutes like LUMS, which attracts students from all over the country. People in smaller towns in Punjab also relocate their families to educate their children in Lahore. Hence, it can safely be called the centre of education for Pakistan.

In recent years, Lahore’s population has increased drastically. What was once 6 million in 1998 is now estimated to be at least 9 million (or even up to 10 million?). This is not just a natural rise, but is mostly due to people from all over the country migrating to Lahore for various reasons.

Lahore is a central city with many industries located around it, so a major reason for migration to Lahore is due to the search for employment. Various manufacturing and service industries are based in the city, so people see it as a land of opportunities and prosperity. Lahore also has excellent infrastructure in place, making it a convenient and attractive city for people to live in. Access to high quality education and employment is also marginally much higher than in smaller cities, towns, and villages. Hence, people are drawn to the city in droves.

All of these factors have attracted a variety of people to Lahore, and make it their home. Statistics on show that the demand for houses and plots in Lahore is much higher than anywhere in Pakistan.This has led to multiple housing societies being built in Lahore and there are no signs of this trend slowing down. What was once a small gated city has now spread expansively in all directions and is home to a vast variety of people. The legacy of Lahore as a city that entices people is going strong and despite the day and age, it shows no signs of fading.

The Cost of Progress

All of this influx of people into Lahore may seem all well and good currently, but it will lead to harrowing events in the future. Throughout history, the fall of such great cities has been due to negligence and it can be stated, a bit of arrogance in their splendour. A prime example would be Pompeii, which was right at the foot of the volcano Mount Vesuvius, which erupted and decimated the city and its residents.

Lahore is bringing about its own Mount Vesuvius, albeit in a different form, with the lack of attention to sustainable growth. It should be blindingly obvious that a place does not have unlimited resources and land to support an ever-increasing population. This becomes doubly troubling when the resources, i.e., fertile land is being utilized to further accommodate the growing population.

Such unregulated growth with no consideration of the long-term can be disastrous. The environmental impact is already visible as evidenced by the debilitating smog experienced by Lahore in the winter of 2016. Furthermore, access to clean drinking water and electricity is also becoming increasingly difficult, as the demand for these resources has skyrocketed over the years, at a much faster rate than their production.

In conclusion, strict measures need to be taken to make Lahore a sustainable city and prevent it from growing haphazardly as it is. Focus on vertical construction rather than urban sprawl should be there, and localities arranged in such a way that Lahore does not become congested and eventually become an uninhabitable city. Surely, no one wants such an enduring and monumental city to collapse due to sheer carelessness. Lahore’s legacy can still be saved, but only if action is taken immediately.