The Redesigning of Saiban City, Lahore

IIED visiting fellow Arif Hasan explores various planning alternatives for Saiban City.

High density housing that works for all

An IIED opinion paper presenting the views of study leader Arif Hasan

papar nagoshPaposh Nagar was created as a plot settlement in 1954 for migrants from India. It was designed as 417 plots of 38.5 square metres each. The houses consisted of two rooms, a kitchen and a toilet. However, over time they have grown and many of them are now ground plus one to ground plus three structures. The residents have also increased the size of their plots by encroaching on the roads.

Fahad Square is different from the other three cases as it is not a settlement consisting of houses on individual plots but a developer-built apartment complex. The complex is located in a suburban project designed by the Karachi Building Control Authority (KBCA) on 10,526 hectares. It occupies an area of 0.60 hectare and consists of 248 apartments and 56 shops.

nawa laneNawalane was an informal settlement that was regularised in 1976. It is over 250 years old, and is centrally located in downtown Karachi. Before regularisation the houses in the settlement were single or double storey. Today, the majority of them are ground floor plus two floors to ground plus four or five and they continue to rise.

kkbKhuda Ki Basti 3 is a 10-year-old settlement within Khuda Ki Basti, Karachi, consisting of 1237 plots each of 67 square metres. The settlement is 25 kilometres from the city centre and was planned according to the Karachi Building Control Authority (KBCA) regulations for a density of 1250 persons per hectare. It has already reached a density of 501 persons per hectare

Karachi is one of the world’s fastest growing megacities. In 2010 it housed over 15 million people. It is also Pakistan’s commercial centre and only international port. But however frenetic the pace of commerce in the city, it can’t mask the fact that Pakistan is still one of the world’s poorer countries, where 72 per cent of the population live on under US$2 a day and over half a million under-fives die every year.


In Karachi, as in much of the rest of Asia, there is pressure on poorer groups to move out of central locations, or at least into high-rise apartments. This isn’t what the residents typically want, or can afford, but poverty doesn’t fit with Karachi’s aspirations to become a ‘world-class city’, and as in most other cities poor groups get little support from policymakers.

Alternative routes to Urban Density is funded by the International Institute for Environment and Development. The website is designed to address the challenges of urban density. It connects the viewer to IIED-funded research studies that address density issues. The studies are categorized city-wise and can be found on the 'Cities' page. Only cities with populations of more than five hundred thousand are listed. Cities will continue to be added to the list as research related to them are uploaded.