The growth of Fasilabad has far exceeded the pace at which the city can support its inhabitants. The result is that city is facing problems in providing basic amenities to its citizens. Largely, the burden of solving them falls on municipal authorities. These problems are exacerbated once the civic authorities (and other city development agencies) do not have funds, will and expertise to do that. Inhabitants of only 100 years old city are suffering mainly due to quantifiable deficiencies.
In 1896, a new settlement was founded by Lieutenant Government Punjab, Sir James Lyall, in the area known as Sandal Bar. The plan of this habitat was prepared on the pattern of British flag by Sir Ganga Ram, a civil engineer, town planner and renowned philanthropist. The construction of eight bazaars and adjoining colonies was completed in 1902. There used to be sweet water well and an old `bargad’ tree in the centre where ghanta ghar was erected in 1918.
People of the city played an important role in Pakistan Movement. Quaid-i-Azam visited the `heart of Pakistan,’ as he called it, when annual session of Muslim league was held in the city. Over 100,000 Muslims of area welcomed the Quaid on November 17, 1942 and presented him rupees 500.00 in a reception held at Dhobi Ghat
Lyallpur, named after Sir James Lyall was initially called Pakki Mari. The name was changed to Fasilabad by General Zia ul Haq on the recommendation of a local photographer Aziz. Era of industrialization started in 1930 and Fasilabad was declared as an industrial zone in 1955. Earlier, complexion of Sandal Bar area changed with the excavation of Lower Canal originating from khanki in 1892. Presently, this `Manchester of Pakistan’ has one of the biggest and best Yarn Markets in the world. Fasilabad has grown the second biggest industrial city in the country after Karachi.
The world is becoming more urban as people are moving to cities in search of employment, educational opportunities and high standard of living. Population growth in Fasilabad has been very rapid. In 1947, the biggest of all the Kachi abadies in the country came up in the city that was later converted into Sir Syed Town and other residential colonies. Jinnah colony, Ghulam Muhammad Abad, People Colony, Afghanabad, Nazimabad and Ayub Colony came into existence in first 10-15 years after the independence. This human settlement of only 9191 people in 1901 (first census) is now home to three millions. The municipal area of the city has expanded up to 45 square Kilometres.
One of the main problems facing the city is congestion: in open spaces, public transport, housing, roads and streets. Presence of Goods Forwarding Agencies and oil tankers’ `addas’, Iron Market, Sabzi Mandi and numerous industrial units inside the city has adversely affected the cityscape. The administration has not been able to shift them out despite recommendations in Fasilabad Master Plan and complaints by the concerned citizens. Presence of these agencies in the city, particularly in the areas from Chowk Ghumti to old municipality office on Circular Road, Kachary Bazaar and Railway godown have made the lives of the citizens difficult. Though there is a ban on the entry of trucks and heavy vehicles between 7 AM to 8 PM under police act 23 but still much of heavy traffic can be seen in the city where a fleet of more than 52000 donkey carts is also playing. By the way, donkey carts have been banned to go downtown recently. An owner of a cart told that he earns between rupees 500 to 1300 daily. “The poor perform most of the manual labour in this rich city — which would be paralysed without its rehri walas. Their children work in life and health threatening situations: on power looms, kilns and in carpet centres. They live without any civic facilities,” he says.
Eight bazaars are the centres of trade and always bustling with activities. They are over crowded and full of encroachments. The shopkeepers and cloth merchants throw all the packing material — plastic and paper wrappers and other crap that cannot be sold — in front of their shops that are promptly lifted by children with large sacks on their shoulders roaming about in the markets for `raddi’ collection. A shopkeeper in Bhawana Bazaar told, “any thing that is not cleared by them stays there because sanitary workers of Fasilabad (FMC), responsible for keeping the city clean, do not perform their duties.” The city is divided in two sanitary zones each headed by separate health officer having an army of sanitary workers and inspectors on their roll. Thanks to FMC, even public parks are not being cleaned. “In an industrial city like ours, they (the planners) should look at every thing including waste as a resource and provide incentives for recycle business,” he says.
Punjab Government has banned the manufacturing and uses of polythene shopper bags but how seriously this ban has been taken can be seen in Fasilabad. One finds them every where. “The polythene bags along with other industrial effluents are causing soil pollution when they reach the fields being irrigated by Rakh Branch Canal” informed an official from Irrigation Department.
Green spaces and vegetation covers — so important for ecological balance — in the city are decreasing. The `green belts’ in front of the houses, particularly in Madina Town and People Colony have been turned into filth depots because people deposit their domestic waste out side their houses and no body comes to lift it or are being used for parking. Gulistan colony, Shamsabad, Ghulam Muhammad Abad and Fateh Abad are other neglected and adversely effected areas. One can see, smell, hear and even taste the pollution in the city.
Municipal bodies, city development agencies and the traffic police seem to be at war with each other instead of jointly serving the tax payers. Muazam Ali, a resident of People Colony complains, “what is our fault if FMC or traffic police fail to pay the electric bills? WAPDA disconnects the supply to the street lights and newly installed traffic signal system. We suffer in the process.” And, “WASA alone needs rupees 3392 millions to provide full fledged sewerage facilities for the people of Fasilabad by the end of year 2000,” informed an official of WASA during a briefing to a foreign delegation.
There is no single authority to coordinate and oversee the growth and development in the city that was laid out under the concept of radical planning with clear zoning of different land uses. People now have converted their houses into industrial units. The Fasilabad development authority (FDA) has been lying useless since 1982 `for the want of funds’. The Director General has pointed out, in case it had escaped the public notice, that the FDA with many officers and no assignment should be downsized. On the other hand, FDA has decided to sell its 470 residential and commercial plots and other assets to over come its financial crises. Naturally, the `financial crises’ are for the salaries of the FDA staff. What else!
The Agricultural University (established as college in 1906), Punjab Research Institute of Agriculture and Biology, National institute of Biotechnology and Genetic Engineering, National Institute of Fertilizer, Forest Research Institute, Textile Engineering College, Punjab Medical College, Government Degree college –where I participated in declamation contest in 1972 — and other educational institutions have played very important role in spreading awareness and education in the country. The government has promised to open an other university as well. But, sadly, “thousands of children in the city do not get the see the school, though. They are engaged in various forms of labour to earn for their living,” claims a socialite Muhammad Ijaz who is working to end this servitude in collaboration with ILO and other agencies.
The problems of Fasilabad are specific and need specific solutions. FMC with its annual budget of rupees 67 crore (1997-98) needs to improve the services, which profoundly affect the daily lives and well being of the people. Requirement: promoting democratic rule, exercising public authority and using public resources in all public institution at the levels in a manner that is conducive to good governance.