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A car-unfriendly Pakistan? Yes, that's how you make livable cities

A car-unfriendly Pakistan? Yes, that's how you make livable cities

A recent piece I wrote on the transactions ban on non-filers and its impact on car buyers, as well as on the housing market, generated a series of interesting responses.

Some of us would like non-filers to be kept away from the privilege of owning a car, while others pointed out the exploitative state of our local automobile industry.

That the automobile sector in Pakistan is a sham is no secret. Our cars are poorly built, lack critical safety features and are relatively more expensive than comparable models around the world.

We are not conducting any research and development on new automobile technologies in Pakistan and, in fact, some of our cars are decades old even if assembled last month.

The question is, why are we so fascinated with personal cars to begin with? Our cities, their infrastructure, the middle-class lifestyle and our aspirations all reflect a strong desire for cars.

Related: Who pays the price for mega projects in Pakistan?

Under new urban paradigms and the latest economic and environmental research, this obsession is unhealthy.

Single-occupancy cars are the single most inefficient way to get from one place to another and a bigger cause of congestion and pollution than the street vendors we love to remove to facilitate these vehicles.

Almost like the cherry on top, we have no evidence to suggest that wider roads lead to lower congestion; quite on the contrary, the fundamental law of road congestion states that wider roads will lead to an equivalent increase in usage and therefore have no impact on congestion.

Our fascination with cars has also led us into some of the most ghoulish policy steps imaginable — in most contexts, anti-encroachment and road-widening and clearance operations are toxic to the very concept of city life.

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