Real estate

Dimensions of Sustainable Development in Pakistan

By 11/01/2022 0 Comments

Pakistan's 1st Real Estate Think Tank


The term “Sustainable Development” was first coined in the Brundtland Report of 1987, as an idea that human societies must live and sustain life without compromising the needs of future generations. Sustainable development aims to enable the long-term sustenance of the Earth’s natural resources and human civilisation (Brundtland, 1987). The term has three dimensions in Pakistan– social solidarity, environmental responsibility, and economic efficiency. These dimensions are relational to each other such that a positive impact in one dimension has a ripple effect on the other.  Thus, sustainability is the archetype for securing the future by balancing environmental, societal and economic considerations through sustainable development practices (Sustainable Development, 2015). Pakistan has shown commitment to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at the Federal and the grassroots level. A special SDGs wing has been formed at the Federal Level in the ministry of Planning, Development and Special Initiatives (MoP&SI), which aims to implement SDG dimensions and aid with the policy framework. MoP&SI and provincial departments have partnered with UNDP to establish SDG Support Units at federal, provincial and local levels for the progressive implementation of the UN Agenda 2030 (Federal SDGs Support Unit, 2022).

This article by the Iqbal Institute of Policy Studies will discuss Pakistan’s progress on the three dimensions of sustainable development, mainly in the subsets of climate action, sustainable cities, housing schemes and poverty alleviation efforts of the Government.

Environmental Responsibility

Pakistan is ranked 129th out of 165 countries in the latest SDGs Index ranking, amassing an overall score of 57.7% for showing great commitment to one of the 17 SDGs- Climate Action (Rashid, 2021).   Being a developing country, Pakistan has a tiny carbon footprint compared to developed countries like the USA. Due to the environment’s transboundary impacts, climate action is essential for Pakistan to fight against the challenges of global climate change. The government of Pakistan has introduced several programs and tree plantation campaigns geared at reforestation and afforestation of land to minimise the adverse impacts of climate change. Pakistan successfully exceeded the target of the Billion Tree Tsunami project, the first Bonn Challenge pledge to exceed its target, with planting trees across 350,000 hectares (Voluntary National Review, 2019). The Government has also launched Monsoon Plantation Drives, Miyawaki Forest Initiative, and Clean and Green Pakistan Initiative to lead in ‘nature-based solutions for ecosystem restoration’ among developing countries while preserving biodiversity and creating employment opportunities, thus, also acting upon SDG 1, ‘No Poverty’.

Moreover, Pakistan is the first country to implement and adopt the SDGs 2030 Agenda by passing a unanimous resolution. The country has prioritised the SDGs to join the ranks of upper-middle-class countries by 2030. The Government declared Margalla Hills as a National Park in 1980 for its conservation. Moreover, the Capital Development Authority (CDA) periodically conducts tree plantation drives along with green belts and public parks to improve the air quality. Another important factor is the involvement of private entities in the plantation drives and conservation campaigns for Islamabad under the Prime Minister’s Clean and Green Pakistan Initiative (CDA Tree Plantation Drive). Therefore, Pakistan’s efforts towards its environmental responsibilities can be lauded as a success on multiple frontiers.

Economic Efficiency

The economic efficiency efforts of the Pakistani government are focused on making cities sustainable amidst the increasing urbanisation. Goal 11 of the SDGs, Sustainable Cities and Communities, invigorates the importance of green spaces and sustainable infrastructure for urban development (UNDP, 2021). A sustainable city is designed to incorporate social, economic, and environmental factors within a city’s essence to achieve sustainability. This can be achieved by conserving energy, water and food consumption, mitigating the greenhouse effect, decreasing carbon emissions, reducing air pollution, and protecting water resources (Hindawi, 2021). The Government of Pakistan is keen to work on post-Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) with various stakeholders to coordinate and support the federal, provincial, and local levels for achieving Pakistan’s sustainable development targets. An  SDG’s Monitoring Unit is being established in liaison with UNDP to serve as a coherent national coordination entity with several units in multiple jurisdictions across the country (Federal SDGs Support Unit, 2022).

The concept of vertical cities is gaining traction in Pakistan due to an acute housing shortfall of 10 million units and reduced availability of land for residential purposes. Urban Planners are shifting towards vertical development to leave more green spaces in urban design and mitigate the heat island effect of cities. For example, Islamabad, the capital city of Pakistan, is a model sustainable city designed to incorporate parks and natural spaces in an urban city space. The Margalla Hills National Park in Islamabad is home to a diverse range of flora and fauna in the region, while Fatima Jinnah Park is the largest park in Asia in terms of its area (CDA, 2021). The government is also working towards developing rural areas by devolution of political power to the lowest tier of the local government, i.e., Village Councils. Through the Ministry of Planning, Development & Special Initiatives, the Government of Pakistan has announced that the rural areas of Islamabad will be improved by re-structuring them based on zones. The rural structure of Islamabad comprises 23 Union Councils, including 133 villages, whereas the urban d comprises 21 Union Councils (UNICEF, 2020). This is a prodigious step towards achieving economic stability in Islamabad and preserving its essence as the true capital city of Pakistan.

Social Solidarity

Social solidarity efforts of the Government are geared towards achieving the goal of making Pakistan a welfare state. A state based on equality, employment opportunities, equitable distribution of wealth and resources, public responsibility, and social justice. Pakistan is stuck with overpopulation, poverty, rising urbanisation, lack of employment opportunities and deteriorating health facilities. Due to rising urbanisation and increased land prices, Pakistan has seen an upward surge in urban slums and homelessness. The Government of Pakistan launched its flagship program, ‘Naya Pakistan Housing Program,’ to provide housing to the homeless and underprivileged segments of society (Home-NPHP, 2022). This project is aimed to generate employment opportunities, accelerate economic growth and benefit real estate with its 40 allied industries. Real Estate is the fastest-growing segment of Pakistan’s economy.

It is imperative to introduce sustainable development practices in the Real Sector to reduce the carbon footprint and create employment opportunities.  The Government is constructing low-cost vertical housing units in Islamabad to extend this program. Pakistan also showed a swift response to the COVID crisis by launching the ‘Ehsaas Program’, which benefitted approximately 17 million low-income families through cash and other necessities, including flour. The Government has also launched the health card called ‘Naya Pakistan Quami Sehat Card’, which shall provide medical care to any citizen of Pakistan eligible for the said card under the prescribed law.


Pakistan has made significant progress on the implementation of Agenda 2030. But the country is still stuck with numerous challenges, including the sky-rocketing inflation, increasing petrol prices, declining air quality resulting in smog in major cities, rising urban sprawl and the fastest rate of urbanisation in the South Asian countries. The country requires action-oriented policies and a swift implementation framework. The Government of Pakistan deserves appreciation for its commitment to Environmental Responsibility by launching various initiatives such as the ‘Celan and Green Pakistan Initiative’, ‘Billion Tree Tsunami Campaign’ and efforts to transform the country into a welfare state. Pakistan still needs adequate economic efficiency efforts from the Government to achieve sustainability. For social solidarity, sustainable development practices are essential in the Real Sector to reduce the carbon footprint and create employment opportunities.

Sustainability can only be achieved if Pakistan persists in environmental action, social solidarity and economic efficiency. The ideas are there, but implementing the framework requires strict mechanisms and timelines to achieve the required goals. Pakistan’s commitment to SDGs and Agenda 2030 is lauded worldwide. However, the country requires streamlining economic and social policies to achieve a stable economy and the end goal of the welfare state.


Brundtland, G. (1987). Report of the World Commission on Environment and Development: Our Common Future. United Nations General Assembly document A/42/427. Retrieved from

Capital Development Authority. (2021). Retrieved 26 November 2021, from

CDA Tree Plantation Drive. (2021). Retrieved 26 November 2021, from

Federal SDGs Support Unit. (2022). Retrieved, from

Home – NPHP. (2022). Retrieved from

Hindawi, (2021). Modelling for Sustainable Cities. Retrieved 26 November 2021, from

Rashid, T. (2021, September 28). Pakistan’s substantial development challenge. Policy Forum. Retrieved from Development. (2015, August 20). UNESCO. Retrieved from

Report of Profile of Slums/Underserved Areas of Islamabad City – The Federal Capital of Pakistan. (July 2020). UNICEF. Retrieved from of Underserved Areas of Islamabad City – The Federal Capital of Pakistan.pdf.

Voluntary National Review. 2019. Retrieved from

Research Questions

Are housing societies a necessity or luxury in the context of Pakistan?

What are the steps taken by the Government to regulate housing societies?

What steps and documents are required to register housing societies?

Key Takeaways

Sustainable Development has three dimensions in Pakistan– social solidarity, environmental responsibility and, economic efficiency.

The government of Pakistan has introduced several programs and plantation drives to minimise the adverse impacts of climate change.

The economic efficiency efforts of the Government are focused on making the cities sustainable amidst the increasing urbanisation.

The social solidarity efforts of the Government are geared at achieving the goal of making Pakistan a welfare state.

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