In effort to upgrade the living conditions of squatter settlements’ inhabitants in the urban vicinities of the country, the Higher Education Commission (HEC) asked public and private sector universities to adopt these settlements voluntarily falling in their respective constituencies as a “welfare cause.” In a letter, available with Daily Times, the HEC stated that Pakistan is one of most urbanized nations in the south Asian region. “Almost 37 percent of the population of the country lives in urban areas. Having an annual growth rate of 2.53 percent, the urban population is expected to increase by 40 million people to an estimated 112 million by 2030,” the HEC quoted the report of UN Habit. The populations which live in slums and squatter settlements, as per HEC, are prone to various issues and challenges and are direct victims of negligence on part of authorities concerned. The residents of the said areas are living in very underprivileged situations and in that case it would be highly helpful for them if “each university adopts a Kachi Abadi in its respective vicinity,” reads the letter written by Executive Director HEC Dr Shaista Sohail to the varsities. “The drains are open and school going children don’t have opportunities to study. It is proposed and encouraged that each university may adopt Kachi Abadi in its vicinity so that students may carry out social welfare activities including research on Issues of such population,” it added. It added that through this effort such researcher students would come up with cost effective solutions to provide clean drinking water, solar panel driven air conditioners, roads and houses constructed with compressed waste and any other possible solutions. If universities follow this idea, the HEC hoped, it could make living conditions for inhabitants. The 50 percent of the population live in the major cities of Pakistan while a major chunk of that number live in slums and squatter settlements which, the HEC said, are prone to various issues and challenges and are direct victims of negligence on part of authorities concerned. While talking to Daily Times, the ED said that overall the receiving feedback is very affirmative. “Some universities, particularly few in the private sector, applauded the idea after our letter,” she said, recalling that these universities are eager to implement this idea in their respective areas after identification with letter and sprite. Dr Sohail stated that the idea to look into the plight of such shantytowns was basically conceived by Assistant Director Waheed Khizar, adding that he compiled many identified issues of these localities. She highlighted the areas facing lack of infrastructure and support facilities. Also, as per compiled issues, the areas lacked policy level guidelines and their implementation and legal protection of Kachi Abadi residents against forced evictions, harassment and other threats. Moreover, these residents don’t have skills and resources that cause a rise in unemployment among these settlements. According to the HEC, the varsities were asked to build partnerships with public and private sector organizations through corporate social responsibility initiative to deliver basic infrastructures in their respective squatter settlements. Furthermore, the universities have been proposed to effectively manage depleting precious natural resources in such localities. Regarding provision of education and skills to slum children, the HEC suggested, through affective community interaction, provision of affordable quality education and technical skills can be ensure by engaging final year students, volunteers and researchers who can develop streets schools, evening coaching centers, community colleges, and vocational training institutions to build vocational training skills-based capacity children and youth living in such nomadic settlements. In Islamabad only, according to a survey of Islamabad Police, over two lac people are residing in different slum settlements wherein the police traced over 20 such settlements in different locations of the federal capital.