Human population continues to concentrate into cities, which currently occupy less than two percent of planetary land, yet generate seventy percent of the world’s economy. Urban dots on the globe continue to grow, especially in the South, where it is predicted that 45 of the world’s 50 mega cities will appear by the year 2050. It is predicted that by 2050, the populations of Mumbai, Delhi and Dhaka will come in at a staggering 40 million each. This rapid urbanisation has put systems of governance to the test everywhere, including in advanced countries. City governments and service providers are struggling to accommodate more and more people while keeping their feet on the ground. This situation has prompted the United Nations (UN) to select ‘Innovative Governance, Open Cities’ as a theme for 2017 World Cities Day, which was observed on 31 October. World Cities Day has generated quite a stir among supporters of the urban cause who foresee big cities displacing their parent nations from federal governance in half a century. It is predicted that cities will be able to make their own internal policies and even establish their own foreign relations. The debate also goes on as to how other nations can replicate the Chinese experience, which has taken great strides in reducing poverty within a very short period. This achievement was mostly concentrated in Chinese cities. Urbanists also discuss and appreciate the power of urbanisation to act as a quick fix for long term development issues by using tools such as innovation, technology, mixed land use, density without suburbs, green spaces, safe transport, pluralistic societies and quality of life. However in Pakistan, these issues are ignored in spite of the fact that it is one of the fastest urbanising nations in South Asia. Recent census figures show that 20 percent of Pakistan’s population now resides in 10 cities. According to the census, the rate of population growth in cities has been twice that of the overall demographic change in the country. These big cities are getting congested instead of the desired agglomeration effect of demographic and spatial change. According to World Bank research done in 2011, every 1 percent increase in urbanisation brings a 2.7 percent increase in GDP per capita. However, according to Micheal Kugelman the ‘messy and hidden’ nature of urbanisation restricts the economic dividend of high rates of urbanisation in Pakistan. As a result, cities like Karachi and Lahore grow disproportionately. City governments are the weakest link in the Pakistani governance chain. This crisis is visible everywhere, especially in Karachi, where the housing gap widens by 90,000 units per year due to government policies, bureaucratic inefficiency and lack of municipal resources City governments are the weakest link in the Pakistani governance chain. This crisis is visible everywhere, especially in Karachi, where the housing gap widens by 90,000 units per year due to government policies, bureaucratic inefficiency and lack of municipal resources. Only half of the total requirement of 1000 million gallons of water per day is supplied. Only 40 percent of the 20,000 tons of solid waste produced in Karachi reaches it’s landfill sites. This governance crisis has given birth to an even bigger class of urban poor, the ‘slum dogs’ who huddle in sub-human dwellings in under serviced graveyards. This poverty brings with it other risks like disease and crime. As per The Economist’s EIU Livability Ranking, Karachi shares the sixth worth position with Algiers. This was a survey of 140 cities assessing stability, culture and environmental indicators. During Karachi’s worst period, about 55 percent of Sindh’s crimes took place in Karachi. To meet these governance challenges, more and more funds are funnelled into big cities at the cost of worsening situations in small cities and towns. This worsens inter regional disparities and economic opportunities. In Pakistan, 25 percent of Sindh’s development budget goes to Karachi. Lahore consumes 60 percent of Punjab’s annual development funds. This disproportionate investment in big cities and the perceived economic opportunities in big cities invites more people to these big cities. And the vicious cycle continues. It is estimated that by 2050, Karachi will by 30 times bigger than what it was in 1951. Meanwhile, Sindh’s second smallest city will be five times smaller at that point in time. Pakistan has adopted the ‘New Urban Agenda’ in 2016, however a commitment to develop inclusive, resilient, pluralistic, sustainable and compact urban spaces remains to be seen. Meanwhile, our neighbor India has started focusing on smart villages and towns through it’s 100 smart cities program. Under this program, rural areas are being integrated with small and medium sized cities and towns by developing physical and technological infrastructure. In this way, they hope to save the cost of transformation of yet-to-be-developed infrastructure and achieve the objective of shared prosperity by investing in inclusive urban design. As Greg Foster, the Vice President of Habitat for Humanity’s Africa and Middle East puts it, “Small cities have more land, are less developed and are usually supported by one large business or a number of smaller ones. This means they can support their population and, with a little investment, could offer the best hope for reducing migration to the megacities, providing well-planned and sustainable communities, while boosting economic development”. Besides that, small cities do not need costly transport and transit facilities for mobility of masses and can bring enormous cost savings on health due to cleaner natural environment. The potential of small cities in Pakistan is great. There are currently around 51 cities with a population between 100,000 and 500,000, according to the World Population Review, 2016. There is a need to collect data on small cities and identify the potential factors, which can make them attractive for government and private sector investment. The robust data in combination of innovative technologies will be instrumental in shaping more open and participatory governance models and equitable service delivery mechanisms at the level of small cities, towns and even villages. Rest should be left to the empowered local governments to choose a menu of its own among the policy choices and develop their niche in economy. The policy choices range from establishing industrial and high-tech agriculture, developing University Towns, improving physical and virtual infrastructure; and achieving high density through compact urban development. The writer is working as Team Leader, Sustainable Cities Initiative at LEAD Pakistan and can be reached at email@example.com Published in Daily Times, November 1st 2017.