Equipping youth with green skills through Rethinking Urban Development Initiative

Experts at the event ‘Rethinking Urban Development in Pakistan: Leveraging Youth’s Potential for Sustainable Cities’ said that innovative models such as the Green Urban Development School (GUDS) play a critical role in equipping youth with the green skills required to manage urbanization in a nature-inclusive and climate-resilient manner.

Institute of Urbanism (IoU) and School of Leadership Foundation (SoLF) with the support of the U.S. Embassy Islamabad launched the pilot GUDS program at two universities i.e. Quaid-i-Azam University (QAU) and COMSATS University Islamabad, which enhanced knowledge of participants through mentorship, exposure visits and cross-learning opportunities with experts from DePaul University, Chicago. The GUDS is also providing technical and financial support to two students from each university to practically set up their action research projects that lead to green start-ups, thus, empowering youth to spearhead the transition to a sustainable future. As the GUDS program was piloted at QAU in 2023, two grant winners have already set up their projects i.e. a composting facility and a sustainable rooftop set-up consisting of rainwater harvesting and hydroponic farm.

Addressing participants at the concluding event of GUDS, Mr. Kelly Ryan, representing the US Embassy Islamabad said, ‘through programs like the Green Urban Development School, our aim is to encourage exchange of knowledge and collaboration to collectively address the challenge of climate change’.

Mariyam Irfan, Managing Director of the School of Leadership Foundation (SoLF), remarked, “The Green Urban Development School represents a pivotal initiative in promoting sustainable urbanization in Pakistan. By nurturing the green skills of our youth and empowering them to implement innovative solutions, we are not only addressing immediate environmental challenges but also shaping the leaders of tomorrow who will drive lasting change.”

Dr. Ejaz Ahmad, Senior Program Fellow, IoU emphasized the need to reshape urban development paradigms through strategic partnerships, collaborative efforts, development of green skills, and equitable transitions.

Marfaa Naseem, the GUDS grant winner from QAU, said that she has harvested 48,000 liters of rainwater since installing the system in January 2024, saving around PKR 12,000 compared to tanker fees. She also highlightes how the grant money helped her set up a hydroponic farm at her rooftop in Ghouri Town where she has planted around 230 plants in a limited area.

Dr. Jabir Hussain Syed, Associate Professor COMSATS said that GUDS provided a great platform to students to channelize their creative thinking into designing innovative solutions for urban environmental issues.

A total of four innovative solutions pertaining to urban water management, solid waste management and green infrastructure were submitted by the GUDS participants at COMSATS who had undergone the 2 month capacity-building sessions. After a rigorous evaluation two projects were chosen for grant award of PKR 500,000 each. The first project will focus on green infrastructure while the second will focus on water conservation. Out of these two, the project which will show greater potential for scalability at the end of two months will further be supported technically and financially.

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