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City planning depends on control of land

By Rukiya Makuma

Beware of falling debris is a common warning on many streets in Kampala. Its to caution people to keep a safe distance away from the construction site. Buildings are being erected in every corner of Kampala. Even in areas previously differentiated by bungalows such as Kamwokya, Bukoto and Ntinda, now have sprawling flats. Amidst all this rapid real estate development, there is the dilemma of unplanned construction in Kampala and the country generally.

In Kampala, proper planning and servicing have been undertaken in a few up-class areas of Kololo and Nakasero. For a big proportion of settlements in Kampala, the gap between the planned and actual developments is widening except in a few cases where real estate developers such as Akright, Uganda National Housing and Construction Corporation etc are involved.

Simon Muhumuza Rugadya, Kampala City Councils Principal Public Relations Officer says they always have a plan for the city but it has been overtaken by developments that come up every other day. Charles Kyamanywa, the Principal physical planner of KCC concurs. He says KCC wants the whole Kampala planned but the Planning Department is short of technical staff; has limited resources/funds. The Planning Department is currently in the process of surveying land, registration, mapping, and development control as part of the physical planning infrastructure which is reviewed after every 10 years. Kyamanywa says the exercise will take place from 2010 to 2013 with funding from the World Bank of over US$2 million.

In 1994 there was a shortfall in implementing the plan because KCC did not get the money to implement the project.

He says the land question has been KCCs greatest challenge. It is hard for people to give up even a third of their land even if the intended developments on the land will increase its value, he said. The planning system has only been possible in areas where there has been leasehold land tenure system like Bugolobi. Here the developer can do anything on the land depending on the length of the lease. But the situation is different in  areas where there is mailo land tenure system. Kyamanywa says effective city planning would be possible if the land was owned by a planning authority, not individuals. The National Land Use Policy was approved in 2007. The overall purpose of this policy was to achieve sustainable land utilisation in the country, including settlement, conservation, agriculture, and other economic activities. However, its dissemination and implementation have not been undertaken. As such the country continues to experience unplanned and uncontrolled land use.

Muhumuza says the paper plan KCC has is hard to implement. The council would want residences, industries, institutions like schools and hospitals to be in separate gazetted areas. But there is one big obstacle to this. You cannot tell people to move away from a certain area because you want to set up developments in the area, this is not possible in reality, he says.

Kyamanywa says some of the critical issues were raised in the Land Act but it was challenged by people who feared their land would be grabbed. In Uganda, complex traditional tenure systems have dominated land use in Uganda for more than a century. Conflicts between landlords and tenants, vague and often controversial communal rights and a basic lack of clear administration have held the country hostage in developing the land in a planned manner.

He says the city planning needs a lot of money to sensitise the masses about the intended projects and the benefits to them. He says part of this is integrated in the Greater Kampala Metropolitan Area which is basically a land use plan that will connect residential areas to industries.

He says the rising rate of developments does not match with the increase in the requisite services to dispose of the resultant waste. The city is filled with sewage overflows in various parts.

The only area connected to the central sewage drainage system is the central business district (CBD). The CBD is Kampala’s commercial heartland which stretches from Owino Market (Balikuddembe Market) to Nakasero hill where major hotels, banks, markets, shops, offices and leisure sports, ministries lie. The CBD also covers up-class suburbs of Kololo and Nakasero. In fact scenes of sewage overflows, leakages and floods can hardly be seen in these two areas. The reason is one and clear; unlike the rest of the city, Kololo and Nakasero were planned in detail during the colonial period, KCCs Muhumuza says.

This raises the question of who is responsible for ensuring the whole city is connected to the central sewer system to take care of the waste. Most of the blame on overflowing waste is placed on the National Water and Sewerage Corporation. The NWSC is accused of not doing its work and thereby putting lives of the city dwellers at a health risk.

However, James Miiro Maiteki, the Sewerage Service Manager, says there is a central sewage treatment plant at Bugolobi and there is the Nakivubo drainage channel where all the water waste goes. Miiro says these areas covered by the central sewerage experience sewage spillovers once in a while due to unforeseen circumstances. The Bugolobi Sewage Treatment Plant was constructed in the 1940s and upgraded in 1970. It operates as a conventional treatment plant.

There is a high incidence of sewage overflows on many roads and places in the city today. The situation is made worse by rain water, water leakages and surface runoffs from peoples sewer drainages caused by blockages, poor solid waste disposal, clogged surface roads and silt (sand that accumulates on the road).

Maiteki says individuals have improvised with septic tanks in their homes. When the tanks are filled up, they are drained by private contractors, but the problem is that in many cases people dont dispose of their solid waste. Miiro says that NWSC plans on expanding the central sewerage system in the city by 2013 and some selective areas like Bwaise, Lubigi, Inner Murchison Bay, Nalukolongo and Bwaise will be covered. Plans of building  new treatment plant are underway

In his speech on the National Development Plan, President Museveni said the Physical Planning Bill, which was passed by parliament in February this year, will address the uncontrolled spatial developments once it becomes law. The Bill is awaiting presidential assent to become law.

Muhumuza says unless government secures money to cater for comprehensive city planning, Kampala will become one big slum.

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