Urban Development: Counties whose plans are outdated to be reviewed

That many urban centers in the country are poorly planned is obvious, given the haphazard mix of structures. To help address the problem of poor development in most counties, the Swedish government last month gave the Council of Governors Sh361million to help re-draw the plans for their counties’ major towns. The money will be used to re-draw the plans for towns whose planning was last done during the colonial period to make them more in line with the times.

The Chairman of the Council of Governors, Mr. Peter Munya, said the money will be shared among seven counties in a pilot phase to improve the status of their towns, in line with the Constitution. The Urban Areas and Cities Act confer upon governors the responsibility of managing and running the towns and municipalities within their jurisdiction.

“We can benefit from the experience of more than 150 years of local government coordination that the Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions has had with Swedish Municipalities. This partnership will enable the Council of Governors to grow as an institution and perform its role more effectively,” said Mr. Munya.

The programme, dubbed the Kenya Symbio City, will last three-and-a-half years. “Dr Julius Malombo the Kitui governor and Chairman of the Council of Governors’ Urban Development Committe, said: “The law mandates counties to develop urban and rural areas as integrated areas of economic and social activities that are in harmony with national planning.”

Meanwhile, Ms Sandra Diesel, the head of development cooperation at the Swedish Embassy, said: “Swedish municipalities have had notable success in the use of integrated solutions to improve urban environments and reduce poverty in different parts of the World. This is the experience we propose to share with the council of governors.”

Indeed, poor planning of many urban centers in the country needs to be reviewed. In western Kenya, for instance, poor planning has made efforts to develop many regions a nightmare for the devolved governments. So bad is the situation that during the construction of major infrastructure, the disruption of water, power and sewer lines is inevitable.

According to urban planners, the chaos witnessed in the major towns in the counties is attributable to the poor planning inherited from the defunct local authorities. “Most of the towns across the region are facing a myriad of development challenges stemming from old planning policies, most of which have never been revised,” says Mr Vincent Kodera, former Kisumu County housing and planning minister.

In the past 10 years, Kenya has witnessed unprecedented growth and development in housing, although some have not been up to standard and have collapsed, killing people. Some of the manifestations of poor planning in western Kenya — and in other parts of the country — are the haphazardly built housing estates and heavy traffic jams, especially during rush hour.

Kisumu Governor Jack Ranguma says that besides the outdated plans, the county has also faced high rates of poverty, inequality and social ills, all of which had derailed its growth and development.“All these factors have restricted individuals’ access to social and economic opportunities This County boasts an abundance of natural resources and cultural wealth that, if blended with technology and skills, would make Kisumu Town, and the County as a whole, one of the most competitive in Kenya,” he said.

Lack of up-to-date data has also been blamed for the poor and unplanned development of the town; a situation the county government says is the reason the town has its back facing the lake.

In Kakamega, Governor Wycliffe Oparanya said poor planning was to blame for a number of incomplete projects, which he blamed on the national government. He said many projects, especially roads, had stalled, yet the government was planning to others.

“What we are currently grappling with is how to deal with the mess due to failures in planning, which has adversely affected counties. For instance, we are dealing with the delayed completion of roads, especially the Kisumu-Kakamega, Kakamega-Webuye and Sigalagala-Butere roads,” he said.

The case is no different in Homa Bay County. The lakeside town, despite witnessing a boom in housing, has similarly been affected by lack of updated plans, which governor Cyprian Awiti says were inherited from the defunct local authority. “The chaos we are witnessing in the region are the result of lack of well-thought out plans. However, we are working towards improving our image with better planning,” he said.

In Busia County, planners have raised the alarm over the town’s diminishing stature. In recent months, shanties have been mushrooming in the town; with slums like Marachi and Murumba expanding. Some of the manifestations of poor planning are the mixture of tall and short buildings lining the town’s central business district. And across the town is a major dumpsite. Governor Sospeter Ojamong says that to address the problem, the county has allocated money to re-plan the town before the construction of an airstrip.

Mr Kodera says that the problem witnessed in most counties can be attributed to failure to institute appropriate housing, expansion and development policies. The civil engineer says that in addition, there is little monitoring of developments coming up in towns. “No growth can ever be achieved without proper planning. Most of the towns have drawn up good plans which are yet to be implemented, hence the chaos witnessed,” he said.

He added that the country had allowed developments to go on before effecting better planning, with the authorities only carrying out rescue missions after poorly built structures have collapsed.

Source: Nation-> http://bit.ly/1QZ0nS7

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