DOREEN NAWA, Lusaka
THOUGH urbanisation has positive economic benefits, it is blamed for unplanned settlements.
Further, it shoulders the blame for indiscriminate disposal of waste, lack of sanitation, high crime rate and other vices prevalent in cities in developing countries.
Zambia is not an exceptional.
Due to urbanisation, Zambia’s major cities are struggling to cope with the increased population.
People in rural areas flock to urban areas under the belief that cities offer better living conditions and jobs are easier to find.
Apart from increasing the population in the cities, social amenities have been ‘suffocated’.
The increasing population has resulted into undesignated areas being turned into unplanned settlements which have since become an eyesore because of the state of the housing structures and the absence of facilities.
Unplanned townships have no roads, sewer system or piped water, making them potential areas for outbreaks of diseases such as cholera.
It is in light of this that Government, in conjunction with the local authorities and private sector seek to upgrade slums to better low cost residential areas.
Minister of Housing and Infrastructure Development Ronald Chitotela says plans are in place to upgrade urban slums into habitable settlements for the people.
“We have already signed working agreements with various partners in the quest to alleviate the national housing deficit and with some, we have signed for the construction of 20,000 houses; others 5,000 and so on and so forth. No part of the country would be excluded from the programme because Government is determined to roll out an inclusive national growth,” Mr Chitotela says.
The minister says Lusaka’s Kanyama and Misisi townships will be the first ones to the upgraded.
It is believed that people from rural areas make up a disproportionate share of the urban poor and face disadvantages such as inadequate housing.
Like the majority of the urban poor, these migrants are exposed to a wide range of environmental hazards because most low-income and informal settlements lack basic infrastructures and are located in dangerous areas where land is cheaper and sold without proper documentation.
While the rural urban drift cannot be stopped, the need to make the unplanned areas appear attractive becomes paramount.
For Zambia Institute of Planners president Cooper Chibomba, the only solution is to upgrade the slums.
And now is the time to upgrade slums.
Mr Chibomba argues that Zambia has enough legislation to enable the country plan for its cities effectively and efficiently.
“We have the needed policy, legislation and human resource to support the upgrade of slums in Zambia. All we need is to work together as professionals and map the way forward,” Mr Chibomba says.
Lusaka City Council (LCC) director of planning Godwin Chinoya says urbanisation has given birth to various challenges in big cities like Lusaka all because of the rate at which other smaller towns are developing.
Mr Chinoya says everybody thinks of Lusaka as a land of opportunity and this has created pressure on infrastructure.
“The have-nots are now forcing themselves into crime in order to be like haves.’ People think that life in Lusaka is better and that is very true. In the rural areas you cannot find someone selling tomatoes and get them sold within a day. Life in rural areas and other smaller cities is slower,” he says.
In its five year strategic plan, the LCC has slum upgrading as the first assignment in the five years.
Mr Chinoya feels urbanisation in Lusaka can be managed. The local authority needs to partner with other stakeholders and reorganise themselves.
“The unplanned settlements have enough land. What we want now is to put up structures that are like flats to cater for more people. As Lusaka City Council we are aware of the many unplanned settlements. The programme of slum upgrading started a long time ago and the first slum upgrade of Kalingalinga Township was done by private sector.”
The upgrade of Kalingalinga has seen it change with better shops, better water access points, better roads, organised streets for easy access.
The private sector is buying off some of the substandard buildings in Kalingalinga and transforming them into better buildings.
From here, the local authority will consider Kanyama and then Misisi will follow.
It is planned that these areas will have facilities that will help the local authority collect rates and increase its financial base once the upgrade is completed.
Currently, Lusaka city has a population of over 10 million and it is estimated that 70 percent of the people live the squatter compound where they do not pay rates.
The battle to upgrade these unplanned settlements may not be easy because of resistance from people who live there.
A resident of Kanyama township, Simfukwe, has no problem relocating while the upgrade is being done but on one condition.
“I need to be compensated for them to demolish my house and shops. These buildings have been here for some time and I pay levy to the market officials,” Mr Simfukwe says.
Having the big picture of a smart city in mind and emphasising well-implemented infrastructure and will change the outlook of the various cities but also contribute positively to economic, social and investment opportunities.
A smart city also comes with better access to transport, reduced service delivery costs, and maximised land use.
These moves, among others, will ensure that the city reduces congestion, creates space dedicated to recreational use, enhances service delivery, and, thus, improves its citizen’s quality of life.