Monday August 8 2011

Land ownership should revert to government -planners

By Tabu Butagira

Kampala

Parliament should amend the Constitution to revert land ownership to government to facilitate proper planning of the built environment, experts have said. The country’s top planning professionals, during a symposium on Geomatics for Sustainable Development at Makerere University, argued that private land ownership has encouraged informal settlements and haphazard urban development.

“Continued plot subdivision and piecemeal releases of privately-owned land in Kampala has contributed to disorderly urban development as well as development of informal settlements with no centrally-provided services and infrastructure such as roads and piped water,” Dr Amin Kiggundu, a senior lecturer at Makerere University, said on Thursday.

Messy development
Urban planners, surveyors and engineers working with city or town councils reported that the urban authorities are unable to open planned roads because they have no money to compensate landlords as required by law, which delays and raises the cost of developing physical infrastructure.

Official statistics show 75 per cent of land in the sprawling capital, Kampala, is owned as private Mailo land; 7 per cent as Kabaka’s land and 3 per cent as freehold while only 7 per cent is lease holding over which government can exercise direct control.

Thus majority individual landowners mistake their ownership as an entitlement to develop land as they wish, creating unregulated spatial development, the academics argued.

Researchers who spoke at the inaugural symposium said spatial development in and around Kampala, where much of the land is owned by Buganda Kingdom, is difficult to regulate because Buganda Land Board issues titles to occupants only if they show photographs of physical development on plots they are applying for.

Yet the country’s planning laws oblige developers to seek authorisation from local planning authorities before erecting structures in order to ensure compliance with prepared development schemes and standards. Up until 1998 when Parliament enacted the Land Act, land in Uganda was, under the 1975 decree issued by former President Idi Amin, largely held as public, not private, property.

Reversal of land holding system has caused “a mess”, presenters told the conference held at the College of Engineering, Art, Design and Technology. In his paper on Land Use and Transport Planning in Greater Kampala, Dr Kiggundu, a Transport specialist in the Department of Architecture and Urban Planning, also opposed construction of more circular roads, or bypasses, saying they encourage only use of vehicles, not walking or cycling. This, he said, results in traffic jam.

More flats
He said condominiums (flats) should be developed to concentrate populations whose pay for travel can help sustain public transport modes, such as buses and trains, being advocated. The mushrooming real estates dispersed in the city periphery, Dr Kiggundu argued, increase the cost of utility provision. “Because transport planning is comprehensive by nature, there is no way you can build a road that will serve a few people on a plot.”

Architect Richard Irumba, who carried research on the booming housing industry, said most site accidents occur due to construction equipment malfunctions; builders tripping off scaffoldings or being hit by falling objects.

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