The population of Kampala metro area has been growing by about five percent per year, in recent times. Although the city is still relatively low density compared to many others, its population is growing very fast.
By 2015, Kampala’s density was estimated at 9,000 persons per square kilometre and Lagos’ was twice that.
Recent estimates put the resident night-time population of the city at 1.5million people but World Bank projections indicate that this could shoot to 9.1 million people by 2050.
Every resource, facility and infrastructure around Kampala will, therefore, shoulder six times more human burden, thirty years from today, assuming factors are constant.
There are different alternatives for preparing for this trend of pressure build up. Factors around the city are not constant. New roads are being put in place and others improved to accommodate more traffic.
Residential houses are being constructed as well as office and business buildings to cater for the rising population. Drainage provisions are being revamped and similar other works are happening that should serve to accommodate growing numbers of city occupants.
Intensifying this option of modifying Kampala is one alternative.
Another alternative is to improve Kampala as much as possible, but having left it to run as Uganda’s commercial center and construct a new administrative city. It would be easier to relocate administration than to transfer the national commercial segment to a whole new place. Shifting administration could be significantly set in motion by merely relocating key government departments to the new location.
Currently, existing infrastructure is being put to test on account of changing climate and its accompanying vagaries. To that end, we are experiencing more flooding as one practical challenge already with us, and we could have more challenges such as escalation of water borne diseases in time to come.
Some areas previously converted into habitation and work spaces may have to be returned to nature’s presence. Rising population pressure also increases other risks such as urban fires, especially if we have increasing near-shanty dwellings with crowded residential units. It could be very costly, from a finance perspective to reverse the above challenges, within a fast-growing urban population. The physical remodeling of the city, the socio-political challenges of handling the population to accommodate changes in road networks and other infrastructure modifications could be huge. As it is, the city is somewhat encircled by private residential home areas that make expansionary public infrastructure projects complicated to implement.
As recent as five years ago, it was estimated that about 24,000 person-hours were being lost every day as people sat in traffic jams. The traffic jams can only get worse in the short-run, until the road network is sufficiently expanded, and even then to be overtaken by the growing population at a later time. There are road flyovers planned for erection in the central business district and these will ease a lot of the current traffic jams, but the relief may only last a short time and get overtaken by the rising population in relatively short time.
The limitations of expanding an already old city, accruing from the necessity to sometimes demolish and remodel are not small. It is difficult to construct enough modifications to take the growing numbers of people.
A new city on the other hand would commence with thorough knowledge of urban demographic trends for the country, modern city planning techniques and overall better projections of future needs than what Kampala was designed against. It might even take advantage of modern technology needs around preparation for internet enabled locomotion and facilities such as electric trains – for yet to come purposes.
We can therefore start a new administrative city with superior advantages over Kampala, in every aspect – both for current use purposes and for benefit of future generations. Such a city could be centrally located for ease of access from all regions of the country.
It does not even have to be rushed, as to mount excessive pressure on national resources because it may be allowed to expand at a self-generated pace, after the minimum inception facilities are laid down.
Of course this option would pose initial challenges since as a country we are now used to a one-stop center kind of existence in our capital city.
By nature of some businesses, they would possibly have to instantly establish presence in the new city, to co-exist alongside Kampala operations. Some others would possibly find it necessary to immediately relocate fully out of Kampala to the new city.
With time, we would all adjust. Since we have now marked out urban centers to elevate to cities, it would be a good time to chew on the idea of such an alternative administrative city.
Raymond is a Chartered Risk Analyst and risk management consultant