A backwater township in northwestern Uganda has espoused something phenomenal for the future of planned cities in the country.
Parliament, in September 2015, approved Obongi, a constituency in Moyo, to become a district effective July 1, 2019.
The local leaders have decided they will not sit on their laurels and observe the town evolve organically.
A team of 65 of them, comprising elected and religious leaders, as well as civil servants, on November 28, took a road trip via Kampala and Nairobi to Arusha to learn firsthand attributes of well-planned cities that they could adopt.
This is a commendable move because most issues hamstringing robust and orderly urban growth in Uganda emanate from either poor or no spatial planning and lack of implementation of structure and detailed plans where they exist.
Ordering of land use activities and enforcement of zoning standards is an internecine issue between politicians and technocrats. For instance, President Museveni in 2016 blamed the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) party’s loss of votes in the capital in that year’s election on Ms Jennifer Musisi, the outgoing executive director of Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA).
Her sin? Driving vendors off the streets to do business in designated souks, City Hall demolishing illegal or substandard structures for road expansion or urban aesthetics and KCCA prosecuting outlaws for stepping on road separator greens or littering the city.
It is, therefore, unsurprising that Ms Musisi cited inadequate political support as one of her reasons to bolt out of City Hall mid-way her third term.
We endorse the decision by Obongi leaders, led by their Member of Parliament Hassan Fungaro, to collectively envision a productive and self-sustaining town.
It is our considered view that the government must demand of all upcoming urban areas to demonstrate evidence of prior physical planning before operationalisation of a new district whose headquarter, under the law, automatically become a town council.
There is no logic or justification to midwife chaos and haphazard development in emerging towns.
The entire Uganda under Section 3 of the Physical Planning Act, 2010, is declared a planning area. This means any physical development in any part thereof should follow approved outline and detailed schemes.
We argue that the dividends of a pre-planned town are evident: well laid-out roads for functional connectivity, adequate housing, harmony in different land uses, sustainable economic model, security, guaranteed utility provision, quality urban life and beauty.
It is imperative that all Ugandans embrace planned towns because the ramifications of disorder such as public transportation chaos, flooding, waste nuisance, slum and crime affect everyone.
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