On the sidelines of the ongoing Commonwealth Local Governments Conference in Kampala, UN-Habitat Executive Director Dr. Joan Cloas held meetings Wednesday with Ugandan ministers and other officials where he pledged the agency's willingness to help the East African nation in dealing with urbanization issues.
In a meeting with the Minister for Lands, Housing and Urban Development Mr. Daudi Migereko, Dr. Clos advised that the central government engages the private sector in building of urban centres. "In doing so we need to insist on planned cities. At first many might not realise the importance of this but when they start seeing the benefits of a planned city they will finally come to embrace the concept", he said.
However, taking such a bold move would require the involvement of all, the Executive Director said. "Political goodwill is very important and at times you might need to approach the highest office in the land," he said.
Giving examples of Barcelona and Manhattan in New York, Dr. Clos said the long sighted vision of the planners years ago has ensured that the cities developed in an organized manner. In such a situation, the city council only does the design and enforcing the laws while the central government retains the overall right to decide on 'buildability', he said.
Taking cognizance of the fact that poverty was a huge problem in the Third World, a factor that can interfere with planning, Dr. Clos however challenged those in charge in those countries to think out of the box. "There is need for innovation and seek for new ways of doing things", he said.
The Executive Director said his agency had a pool of experts who can extend their expertise to the government of Uganda in helping it deal with urbanization issues.
On his part, Mr. Migereko said his government had the intention of planning afresh the Greater Kampala. "Speed is of essence here because the expectations of the people are very high", he said. According to the minister, another area the Ugandan government was exploring was to involve the oil firms currently working in that country in developing of urban centres in the areas they operate in.
In another meeting with the Local Government minister Mr. Adolf Mwesige, Dr. Clos disclosed that UN-Habitat would work closely with Uganda to improve market towns. The minister had requested the agency's support to secondary towns, dealing with environment and climate change as well as on good governance.
The minister said that many of the market towns in Uganda were feeling the effects of climate change and cited two towns Kasese and Bidude where flooding was wreaking havoc. Dr. Clos tabled the idea of working on a pilot scheme with a few towns to explore ways of mitigating the effects of climate change.
He further advised the minister to preach the gospel of the business model of a city. "Business of building buildings is very simple- you build, make your money then go away. However, building a city is different because the planning takes between 15 to 30 years," he said.
Dr. Clos also held talks with Ministry of Works and Transport officials where he was briefed of plans to improve transport in Kampala under the project "Sustainable Transport Solutions for East African Cities" designed by UN-Habitat.