By Abdi Ali
Published November 15, 2016
The local government of Kenya’s political and economic capital, Nairobi City County, has embarked on the implementation of its master plan for development.
Known as Nairobi Integrated Urban Development Master Plan (NIUPLAN), the goals of the framework that was prepared in 2014 are to provide spatial order for physical investments, enhance quality of life for inhabitants, guide investments by providing location criteria, and embrace the evolving urban policy regime in integrating socio-economic, environmental and political issues under one umbrella.
The County Government says it is focusing on what it calls ‘priority programmes’ in various sectors that include formal transport, infrastructure development, and environment management.
Kenya Alliance of Resident Associations (KARA) says it has been invited by the County Government to be part of the team that will monitor the implementation of the plan.
“We intend to play an active role not only in monitoring implementation of the plan but also in the design of the various projects under the plan,” KARA says in its monthly e-letter for November 2016.
Rasnah Warah, a Nairobi-based writer who specialises in issues of human settlement, argues that Nairobi should start catering for people on foot and on bicycles.
“It is a city built for the motor vehicle, not for people who ride bicycles or walk. Few of the new roads that have been built have pavements or bicycle paths alongside them,” she writes in KARA’s November 2016 e-letter. “Yet, pedestrians and cyclists comprise the majority of road users in the city. If Nairobi were a place that catered to the needs of most of its residents, there would be more pavements, bicycle paths, public parks, and playing fields in the city.”
“Despite having more roads in the city,” Warah wonders further, “traffic in Nairobi has reached nightmare proportions.”
She says the problem “was predicted some years ago by Enrique Penalosa, a former mayor of the Colombian capital, Bogota, when he gave a public lecture at the University of Nairobi.”
Quoting the former mayor, Warah says “more room for pedestrians, cyclists, and rapid transit systems” should be made to “encourage residents to use alternative forms of transport, which would lessen traffic on the roads.”
Warah argues that “neglecting cities and towns may come to haunt us in the future. Perhaps there is a need to create a national urban authority whose main aim would be to ensure that the country’s urban areas are managed, planned, and designed in a way that promotes equity, sustainability, and aesthetics. Rescuing cities and towns would also mean rescuing the economy — urban-based economic activities generate more than half of Kenya’s GDP.”