By Kepha Otieno, The Standard - Kenya, October 19, 2011
Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states clearly that everyone has the right to a decent standard of living, health and wellbeing of himself and his family, including food, clothing and housing.
B the pressures of a growing population, increased rural to urban migration and climate change continue to impinge upon efforts to realise goals to foster faster economic development.
Urbanisation has brought about dire effects of poverty, environmental degradation and lack of urban housing and the proliferation of informal settlers.
Under the new Kenya Constitution, the State is mandated to undertake a continuing programme of urban land reform and housing, to make land available and provide affordable housing and basic services to the urban poor.
Minister for Housing Soita Shitanda says the Government has to make sure that appropriate sustainable zoning and green building practices are integrated into local planning, and safety codes spelled in housing policies enforced.
"Our major concern is to come up with effective housing policies that meet the growing demand for decent housing occasioned by increased rural to urban migration," he argues.
Statistics indicate that Kenya’s housing supply stands at 30,000 units a year against a backdrop of a demand of 150,000 units annually, reinforcing the need to invest in real estate.
The Ministry of Housing now plans to widely document and disseminate cost-effective and green technologies in all areas of the built-up environment, including design and construction techniques.
Other targets include construction equipment, landscaping, foundation, floor finishes, sanitation, plumbing, electrical installation, trusses, ceilings, doors, glazing, lighting, heating, cooking, drainage, external works and water storage.
Director of Housing Charles Shikuku told Home & Away at the UN World Habitat Day in Kisumu that the ministry plans to introduce new building codes that will ensure Appropriate Building Materials and Technologies (ABMT) are used.
ABMT is about building processes, materials and tools that are cost-effective, safe, innovative, green and environmentally friendly.
These are targetted to address issues of sub-standard buildings that have become ubiquitous.
Shikuku says ABMT have the capacity to reduce up to 50 per cent of the cost of materials, thus reducing the overall building costs.
He encouraged investors to liaise with the Ministry for details on regulation and incentives.
During the World Habitat celebrations, Shitanda said the state had in collaboration with the Housing and Building Research Institute (Habri) at the University of Nairobi; and development partners, come up with the programme after intensive research.
The process culminated in the partial revision of the Building Code so as to allow the use of ABMT in designated areas within the local authorities that have adapted the Code.
Local and foreign manufacturers have also been involved in research and development of innovative machines and materials.
The ministry has tapped on local and global research findings through networking and Information Communication Technology to run the ABMT programme.
The ministry has established one regional ABMT Centre at Mavoko, nine Provincial ABMT Centres and 50 constituency ABMT centre’s expected to serve the country’s 38 million population.
Senior Housing Manager Agutu Jakorayo says several training workshops have been conducted throughout the country to transfer skills and empower community groups to construct affordable houses and other social utilities.
"We have revised the current building code to facilitate the use of new technologies and we also aim to design and implement a research and development agenda," Jakorayo explains.
This will enhance affordability and maximise utilisation of location-specific building materials and technologies. In this regard, consultants shall be engaged to undertake collaborative research.
While countries continue to witness increased rural urban migration, climate change remains the biggest challenge facing the nation, and thus the need for climate mitigation policies.
This underscores the need to step up environmental conservation programmes to ensure eco-friendly and sustainable environment.
This was the terse message that more than 15 ambassadors and diplomatic missions sent across during the World Habitat Day in Kisumu, themed ‘Better life, better cities’, as it emerged that the growing population posed a big threat to urbanisation.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon said that population will rise by 50 per cent by 2050, and thus the need to embark on climate change mitigation activities.
About 60 million people live within one metre of sea level and by end of the 21st Century, it’s projected that this will rise up to 130 million people. This means countries must prepare to smart from the challenges.
UN senior official Dr Joan Clos, say that by 2050, there could be as many as 200 million environmental refugees worldwide brought about by the increased population.
"Majority of these refugees will be forced from their homes by rising sea levels and increased effects of drought and floods," Clos claimed while he addressed populations at Manyatta, Kisumu.
The way forward is to keep the ecological footprint of cities to the minimum.