Monday, October 1, 2012

World Habitat Day 2012 in the Lake Victoria basin: Changing Cities Not Generating Matching Opportunities For All

By Kimbowa Richard, Regional Coordinator (LVEMPII CS Watch Project) The United Nations has designated the first Monday of October every year as World Habitat Day. This year through the theme; ‘Changing Cities, Building Opportunities’, the World Habitat Day will reflect on the state of our towns and cities and the basic right of all, to adequate shelter. It is also intended to remind the world of its collective responsibility for the future of the human habitat. According to the State of East Africa Report (2012), by 2030 East Africa will have 178 million children and youth out of a total population of 237 million with 31 per cent (73 million) of them living in urban areas, putting pressure on the capacity of East Africa’s major cities to host these new urbanites (SID, 2012). This new and growing population with a high demand for land could lead to more unsustainable land use practices and social challenges At the moment in many parts of the Lake Victoria basin, Cities like Kampala, Kisumu, Mwanza, Jinja, and are surely ‘changing’ due to natural and human induced factors. But the question as to who benefits due to this change could generate diverse answers depending on the social and interest group; age bracket and the part of the city one has sought such response from. Furthermore, land degradation in the Lake Victoria basin is a common problem, but particularly acute in the Republics of Burundi, Rwanda, South Western Uganda, Nyando and Rachuonyo Districts in Kenya and Mwanza, Shinyanga and Mara regions in Tanzania (EAC, 2007). This increasing human population and the associated activities have accelerated the rate of delivery of nutrients causing eutrophication in Lake Victoria. The effects of increased pollution from urban and industrial discharges and soil erosion are visible in some of the rivers and streams: Nakivubo Channel (Uganda); Kisat, Nzoia, Yala, Nyando (Kenya) Kagera (Tanzania, Rwanda and Uganda); Ruvubu (Burundi and Tanzania), Simiyu (Tanzania). The way forward is to scale up appropriate technological innovations and adoption in rural areas to help offset rural – urban migration that can spur job creation and better social amenities. Similarly, technological solutions are needed to assist urban dwellers to cope with the ‘changing cities’ through efficient and effective use of natural resources like land, water, energy (charcoal, grid power, firewood, solar energy), and waste. This is in addition to key sectors like water supply, sanitation, food preservation, transport and housing. In addition to having working governance structures and mechanisms in place, other long-term and viable options could be through public private partnerships involving Cities, Municipalities and other Local authorities with Intergovernmental agencies, Private entities and Not-for-Profit agencies interested in these areas.