Mutabazi Sam Stewart
Kampala is fast becoming a better city thanks to the new administration led by Ms. Jeniffer Musisi Ssemakula its Executive Director. Although many roads remain with potholes, there is massive rehabilitation and resealing going on. Some roads which were last repaired in early 1990’s such as Ben kiwanuka Street are currently undergoing reconstruction. Garbage is being collected, street lights have been installed, streets are swept at night to keep them clean, loitering animals are being confiscated, beautification and greening is going on, vendors are no longer trading in the middle of the roads, the first passenger train in more than 30 years successfully transported passengers from Namanve to the city centre, and most importantly, the long awaited buses are already operating at cheaper rates.
The public received city buses and the passenger train with enthusiasm and high expectations because the Matatus’ transport fares were quite exorbitant let alone the fact that their operators do not have any customer care etiquette. There are a few challenges remaining for the city transport system to operate smoothly and efficiently KCCA should urgently kick start and enforce strict measures to demarcating the city clearly highlighting places reserved for residential, industrial, commercial, government offices, leisure parks, green belts, recreation and leisure centres etc. this will not only help to create order in the city but will streamline the operations of the city bus and rail transport system.
The Train and the buses should be able to pick passengers from designated residential areas and dropped at strategic locations within the city from where they can be able to walk on foot. The anomaly today where the railway is supposedly expected to pick up passengers from Namanve, a vast area with a mixture of residential and industrial fusion existing side by side should be rectified. KCCA should expeditiously start implementing the Greater Kampala Master Plan (GKMP) which was developed in 1992 with appropriate modifications. Surrounding towns and cities like Mukono, Wakiso and Mpigi should work closely with Kampala because they too will face similar challenges sooner rather than later. In fact the government proposal to expand the boundaries of Kampala to incorporate the surrounding districts should be pursued. Within the next twenty years or so the city will no longer need the common bust transport. At the current rate of population growth, Kampala will require Bus Rapid Transport (BRT), an innovative, high capacity, lower cost public transit solution that can significantly improve urban mobility.
KCCA needs to dedicate a substantial amount of its resources to comprehensive planning to progressively turn around Kampala’s image. Areas like Katwe which were identified a long time ago for upgrading need to be worked on and remodeled. New frontiers of the city like Kamwokya which used to be a residential area but are currently being turned into commercial neighborhoods need to be re-modified with modern international town planning practices. Naguru, Muyenga, and Kololo hitherto referred to as “rich man’s areas” should be serviced with first class urban amenities including wide roads with walk ways, and green surroundings. City square which is the only open space left in the entire city need to be jealously guarded.
In addition more spaces should be created to supplement it. The famous Bugolobi-Luzira Lagoon which has dangerously been encroached on by private investors need to be reclaimed and restored. The same applies to the swamp that connects Ntinda and Kyambogo which has been completely wiped out by environmentally mindless developers. The idea of developing Satellite cities in the suburbs of Kampala need to be robustly pursued. Roads that feed into and outside the city need to be urgently widened. These include; Masaka , Jinja Ggaba, Gulu, Gayaza, and Mityana. Urban transport without zoning is not practical and efforts to develop the city without adequate and comprehensive planning amounts to nothing more than guess work. The current efforts by KCCA nevertheless are a big relief given the filth and confusion in Kampala that many of us had got accustomed to.
The Writer is the Executive Director
Uganda Road Sector Support Initiative (URSSI)