By Enacy Mapakame
Zimbabwe needs to apply sustainable town planning to its cities and towns to enable efficient use of urban space, experts in the real estate and urban planning have said.
There has been a rapid urbanisation not only in Zimbabwe, but the rest of the Sub-Sahara African region as people move from rural areas to urban centres in search of employment and other services.
This has led to shortages of housing, transportation challenges and poor environmental management among other problems.
As a result, there has also been an increase in new settlements in urban centres, with “cowboy” developers giving home seekers a raw deal, selling land without roads, water and sewer reticulation and public facilities such as schools and clinics.
Speaking at the recently held Real Estate Institute of Zimbabwe (REIZ) winter school in Victoria Falls, urban planner Mr Innocencia Tigere, stressed the need to create viable neighbourhoods with all the requisite infrastructure ideal for residential areas.
This, she said, could start with the new developments that are sprouting across urban centres, which is presenting an opportunity for applying the sustainability concept in creation of new communities.
“The high urban population growth has resulted in spatial concentration of people, industries, commerce, vehicles, energy consumption, water use, waste generation, and other environmental stresses.
“Urban space must be pro-actively planned and controlled, rather than being an ad hoc response of land use management.
“Create viable neighbourhoods. This is accomplished by creating human settlements, which are well supported by requisite services; shopping, public schools, and other community facilities, in addition to developing transportation connections between the neighbourhoods,” she said.
Purposing settlement areas through planning for attracting investment could also help improve the quality of life for community members in their built environment.
Existing town planning decisions have been viewed as too fragmented, insufficiently sensitive to environmental and social factors, excessively rigid and rule-bound, too slow, reactive, and arbitrary.
Yet town planning decisions should lay the foundation for the structuring and growth of urban settlements to accommodate the ever growing population in a sustainable manner.
Tigere added sustainable town planning would enhance the quality of life and ensure the country meets some of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) such as access to safe and affordable housing and basic services by 2030.
However, there has been a sad development in most urban setups where some cooperatives and individuals, mainly former town councillors become land barons selling stands even in wetlands and all areas reserved for recreation and future public amenities.
The councils turned a blind eye on most of the sprouting suburbs and only to destroy the structures, some of the finished houses..