Urban sprawl is defined as below.
Urban sprawl is the spreading of a city or its suburbs. It often involves the construction of residential and commercial buildings in rural areas or otherwise undeveloped land at the outskirts of a city.
Over 80% of Kenya’s economy relies on agriculture. This employs over 70% of Kenyans. The paradox to this is the fact that only 20% of Kenya’s land mass can support rain fed agriculture. To make the situation even more complex, this 20% area houses over 75% of Kenya’s population. Source. http://landportal.info/resource/documents/national-land-use-policy
With the above facts in mind, Nairobi will most definitely have very high pressure on land. To free land for agricultural purposes, Nairobi planners will need to borrow a leaf from developed countries such as USA.
In Australia, solutions to prevent urban sprawl are underway.
In USA, the issue of urban sprawl is being resolved through various interventions as the concept of smart growth below.
Basic principles of Smart Growh
There are 10 accepted principles that define smart growth.
1.Mix land uses
2.Take advantage of compact building design
3.Create a range of housing opportunities and choices
4.Create walkable neighborhoods
5.Foster distinctive, attractive communities with a strong sense of place
6.Preserve open space, farmland, natural beauty, and critical environmental areas
7.Strengthen and direct development towards existing communities
8.Provide a variety of transportation choices
9.Make development decisions predictable, fair, and cost effective
10.Encourage community and stakeholder collaboration in development decisions.
The disadvantage of Urban Sprawl in Nairobi are as below.
1. Sprawl increases travel distance of people to Nairobi CBD. This in turn causes more fuel to be used hence more CO2 pollution to the environment hence greenhouse effect.
2.Sprawl results to more people buying personal cars and using then for transport hence more traffic jams in our roads. This is because people would have to travel from far away places such as Jja, Kitengela and Kangundo, hence the only reliable means of transport is personal cars.
3. Sprawl results in farmlands and other ecological wetlands being destroyed as people build their homes in the outskirts of Nairobi. Kiambu in particular has been seriously affected by this whereby the red soils and favourable climate area has been converted into residential land due to urban sprawl. In a country that relies 80% on agriculture, loss of agricultural land is very detrimental to the economy.
4.Sprawl wastes our tax payer money on unnecessary infrastructure. The money used to build roads, sewers and other infrastructure in Nairobi outskirts can be saved if more people lived closer to the city.
To prevent urban sprawl in Nairobi, below are the solutions.
1. Moving JKIA to further away from Nairobi, preferably near Daystar university on the 14,000 Acre East African portland cement land. JKIA causes neighbouring developments in Ruai, Utawala ans Syokimau to be only 2 levels high due to the flight path. This causes people to move further away to build houses hence more pressure on agricultural lands in Nairobi outskirts. Without JKIA, Ruai, Utawala and Syokimau could be able to accommodate 5 to 6 storey buildings which will house more people.
2. Alienate Government idle lands around Nairobi such as the KEVEVAPI South B land, Ministry of Agriculture land spaning from Karen/Shade hotel all the way to Ngong town, Ministry of Agriculture land at Kangemi etc etc. The land can then be sold off to private developers who can then construct high rise buildings that will house many and curtail urban sprawl into agricultural lands.
3. Enforce idle land taxation on land owners owning idle lands near Nairobi eg near Kenyatta university on Thika road. This will make these land owners to develop homes and offices hence less spreading of buildings into agricultural lands. This enforcement should also be done on educational institutions holding huge land masses near Nairobi eg Kenya high school, Nairobi school and Lenana school. These schools can then develop into colleges and universities or lease their lands to other high rise developers.
4. County Government planning departments to ensure developers construct high rise buildings as opposed to low rise. Currently, planners usually discourage developers from building many storeys high. This should be discouraged and instead, developers encouraged to build many storeys high as long as structural engineering designs are done to ensure structural integrity.
Its my view that the above points will ultimately result to a better Kenya for all.
The solutions will almost certainly cause friction amongst certain people especially large land owners but after detailed debate, the advantages of this will be seen.
Francis Gichuhi Kamau, Architect.