Malawi’s physical planners urged to pull up socks

The Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Lands and Housing has asked physical planners in Malawi to take advantage of government’s policy, legal and institutional frameworks in order to advance the planning profession.

Physical planning in the country is challenged by substandard development, said the secretary Ivy Luhanga, speaking during a Malawi Institute of Physical Planning (MIPP) Annual General Meeting and Symposium held last week in Lilongwe.

“Physical planning has been characterized by haphazard, disorderly and substandard development in both urban and rural areas including the mushrooming of slums,” she said.

Luhanga cited the National Land Policy, the National Housing Policy, the Land Bill and Physical Planning Bill, the National Land Use Policy and the yet to be formulated National Urban Policy as some of the initiatives physical planners should be supportive of.

“I feel saddened when major urban centres of Mzuzu, Blantyre and Lilongwe struggle to manage urban development,” she said, stressing the absence of “visible professional urban development planning and management” in the capital city.

Luhanga also raised concerns about the uncontrolled development taking place around Lake Malawi’s shores and in capital city, Lilongwe. She alleged that physical planners are responsible for the chaotic development in the country.

But Mtafu Manda, former MIPP president and a Physical Planning and Geography lecturer at Mzuzu University, argued that it is the ministry of lands that is not proactive. He said the ministry has on a number of occasions refused to take professional advice such as not to allow developers to build or fence up to the lakeshore, a situation he claims deprives locals who make their livelihoods through access to the lake.

Newly elected MIPP president, Costly Chanza said his immediate task is to empower MIPP to be instrumental in planning activities.

“Together with all members we shall strive to ensure that city and district councils have the capacity to carry out professional rural and urban planning practices, he said.

The MIPP was established ‘to advance the science and art of physical planning in all its respects.’

Costly Chanza, MIPP President.

Chanza, who is also Director of Planning at the Blantyre City Council, said he intends to lobby for the decentralisation of physical planning activities into district councils.

“I shall also ensure that the profession upholds the highest ethical standards and integrity in the execution of physical planning activities,” said Chanza.

Chanza replaces former president Mtafu Manda. Other elected members include former MIPP Secretary, Hasting Mumba (Director of Town Planning in the Lilongwe City Assembly), who was elected vice president.

Northern region Acting Commissioner for Physical Planning in the Ministry of Lands and Housing, Mphatso Kadaluka, replaced Mumba as Chief Planning Officer in the Department of Physical Planning. Mercy Dube retained her position as Treasurer.

Dominic Kamlomo, Dester Kacheche, Yona Simwaka and G. Balaula become MIPP Council members.

Former president Mtafu Manda said physical planning was a broad profession dealing with urban planning, rural planning, transport planning, environmental planning and also design for sector related services such as housing, water, and health among others.

“The wide range of the sectors on which planning touches indicates to us the important role we can play in national development, but of course it shows us the most significant challenge of the profession: that is, how best to fit in all these?” he said.

Manda said the challenges of the profession require special training and experience. The outgoing president said that during his term of office his committee managed to decentralise the operations of the Institute by establishing committees in order to streamline operations.

Charles Mkula is a journalist who has worked for a number of newspapers and magazines in Malawi since 1998. He has also worked as a communications officer for the Secondary Centres Development Programme (SCDP), an urban development programme in Malawi set up with support from the German KfW to support urban development. Since his entry into the development field, Charles has been passionate about advancing rural and urban development in Malawi.

Head image: Blantyre, Malawi. Wikimedia commons.

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