Khartoum struggles with uncontrolled growth

Sudan’s capital city Khartoum, the country’s commercial and industrial center, plays an important role as an engine of national and regional economic development in Sudan. With its concentration of urban infrastructure and services, there is a huge gap between Khartoum and the country’s other cities and states, promoting migration to Khartoum, with people seeking better work and living opportunities.

This huge urban migration has other reasons too: an unsettled situation in the country related to political and social conflicts and civil wars, along with environmental factors related to desertification, and drought in some regions.

The city already has a population of over 5 million and covers a total area of over 22,000 sq km. It has a growth rate of 8%. It is surrounded by over 500 villages, and with the speed of urban expansion it will soon include these

Unfortunately, Khartoum does not have the capacity to serve a high number of urban migrants. Its infrastructure, public services, affordable houses, and transportation are inadequate. This has led to deterioration of the city, generating slums, overcrowded roads, pollution, unemployment and poverty.

The horizontal growth of Khartoum has lead to the creation of a ‘super city,’ with the original urban core exhausted and stressed. This situation has created uncertainty when it comes to planning in Khartoum. The change in city size means a change in the volume of the city. Urban sprawl, caused by uncontrolled, uncoordinated and unplanned growth, has led to inefficient resource utilization. This uncontrolled growth, and the increase in city area, has also had environmental impacts, affecting surrounding wildlife and ecosystems , decreasing inner city areas’ contact with nature, loss of farmland, increases in urban temperatures, poor air quality, and decreases in water quality and quantity, which affect human physical and social health.

Khartoum needs multiple enhancements in city structure and services, infrastructure and transportation networks, and functional land use distribution. Compact city planning is a critical element for reducing urban sprawl and protecting local climate. Mixed-use development in Khartoum with a combination of residential, commercial, industrial, office, institutional, and other land-uses, can reduce the automobile dependency of completely separate zoning policies. This coupled with transit-oriented development can maximize access to public transport and reduce the use of vehicles for individuals. Inclusion of affordable housing and development of multi-floor and multi-apartment residences will lead to more efficient land use. Infill procedures that create efficient inner city ecological open space networks can also be successful tools for city improvement.

Alia Taha is an architect, city planner, and university teacher living in Omdurman, Kartoum, Sudan. She is interested in identity, vernacular architecture and city morphological forms. Her studies focus on development planning.

Image via Ahmed Rabea.


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