The city of Nairobi has operated for the past 40 years under the guidance and recommendations of the 1973 Nairobi Metropolitan Growth Strategy, which incorporated a package of new guidelines, followed by the 1984-1988 Nairobi City Commission Development Plan and the 1993 Nairobi City Convention, and expired in 2000.
But, as Sustainable Cities Collective notes, “many recommendations of the 1973 Master Plan were not realized due to shortages in capacity by the old City Council, as well as lack of commitment and political will.”
The failure to realise much of the old plan, combined with a need to plan a livable city for the estimated 5.2 million people that will live in the city by 2030, has led to the development of the Nairobi Integrated Urban Development Master Plan (NIUPLAN), recently released in draft form. This plan seeks to integrate all existing sectoral plans in the city and align them to Vision 2030, providing a framework for coordinating urban development.
There is an urgency to implement the new planning guidelines, which address six specific areas: transportation; governance and institutions; environment; land use and human settlements; population, social systems and urban economy; and infrastructure.
National and county stakeholders began work on the NIUPLAN in November 2012 with assistance from the Government of Japan through its Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). And, according to sources including Kenya’s government website and others such as the Action Network for the Disabled, the plan’s development included consulting members of the private and public sector — national government ministries, universities and civil society organisations — which critically analyzed the existing sector plans and the city’s situation. Institutions like the World Bank, the Kenya Railways Corporations, UN-Habitat and the GODOWN Arts Center also provided input.
The city has changed since 1973 and there are many challenges for urban planners. “Perennial traffic jams, poor road condition and road network, inadequate housing, unemployment, insecurity, lack of access to safe water and poor solid waste management are just some of the issues addressed in the Plan” according to JICA. “Several projects have been prioritized, including new roads and railways, development of new landfill sites, improved water distribution network and storm water drainage system. There is also need to decentralize service from the Central Business District (CBD), which will ease congestion within the city. Thus, new Sub-Centres will be developed under the newly formulated Master Plan.”
Transportation is one of the priority areas. Major transport corridors linking with the Thika highway, Mombasa Road and newly built by-passes; new bus and matatu terminals and a network of metro railway lines are supposed to operate in the city by 2030. Thus, perhaps finally, years after building some pillars of the Garimeme, an as of yet inoperative modern railway station in the industrial area of Nairobi, a metropolitan railway service will help reduce traffic congestion in the city.
It seems the changes that Nairobi will face in the next 16 years will be enormous. Still, we’ll have to wait to assess the actual impact of the new master plan.
Gemma Solés i Coll holds an M.A. in Social Science of Development South of the Sahara (URV) and graduated in Philosophy (UB). She specializes in artistic and cultural trends and urban dynamics in Africa. She serves as chief editor for the music and performing arts section of Spanish online magazine WIRIKO, of which she is the founder.
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