Friday, September 7, 2007

LGI News: Give priority to urban planning

["The transition from short to long term planning as represented by vision 2030 is a step in the right direction.

Vision 2030 and its predecessor, the Economic Recovery Strategy, are watershed documents whose implementation will forever change the destiny and direction of the nation.

The proof of the pudding, however, is in the eating. Time has come to start laying the foundation for implementing Vision 2030. Some of the items in the document require urgent bold policy actions.

The Problem Of Urban Planning and development is one of them.

According to Vision 2030, the population of Kenya will reach 60 million in the next 23 years. This will put Kenya in the same demographic league as current day Egypt.

OTHER THAN THIS, THE MORE worrying phenomenon is that 65-70 per cent of the population will be residing in urban areas. Nairobi alone is expected grow to a population of 15 million people by 2030.

This development will come with many challenges. While the entire country will bear the burden of providing resources for this big population, the urban areas will bear a disproportionate part of this burden. This will manifest itself in various ways.

First, the increased urban population will have unique demographic traits, with high proportions of the youth and single parents. More young people will be moving from the rural areas to the urban areas in search of education and employment.

Second, the already stretched resources in the urban areas will reach a crisis level unless measures are put in place to avert the inevitable. Housing and transportation will be key issues. One cannot belabour the problems with traffic jams in our major urban areas, especially in Nairobi and Mombasa.


Left to their own devices, other urban problems will not just disappear. On the contrary, they will be aggravated as we move towards 2030. Pollution will not disappear through divine intervention and the crisis in council-run health and educational facilities can only get worse.

Lack of sports and other recreational facilities will only be exacerbated by the rapid population growth and rural urban migration. Security, if an issue today, will be worse in another 23 years. All these issues do not require small, incremental improvements in the way we approach urban planning. On the contrary, they require strategic thinking and planning.

This strategic thinking will necessitate restructuring of the bodies responsible for the management of urban centres.

Today there appears to be no clear ownership of the planning processes in urban areas. Functions and responsibilities are straddled between various ministries.

For example, the ministry of Housing whose mandate is to develop housing units has to ‘’beg’’ the city or town councils under the Ministry of Local Government to approve plans. While the councils are semi-autonomous in matters of health and education, the dependence on the parent Health and Education ministries is significant.

THESE MANY LAYERS CREATE multiple glitches in urban management. To move to a more strategic approach, the starting point is to establish clear, single ownership of the urban planning responsibility. This could be done through the creation of a ministry for Housing and Urban Planning.

A ministry for Housing and Urban Planning would largely inherit all the functions of the Ministry of Housing and the Ministry of Local Government. It by consolidating such functions that we can prepare our cities for the new challenges ahead.

Mr Mbaru is the chairman of the Nairobi Stock Exchange"]

LGI News: Crippling poverty in land of poverty

["It has enormous resources yet, ironically, the new Mutomo district in Eastern province is one of the least developed in the country.

Mutomo, which was recently hived off Kitui, is an economic giant sleeping on a gold mine worth billions of shillings.

The arid, wind-swept district of Ukambani continues to lag behind in development although it is endowed with valuable resources, including deposits of minerals such as limestone, coal, magnesite and graphite.

Besides, the sparsely populated area lies in a vast game reserve with great tourism potential, and on key tourism routes.

But all is not lost. Currently, two cement manufacturing companies are separately working on plans to establish multi-billion-shilling plants in the area, which are expected to create thousands of jobs for not only the locals, but other Kenyans as well.

Government neglect

The one-constituency district, also known as Kitui South, is ranked the third poorest electoral area in the country due to what the residents term neglect by the past governments as well as challenges which have hindered development since independence.

Carved out of the larger Kitui early this year, bringing to nine the total number of districts in Ukambani, Mutomo has three administrative divisions — Mutomo, Ikutha and Mutha — with a combined estimated population of only 170,000.

Just to show how undeveloped the area is, among the 38 new districts in the country, it is probably the only one which does not have an inch of tarmac road — or piped water and electricity.

According to the Institute of Economic Affairs, up to 68 per cent of the district’s residents are among Kenya’s absolute poor, with a mean monthly household income of about Sh3,000, due to an erratic climate and drought.

Water scarcity is so severe here that, on average, a 20-litre jerrican costs Sh20 throughout the year, a situation which aggravates the poverty situation. For instance, at Mutomo market, the district headquarters, meals at the restaurants are served without water to wash hands or drink.

The constituency, represented by Mr Mwangu Ivuti, has only a handful of ill-equipped secondary schools, and does not have a single tertiary education institution to raise the despicably low education standards.

Mutomo also lacks roads to connect it to its neighbours — Tana River and Malindi of Coast province.

So where do we go from here? A master development plan, accompanied by huge government and private sector investment, is what is needed to lift the area out of the economic quagmire.

The residents hope that the area, for long considered the backwaters of Kambaland, can develop faster than Kitui and Machakos. And the good news is that priority projects have been identified and given priority as part of a five-year strategic development plan aimed at spurring growth, based on the tourism and livestock keeping potential.

They hope that the Government will, among other things, honour its election campaign pledge of tarmacking the 200km Kitui-Kibwezi road which runs through the district. The particularly poor section, the only long Class B road, has a great trade potential because it connects the port of Mombasa to the upper Eastern province districts and the Mt Kenya region as well as Ethiopia.

According to the local leaders’ master plan, the Government has been asked to, among other things, degrade the Tsavo East national park to a game reserve and approve the creation of a county council so that the area may be independent of the Kitui council.

Councillor Kamau Mutuvi of the Ikutha/Kasaala ward says the request for an independent council, made two months ago by a delegation of civic and religious leaders, is awaiting the approval of Local Government minister Musikari Kombo.

The downgrading of Tsavo East which, together with the South Kitui game reserve, form almost two-thirds of the new district, means that part of the revenue generated will be administered within the proposed local authority to fight poverty.

The local political leaders say the new district is a major boost in virtually all development aspects, arguing that it provides a strategic launch pad to harness the available resources and to create wealth for the local residents.

“Despite our new district being entirely dry and arid with more cross-cutting economic challenges, it has great economic potential in terms of natural resources,” the leaders said.

If the area is granted a council, the Kitui one will be forced to go back to the drawing board and come up another strategic plan that does not factor in anything from the new district.

The creation of the district early this year came at a time when the council had, in line with the ministry policy guidelines, finalised crafting a five-year plan, which heavily factored in millions of shillings in revenue from Kitui South.

One of the revenue sources is the South Kitui game reserve, a vast wildlife sanctuary that covers almost a third of the new district, with great tourism potential, what with the animals, breathtaking scenery and beautiful sites.

The council last month concluded three-year-long negotiations with the Kenya Wildlife Service over the management of the reserve, which saw the signing of a memorandum of understanding between the two parties. Already, there are subdued murmurs over the anticipated council split.

Of great concern to some leaders is that the move will put the remaining Kitui county council at a disadvantage by placing key revenue resources outside its jurisdiction.

And with the Government formulating a new tourism policy geared towards empowering communities living around such resources, the fear is that Mutomo will benefit more."]

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LGI News: Cement firms in tussle for mining rights

["On July 19, this year, senior officials of Athi River Mining Company, led by director Titus Mbathi, addressed a high-profile public meeting at Mathima shopping centre in the new Mutomo district. The main agenda was the compensation of the local residents whose land is to be taken by a cement factory.

Two weeks later, the giant Bamburi cement company sponsored a three-day trip for 40 Kitui county councillors and chief officers for a tour of its Mombasa plant. With other events taking place behind the scenes, the scramble for limestone extraction in the dry and vast district had begun in earnest — and the two cement firms seemed to be headed for a clash in their bid to establish multi-billion-shilling factories in the area.

At stake is millions of tonnes of limestone lying beneath 180 square kilometres of largely unproductive land. Caught in the middle of the unfolding tussle is the Kitui county council, which holds the land in trust for the residents because it has not been adjudicated to allow the issuing of title deeds.

A special full council meeting early this week approved separate applications by both firms to mine limestone and establish plants in Mathima and Kanziko locations. The area has huge quantities of high-grade crystalline limestone — the main raw material in cement making, accounting for about 80 per cent of the final product. It therefore determines the location of the factories.

The area has also pozzolana and gypsum deposits, both of which are used as additives in cement-making. Although the council’s approval is the first among a series of procedural requirements by various government organisations, it has triggered a fierce commercial competition between the two companies.

The Mutomo limestone site has lately become economically significant to investors due to its proximity to the Mui basin in neighbouring Kitui and Mwingi districts, which have enormous coal deposits. The war over its control is a reflection of how the cement firms are strategically positioning themselves to reap the huge industrial benefits accruing from the two minerals which, in turn, is expected to drastically lower retail cement prices. The Mutomo limestone site and the Mui coal basin are a mere 60km apart.

Currently, the firms import coal from South Africa at a very high cost to run their heavy machinery. This contributes largely to the doubling of the cost of cement making in Kenya. Coal is the cheapest as well as most reliable and efficient source of energy. And industry players are confident that once Kenya starts producing its own, cement consumer prices will go down by more than a third, making the cost of construction even cheaper.

The managing director of Athi River Mining Company, Mr Pradeep Paunrana, says the high freight charges of importing coal contributes to more than half of the total production cost. “Coal importation obviously determines the increase and trend in consumer prices,” he explained, adding with the prospects of coal being produced locally are high.

The Mui basin, which spans 40km across Kitui and Mwingi districts, has been the focus of geologists from the ministry of Energy, who are at the final exploration stage of quantifying the coal reserves. This will allow the Government to invite bids from international firms to start mining the fuel for both domestic consumption and export.

Athi River makes the Rhino cement brand, while Bamburi’s product goes by its name. Interestingly, Bamburi owns a 15 per cent stake in the latter.

Full council meeting

The special full council meeting chaired by Mr Musili Mukiti resolved to invite as many interested investors as possible into the new district, saying that the local authority’s role is an impartial arbitrator. This decision has put the council on a collision course with Bamburi, which has gone public in demanding that it be given exclusive rights over the limestone deposits, citing superior financial strength.

“In allowing both companies to proceed with their plans, we acted within the law and in the best interest of the local community, the region and the country at large,” Mr Mukiti said, adding that the council would never allow one company to enjoy monopoly while other equally qualified firms are interested.

However, by law, the council resolution to grant mining consent to the two companies is subject to the approval of Local Government minister Musikari Kombo.

Mr Mukiti warned that while the companies were at liberty to pursue a commercial advantage as they establish their manufacturing plants, the council would not entertain any illegal moves by either or take sides. And in an apparent reference to claims by Bamburi that the local authority is biased, the council chairman ruled that neither company would be given exclusive rights.

“There is enough limestone in the area, which can last four cement firms up to five decades of inexhaustible extraction, so why should one company get exclusive permission?” Mr Mukiti wondered when he addressed journalists soon after the meeting.

Mr Richard Kemoli, the Bamburi board chairman, claims that his company has the blessings of both the council and the commissioner of mines, which the council chief officers deny.

Mr Kemoli adds that Bamburi intends to pump Sh17 billion into setting up the cement Mutomo plant as part of its expansion plans that would see the firm double its current cement annual production capacity of about 2.3 million metric tonnes.

The county clerk, Mr Edward Mwamburi, maintains that it is against government economic policies to allow monopoly in such lucrative investments, arguing that all the interested companies must be prepared to compete.

Investigations by the Saturday Nation have established that soon after the council passed the resolution allowing both companies, Bamburi sent a protest letter to the Government, asking Mr Kombo not to approve the decision.

The note, according to a sources, claims that the council contravened the law in convening the special full council meeting, and that its resolutions were also illegal.

Mutomo district commissioner Alfred Muandale says the Government supports the council decision that the investment be competitive for the benefit of the community and the country. “All companies must adhere to the legal framework as they have done in the other parts where they operate,” he says, adding that illegal activities by the investors will not be tolerated. On their part, Athi River says it needs only a tenth of the land, which they have applied for and that the other interested parties can invest in the rest. This translates to 800 of the 20,000 hectares.

Mr Paunrana says the firm has completed plans to establish a modern, state-of-the-art factory at a cost of Sh5 billion. “We expect to fulfill all the requirements and have the plant established and operational in the next two years,” he says and adds that the investment will create 2,000 direct and 20,000 indirect jobs.

The scramble comes against a backdrop of a rapidly growing local and regional demand for cement, causing a huge shortage. The Government’s decision to allow its use in road construction, coupled with the massive reconstruction in neighbouring Somalia and Sudan after years of internal turmoil and the boom in the local housing sector, has pushed the demand to an all-time high.

But the residents hope that the two major investments will help to spur economic development of the district, one of the least developed in the country, and create thousands of direct and indirect jobs. “Water scarcity, bad roads and biting poverty will soon be a thing of the past if the ambitious plans are fully effected,” enthuses Mr Joseph Kavisa."]

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LGI News: Mayor wants new political city

A proposal to build a new political capital for Kenya has received the full backing of city mayor Dick Wathika.

Saying this would speed up development, Mr Wathika added that moving administrative offices to a separate location would create room for the expansion of Nairobi as a commercial city.

The mayor spoke in his office yesterday after he received an invitation from the Rotary Club members to attend its forthcoming African Conference.

“I fully support moving the administrative offices to a new capital city and maintain Nairobi as a commercial city because it’s already too congested,” he said.

But the new capital should be far away from Nairobi but in a spacious location to accommodate expansion.

“It should not be too close to the commercial city so that we can have serious activities in two major capitals,” the mayor said.

He proposed that Parliament be the first to be moved to the administrative city once it has been identified and named. This, he explained, would encourage other administrative offices to move to the new capital.

Creating a new capital would require expansion of infrastructure and should therefore be well planned, Mr Wathika said.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

LGI News: Nairobi residents root for law on house rent

By Morris Aron of BD Africa (06-September-2007)

Nairobi residents yesterday supported plans to introduce a new law on house rents, saying it was the only way to curb runaway rise in the cost of living in the country.

Kenya Alliance of Residents Associations (KARA), however, cautioned that the enactment of the law should be accompanied by policies that will encourage construction of more housing units to address the supply shortage that is the main cause of landlord belligerence.

Besides, KARA said inefficiency, corruption and laxity were to blame for inability of the Rents Tribunal to deal with a housing crisis in the country.

Mr Stephen Mutoro, the chairman of KARA, told Business Daily that though exploitation of tenants had reached overwhelming proportions in recent times, regulations being proposed should not override the normal functioning of a free market economy.

“It is important that the relevant arms of the government deal with the underlying problem of supply shortage, while at the same time ensuring that property developers do not take advantage of the situation to exploit middle income earners,” said Mr Mutoro.

KARA also criticised landlords who cheat tenants into vacating houses claiming they are due for renovation, only to bring in new tenants at higher rents.

Mr Mutoro said such cases should be dealt with through the enactment of stringent laws on eviction and tenancy agreements. The association further asked the government to find sustainable ways of reducing the cost of construction materials to make housing more affordable to the majority of middle income earners.

KARA also said an influx of refugees was partly to blame for the acute housing problem in key cities such as Nairobi, as well as failure by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) to clearly define “middle income” earners in the country.

The organisation also put employers on the spot for failing to provide housing or pay their employees house allowances that enable them live comfortably.
KARA said the house allowance phenomenon was quickly disappearing from the Kenyan corporate scene, with companies choosing to engage in discrimination when it comes to housing their employees.

Unlike the civil service, most companies do not offer housing allowance except for top management.

“Companies need to play a more pro-active role in housing employees as it is one of their basic needs,”said Mr Mutoro.

KARA was reacting to a story in yesterday’s Business Daily on the proposed enactment of a law to establish a new rents tribunal that will hear disputes from tenants paying rents of up to Sh20,000 or bellow.

The new rent ceiling accounts for 70 per cent of all tenants in Nairobi.

LGI News: Nairobi City Council a top polluter, says Nema

Nairobi City Council (NCC) has been declared a top polluter for its failure to comply with solid waste transportation, disposal, and management regulation that were introduced four months ago.

National Environment Monitoring Authority (Nema) says City Hall may now face legal action for gross neglect of dumping sites and use of unroadworthy vehicles in transporting solid waste.

Apart from using old and dilapidated trucks to transport waste, Nema said City Hall had failed to fence dump sites or establish a mechanism to manage fires in dumpsites.

Mr Benjamin Langwen, the director of compliance and enforcement at Nema said none of NCC’s vehicles meets the waste disposal requirements stipulated in the new regulations.

“We have indicated to the council that if they do not comply and without any future reference, Nema will take them to court,” said Mr Langwen.

Failure to comply with waste disposal standards carries a penalty of Sh500,000 or a prison term of 18 months.

Ms Leah Oyake, the director of environment at NCC, however said she had not received any complaints from Nema regarding the councils non-compliance with solid waste disposal regulations.

“I am not aware of any new rules and regulations on solid waste disposal that have been fronted by Nema nor am I aware of any failure by City Hall to comply,” said Ms Oyake.

The new regulations demand that vehicle transporting waste be in good working condition, be clearly labelled as carrying garbage and have the waste fully covered while in transit.

Drivers of the vehicles are also required to have a manifest indicating the source of the waste, the type of waste and the intended disposal site for environmental audit purposes and accountability.

Nema, which is set to issue the first batch of compliance certificates to 300 companies, described the level of compliance among local authorities as above average.

Seventeen vehicles in Nairobi and 100 country wide are also set to receive waste disposal compliance certificates.

Mr Lagwen said Nema had embarked on an aggressive campaign to inform business owners on the specific requirements to raise the level of compliance. “A number of companies do not know that the regulations exist nor what they are required to comply with,” he said.

In April, Nema introduced a new set of regulations on effluent and solid waste management and disposal to curb air, soil and water pollution, especially in Nairobi.

According to Nema, other councils have registered a higher compliance rates compared to Nairobi which has more resources and can easily implement the regulations.

The authority is now threatening to invite private investors in to the multi million garbage disposal business to introduce competition and increase levels of compliance.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

LGI News: Kisumu’s quest to quench its thirst

Kisumu sits on the shores of the world’s second largest fresh water lake, but the residents are most of the time thirsty.

The abundance of water in Lake Victoria against the scarcity brings to memory the proverbial man who lives by the river yet washes his face with dew.

For a long time, water vendors have cashed in on the shortage and reaped profits.

Contrary to the expectations, residents of the lakeside town are coughing up much more for the resource than other areas in Nyanza Province.

Most affected are the slum dwellers who do not enjoy the services of piped water, according to the managing director of the Kisumu Water and Sewerage Company (Kiwasco), Mr David Onyango.

A recent survey by the organisation found that a 20-litre jerrican is sold between Sh2 and Sh5 by water vendors, which adds up to Sh100 and Sh250 respectively for 1,000 litres. The cost at times shoots to between Sh10 and Sh20. Kiwasco, the town’s water services provider, charges much less for the same quantity of water.

Mr Onyango attributes the higher cost of water in informal settlements to lack of infrastructure that would allow residents to get water directly from the company.

“Except for a few recent developments, informal settlements are mainly served by spaghetti networks with a non-existent sewer network,” Mr Bernard Owiti, the technical services manager at Kiwasco reveals.

“Spaghetti networks”, he explains, are illegal, inter-twinning water connections that are used by people who steal water and sell it to consumers.

“The lack of infrastructure has been occasioned by poor planning in slums that makes it difficult to access the innermost parts of the town’s slums for laying of distribution networks,” Mr Onyango says.

Ms Vivian Castro, a water and sanitation programme consultant says the slums’ insecure land tenure and unplanned physical layouts make provision of services tricky.

Moreover, the economic status of slum dwellers, who account for about 60 per cent of the town’s population, has also been cited as an obstacle in the provision of water and sewerage services in Kisumu.

“The deposit, connection charges, and other expenses relating to opening and running a water consumer account render the services out of reach for many slum dwellers,” adds Mr Onyango.

Ms Castro adds that the low irregular incomes of slum residents, with limited capacity for large periodic payments, make the provision of water and sewerage services in slums “a risky commercial venture”.

Consequently, slum dwellers have had to depend on water vendors who are not only expensive, but also inconvenient, unsafe and unreliable.

Several strategies have been developed to rectify the situation and supply water and sewerage services to Kisumu slums.

Lake Victoria South Water Services Board chief executive Patrick Ombogo says that his team is working on the modalities of licensing and regulating providers of water and sewerage services to the informal settlements.

The first phase of the Kisumu water and sanitation project is set to be completed in one-and-a-half months, according to Mr Owiti, while the second phase will commence in December.

The two phase project, Mr Ombogo says, is aimed at extending water supply and sanitation coverage to 60 per cent of Kisumu Town by 2010 at a cost of Sh2 billion.

Urgent rehabilitation

“In the first phase, Sh450 million was spent on urgent rehabilitation on the existing water and sewerage infrastructure and is set for commissioning by late September,” explains Mr Ombogo.

He says under the first phase, 30 VIP toilets were built, three new pumps installed at Dunga treatment works, 1,400 water meters installed and one of the streams at Nyalenda waste water stabilisation ponds completed.

The successful completion of the rehabilitation phase, he says, is a pre-condition for the commencement of the expansion phase.

“The second phase of the project will involve expansion of the water supply infrastructure in Kisumu Town,” he says.

It will include the installation of new infrastructure at the intakes, treatment plants, and sewerage plants.

The second phase, according to Mr Owiti, would improve supply of water and sewerage services in areas of the town that were previously unserved. These include Migosi, Gudka, Dr Robert Ouko, Mosque, Okore, USAid and other estates.

Mr Owiti says Kiwasco piloted the delegated management model in Nyalenda slums and is keen on replicating it in other slums.

“Under this model, a private operator or community-based organisation pays connection fees and a monthly rate to Kiwasco and in turn retails to customers who it bills, while carrying out minor maintenance on the network,” he explains.

Ms Castro says that the delegated management model will lead to increased convenience and safety of water, besides reducing losses from unaccounted for water and regulating the water prices.

Water kiosks

Already, 13 licensed water kiosks have been installed. Mr Onyango says if the model is successfully applied in the town, Kiwasco will patent and export it to other countries.

Construction of licensed water kiosks has not been devoid of controversy.

Ms Esther Aduma, a legal consultant for the project, says that there was a land use conflict during the construction of the water kiosks.

Mr Alfred Adongo of Sana International, a local non-governmental organisation, recommends more efforts towards involvement of local residents to reduce the conflicts when setting up such kiosks.

“The Water Act recognises the importance of land owners and water companies can enter into lease agreement or purchase land from land owners for such activities,” Ms Aduma says.

Kisumu’s water supply is sourced from two treatment plants, says Mr Ombogo, which provide about 20,000,000 cubic metres to the town against a 45,000,000 cubic metres demand.

“The Kajulu treatment plant, built in 1942, has a 1,500,000-litre capacity while the 1964 Dunga treatment plant with and 21,000,000 cubic metres,” he explains.

Outstripping supply

The LVWSB chief executive attributes the frequent water shortages to the cases of demand outstripping supply.

“The urban poor suffer most, going for days without water and sewerage services, and when they get the service, it is usually at a higher price,” he adds.

Slum residents in Kisumu may however have something to smile about as they may soon enjoy cheaper water and sewerage services if an ambitious $3 million (Sh220 million) plan is approved by the World Bank.

Under the proposed project, the World Bank will subsidise water and sewerage services in Kisumu slums.

Already, Ms Castro discloses, a consultant is carrying out a feasibility survey of the project and a proposal for the project will be presented to the World Bank for approval by September.