Thursday, July 28, 2011
Thursday, 28 July 2011 02:00
By Mugwazeni Sithole
Urbanisation can simply be defined as a situation whereby the majority of the country's population lives in towns and cities. Urbanisation can be as a result of rural-urban migration or natural increase of population in the urban areas.
Like any other countries of the developing world, urbanisation is an inevitable phenomenon in Zimbabwe.
People are flocking into major cities like Harare, Bulawayo, Mutare and Masvingo in search of employment and better living conditions.
Due to the population increase in towns, the number of urban dwellers searching for employment now surpasses the jobs available on the market. A lot of people living in cities and towns have resorted to self-help projects in the informal sector.
Street vending in front of major supermarkets in Harare and along major roads, for example, near Chikwanha Shopping Centre in Chitungwiza is now the order of the day.
Although Mupedzanhamo in Mbare and Glen View Area 8 have absorbed some of the unemployed in Harare, unemployment rate is still high.
Urban poverty is another challenge, which is causing a lot of headaches to most city fathers.
Urban poverty is the inability of the urban populace to meet the basics like food, shelter and information. Urban poverty results in powerlessness. It is a phenomenon that requires combined effort between the Government, the people and the corporate world to combat it.
It is a fact that most urbanites are living on less than one United States dollar a day which is far below the poverty datum line on the continent.
In urbanising Zimbabwe, it is imperative to plan with the urban poor rather than planning for them.
They have to be part of the solution on issues affecting them if challenges of urbanisation are to be dealt with holistically.
Residents of Matapi and Tandarai Flats in Harare and Marondera respectively, are living in squalid conditions. Can we talk of sustainable cities in Zimbabwe if we still have such conditions in our courtyard?
Another pertinent challenge in urbanising Zimbabwe is housing. A descent house is one of the basic requirements for human life. As of 2010, Harare had a housing deficit of about 661 000 (The Herald, October 6, 2010).
The majority of urban dwellers are lodgers. A number of people living in towns are staying in sub-standard houses. Some are squatters in illegal shacks built on the outskirts of the city, for example in Epworth, Dombotombo and Mabvuku.
Government should have rent-to-buy polices and promote housing co-operatives. A livable city should be able to provide its citizens with basics like food, shelter, education and entertainment facilities. A livable city operates like a system with inputs (from agriculture), processes (in industries) and outputs in the form of finished or processed goods.
Can we talk of sustainable cities when most of our industries are operating below capacity? A livable city must have a reliable, efficient and effective transport network. Roads in Sakubva in Mutare, Kadoma, Marondera to mention but a few are riddled with crater-like pot-holes.
Lest we also forget that as urbanisation takes shape, there is also an expansion of industries, hence pollution also increases. Air pollution in particular contributes much to global warming, resulting in climate change.
Large volumes of traffic in cities cause noise pollution and there are huge volumes of carbon dioxide leading to ozone layer depletion.
As cities grow, both in size and population, then land and water pollution is inevitable as well. Aquatic life in Lake Chivero in Harare is at risk from human and industrial waste and activities.
Pollution should, at all cost be controlled if sustainable cities are to be created.
Are we urbanising or de-urbanising Zimbabwe when most of our urban residential areas are dry?
Mabvuku once went for more than three years without water supply. Gaza residents in Chipinge haven't witnessed a drop on their taps for the past decade. Very soon, my little home town (Chipinge) will be turned into a countryside.
It is a fallacy to talk of better cities and better lives as long as garbage and people continue to co-exist in both residential and industrial areas.
Urban sprawl is another issue or problem, which must be taken into account as a challenge that emanates from urbanising Zimbabwe.
Due to urban sprawl, productive agricultural land is now at risk. Chitungwiza is expanding outwards at an alarming rate. If we are not careful, Manyame, Seke and other surrounding communities will be swallowed soon.
It is a threat to food security of countries and regions.
Planners, let's work hand in glove in urbanising Zimbabwe taking into consideration the above mentioned challenges.
As urban planners meet for this year's annual school of planning, the above are some of the thorny facts which must be tackled head-on. Let us plan to plan.