Kampala — Kampala City has increasingly become a nightmare for its residents and visitors alike.
Riddled with corruption, incompetence and political witch-hunt, the new Kampala Capital City Authority has to deal with a wide range of issues such as garbage and potholes that have defined the city's slummy status for the last two decades.
With a day population of about 2.5 million people, the new leadership of the city consisting of the Lord Mayor, Mr Erias Lukwago, and Executive Director, Ms Jennifer Musisi Ssemakula, will have to work with the Central government to deliver on social services. The two city's top officials have promised to leave no stone unturned to turn around Kampala.
Pressure will mount on KCCA to address the issue of waste dumping and garbage collection or lack of it, which many officials use as a cash cow to profiteer. The city generates more than 1,500 tonnes of garbage daily and only 500 tonnes are collected meaning the city is posed with a serious health threat.
Restaurant and shop operators are the biggest transgressors churning tonnes of garbage, which is dumped on roads. The new administration must ensure that proper skips are provided and bylaws enforced against those who dump waste on roads. A law banning the use of polythene bags was passed but has never been enforced.
The roads are in very poor condition partly because the funds allocated to the sector have been swindled and or companies allocated to do maintenance work have no capacity to carry it out. The city has built a reputation as the most potholed city. Mr Lukwago has promised a "systematic elimination of potholes", prohibiting parking in some areas, and proofing the tendering and supervision for road works. The city authorities are aware that the biggest problem is the drainage system which is clogged with polythene bags and other wastes.
Kampala used to be called the City of Seven Hills but the hills have now more than doubled. The population today is estimated at 2.5million people. Only 10 per cent of this is said to have access to the city's sewer lines, meaning the rest have to use the traditional pit latrine or emptiable facilities. These, who form the majority, deserve to be connected to the sewer grid if Kampala is to modernise to international standards.
Either because of corruption or lack of supervision, many lives have been lost at major sites. But quite often what would pass as road reserves have been appropriated and constructed as private property, denying pedestrians adequate walking area and space for public infrastructural development.
Often also plans have not been followed. Of old used to be inspection rules that a structure could not be put to use after construction without the health inspector and chief engineer attesting to its fitness for habitation. The functions having been abandoned or left to money makers explains today's rental quarters that drain sewer on roads because they do not have sock pits.
The financial loss arising from delays due to traffic jams in Kampala has not been ascertained but one would be right to say it in hundreds of billions of shillings annually. The main problem is the means of public transport, using vans instead of buses as it is in better organised cities. The new city management must ensure that there's reduction of vehicles by forcing operators to opt for buses than the current vans. A bigger levy on private vehicles may also help raise revenue for the council and also force those without overriding to keep their vehicles away from the city centre.
Probably this has been the biggest cancer eating up the city, going by reports both official and those in the media.
Recent revelations that the outgone administration hurriedly tendered works and leased or sold public property to make a quick kill before they could leave office are telling. This is part of the problem that had made KCC a dinosaur and must be tackled head on.
In civilised cities you cannot operate a restaurant or supply food without a health licence to do so. The practice not only makes epidemics like cholera or dysentery an ever lingering possibility but also explains the litter that we see in the taxi parks and many other public places.
There has been wide spread abuse of the few remaining greens. Settlement in swamps has been going on unchecked, affecting the ecological balance of the city. There has been no deliberate effort to plant the right vegetation or trees in settled areas. The new management should ensure trees that consume a lot of carbon during day are planted in public places, while the collaboration of NEMA must be sought to stop the onslaught on wetlands.
Kampala could probably be the only capital city (other than New Delhi) where domestic animals and livestock roam freely. The dangers associated with this cannot be over-emphasised. The spread of diseases carried by animals remains a possibility on the door of every city dweller. Laws exist under which such stray livestock can be impounded and the owners either fined or the animals sold and money remitted to the public coffers. These laws must be now be enforced to achieve some order and decency.
Management of markets
Markets are employing thousands of city dwellers and as such they should be managed in a way that gives value to all those who derive livelihood and other advantages from them. What do we see? Companies have been tendering them without giving the public the satisfaction of neither buying from a hygienic place nor remitting the revenue agreed to city treasury. The new administration has to ensure transparency in the tendering processes and the provision of garbage collections and other services.