Stop Polluting our Cities!

Urbanization has been associated with increased pressure on cities worldwide. In Uganda, the high rate of urbanization has not resulted in improved living standards (better-paying jobs, infrastructure and services, clean and modern electricity and clean water). The increasing urbanization in Uganda’s cities has created a large mass of urban poor and accelerated climate change from the human activities in the city centers.

Today, our most critical need is to stop polluting our cities and towns. By doing so, we impact the negative aspects of climate change.  words spoken are inevitable, in support of improving our towns and cities, words alone mean nothing.

We must achieve change in the policy and legal environment. We must build capacity in central and local government. We must secure infrastructure and buildings that enrich the lives of ordinary people. Given that over 60 percent of our urban housing is classed as informal, one can imagine the scale of the challenge confronting us.

GGGI’s green development principles.

When it comes to urban planning, there are several ideas to help encourage green urban development. These practices are being put to life through the  Greening Uganda’s Urbanization and Industrialization project.

Green Urban Planning

Tracking Frame items GGGI’s championing urban and industrial green growth items


1. Land-use Good planning with clear commitments to sustainability can result in more inclusive, resilient and prosperous urban communities and industrial locations. Improved service delivery can reinforce the concept of industrial-urban symbiosis, where strategic infrastructure can be shared.
2. Buildings Well-designed buildings that follow green building codes make efficient use of water and energy, reduce GHG emissions and improve indoor air quality – providing overall health benefits, whether for urban inhabitants or for industrial workers.
3. Transport Low-carbon public transportation such as walking, cycling and e-mobility can significantly improve air quality and access to infrastructure and services.
4. Energy Enhanced access to renewable energy can reduce GHG emissions and generate new green employment and business opportunities.
5. Water Improved access to potable water and sanitation services reduces public health risks, supports local economic opportunities, and avoids environmental pollution.
6. Sanitation/waste Effective waste management helps reduce health risks, and GHG emissions, create employment and supports SME development and urban circular economies. The circular economies tie back to industrial-urban symbiosis.


In turn, urban planning must positively impact green development ambition. When it comes to a green – or more commonly, a public health – impact, the following offer some examples:

Green Urban Impact

Item Indicators What we want
Land-use % Informal settlements to total housing. Reduction in unsanitary living conditions.
% Accessible green spaces to total land use. Increased access to parks and exercise.
Buildings % of buildings in accordance with an approved town plan. Approved town plan reduces wasted space and increases public transport.
% of buildings that receive official building consent. Green building codes enforce healthy building measures.
Transport % population access to public transport. Reduction in solo transport/energy use.
% of roads congested compared to free-flow. Reduced pollution caused by idling engines
Energy % population with access to electricity. Reduction in fossil-fuel burning.
% of energy classified as ‘clean’. Reduction in energy-sapping delivery.
Water % population with access to potable water. Reduction in water-borne diseases; cholera.
% water leakage in the system. Reduction in energy wasted.
Sanitation % population with modern sanitation. Reduction in pit latrines and leaching.
Waste % population served by waste management. Reduction in unsanitary waste dumping.
% of waste reused, recycled Reduction in polluting landfills.
Air quality Air quality measured to UN standards Reduction in respiratory diseases


Frankly, everything presented in this article comes down to a low-carbon perspective. This is particularly so when we look closely at all the tables and figures. In the case of Uganda’s secondary cities project through European Union funding, this contemporary interpretation of the green development agenda is being pioneered in practice.

The practice is being implemented in Arua, Gulu, Mbarara and Jinja our cities. It is being tested in Pakwach, Soroti and Entebbe for our industrial locations. It is being pursued in Greater Kampala for solid waste management.

The green development challenge is massive and will need a sustained effort over many, many years. What we should all understand is that the work we are doing is not just for ourselves. It is for our children and our children’s children. In short, it is a selfless ambition!

The author is Dr. Ronald McGill, the project lead Greening Uganda’s Urbanisation and Industrialisation Project.