Working towards resilient green cities

Country-wide urbanization in Uganda has continued amidst institutional challenges. Previous interventions in the water and sanitation sector have not addressed the underlying issues of poorly managed urbanization processes. Poor urbanisation is linked to low productivity, urban poverty, unemployment, limited capacity to plan and offer basic services as well as a failure to enforce urban standards.

Achieving the development of green cities requires a concerted effort in the next years to realize the implementation of green cities across the country. Greening cities provides opportunities to create sustainable livelihoods by providing green jobs. The current waste management approach is detrimental to our environment and does not create opportunities to leverage the waste to make it useful to create green jobs to cater to the high unemployment rates in the country.

The Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) through the European Union funded “Greening Uganda’s Urbanisation and Industrialisation project” has this year diligently worked towards the greening of the 4 secondary cities physical development plans i.e. Gulu, Arua, Mbarara and Jinja cities.

Interestingly, participation in the preparation of the new development plans for Arua and Gulu cities has been bigger than anytime before. Under pressure from people’s movements and active citizenry, the municipalities collaborating with Mott MacDonald and GGGI launched public consultations before finalizing the new plans. Local leaders and institutions engaged in wide ranging areas are today actively contributing. As for the environmental cause, several groups have come together to jointly submit their views and demands during public hearings to the city officials. This is probably the first time when such collective and concerted effort has been witnessed.

Due to rapid expansion plans and programs in cities, it has become necessary to define boundaries and areas of various natural aspects. This proposal is not meant for a permanent division or separation of the natural areas from the city building process, but to ensure their protection in the intermediate phases towards the achievement of an informed integrated urban ecology. Also, determining, and demarcating buffer areas for every natural element has become an absolute necessity during this period. Such buffer areas will help in the establishment of open space between various built developments and core ecological areas

During the stakeholder engagements in the different sub counties, increased attention was given to energy, resource efficiency and urban form in relation to climate change, City policymakers, planners and implementers had to answer several questions such as “Are certain urban forms and city designs more sustainable than others in terms of pollution, environmental impact and energy use?; “What strategies and actions can effectively contribute to making cities more sustainable (greener)?”; How can we provide urban services without damaging the natural environment? How can we establish harmony by providing a healthy life and a healthy environment? and, “How can we manage the current urban expansion process under the effects of climate change, and at the same time make this process greener?

In Uganda, 24.36% of the total population lives in cities and urban areas with a population growth rate of 3.3%. In Uganda, about 60% of the urban population (representing about 18% of the total population) live in slums and informal settlements, with pervasive unemployment and congestion. Both individual and institutional factors sustain the slum experience in Uganda. Kampala city is the most affected by unplanned and unsustainable urbanization. Mbarara city, the biggest (administrative and business) urban centre and transport hub in the western region has been under pressure from rural populations that migrate to seek employment to escape low wages and poor performance of rural agriculture.

This intervention has helped establish a base for regional engagements, deepened collaborative efforts towards resilient cities across Uganda and informed critical policy discussions on the green growth city agenda.