By Enock Balakasi
Some stakeholders at the two days, Malawi Urban Forum underway in Lilongwe say the National Urban Policy is crucial in sorting out haphazard human settlements in the country’s cities.
In Malawi, affluent suburbs and filthy slums mushroom back to back.
Some slums are built along waste dumps and stinking drains.
Most houses are substandard and succumbing to natural disasters that are a common occurrence in the country.
The National Urban Policy, which spells out the direction for proper management all these, is still in draft form and yet to be debated in Cabinet and Parliament for approval.
At the Malawi Urban Forum, stakeholders are discussing the policy to establish how the country would use it to achieve Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 11 which stresses that Cities and Human Settlements ought to be inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.
The forum has drawn together local and international delegates including partners such as Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development, Habitat for Humanity Malawi, Centre for Community Organization and Development, World Bank and Ovation Advertising.
There are fears that it is an illusion to achieve SDG 11 in Malawi because human settlement disparities are dominantly apparent in the country.
Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development Dr Janet Banda SC said government realized all these challenges and initiated the National Urban Policy to bring about sanity.
“Urban development is very crucial issue because as the country we are rapidly urbanising something that government takes it very seriously due to challenges arising in all the cities….. As your aware, most of people are moving from rural to urban to find opportunities for better living,” said Banda.
The government also claims that the formulation of land related laws, the implementation of the slum upgrading programmes in the major cities and the implementation of the Decent and Affordable Housing Subsidy Programme would help Malawi attain SDG 11.
“Government is formulating urban policy which will ensure that everyone is taken aboard…. There is number of priority areas in the policy which will take care of issues of urban poor like slum upgrading program among others, ” added Banda.
According to Habitat for Humanity Malawi, up to 30% of the country’s population will be living in urban areas by 2030.
The organisation’s National Director Kelvin Kalonga called for the speedy enactment of the National Urban Policy before things go extremely out of hand.
And World Bank’s Senior Disaster Risk Management Specialist Francis Nkoka concurred with Kalonga, saying having the law in place is a move in the right direction.
“We are at the good stage in Malawi to properly plan on how urbanization will be like in the next 5 or 10 years from now. If you compare Malawi and other countries, if you don’t properly plan for urbanization process, then urban space is messed up hence very difficult go manage it, ” said Mkoka.
There is hope that the forum will provide an opportunity to stakeholders to come up with interventions to address the challenges being faced in cities and human settlements.