Let Nakuru City set pace for real urban planning


President Uhuru Kenyatta with Governor Lee Kinyanjui during the conferment of Nakuru town to City Status at Nyayo Gardens, December 1, 2021. [Kipsang Joseph, Standard]

Congratulations to residents Nakuru City on their new status! Next comes the hard task of making the urban area worth the recognition. To be honest, as a country, we have bungled the urbanisation process.

Our cities lack adequate housing, water and sanitation gaps plague all income groups (even wealthy households have backup boreholes).

Basic amenities like public parks and playgrounds are often viewed as a luxury, and the state of public services (health, education, garbage collection) leaves a lot to be desired.

For some reason, we seem to think that somehow someday well-ordered urban planning will magically impose itself on our cities and towns. Unfortunately, this is not how things work.

Across the globe, best-run cities achieve results on the back of rigorous and realistic planning followed by effective implementation by city employees that love to sweat the details.

Enforcement of zoning regulations, testing of water quality, food inspections at markets, traffic management, and many other routine (but important) activities make cities run. Without them, spontaneous order on the back of haphazard growth can only take you so far.

More often than not, poor planning yields sprawling slums and chronic under provision of basic services – problems quite familiar to residents of Nairobi, Mombasa and Kisumu.

Nakuru City should seek to be different. Imagine a realistic urban masterplan that guarantees long-term provision of basic public goods and services to residents.

Imagine being the first city in Kenya with 24/7 access to drinkable water and electricity for all households and where waste management meets environmental regulations.

Then imagine extending the same dogged pursuit of excellence to healthcare, education, public safety, facilitation of businesses for mass job creation and other policy domains.

Over the last century, urbanisation has been a ticket out of poverty and lack of access to basic services.

May Nakuru City be a driver of material advancement and personal fulfilment for all its residents.

-The writer is an Assistant Professor at Georgetown University

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