Nairobi residents' lobbies decry unplanned buildings in the city

Some of the residential flats at Pipeline Estate in Embakasi, Nairobi on August 4, 2023. [Boniface Okendo, Standard]

Manipulation of the online construction permit applications approval system and sham public participation meetings are some of the reasons Nairobi city is facing current urban planning challenges.

Other shortcomings are the lack of an operational Urban Planning Technical Committee and the refusal by the county to use existing laws on zoning.

This emerged during a press conference convened by the built environment professionals and over 20 residents’ associations.

There is a proposal to do away with the zoning regulations in the city and have some residential areas have highrise buildings of up to 25 floors.

Professionals have asked Nairobi Governor Johnson Sakaja to instead prioritise the expansion of critical infrastructure including sewerage and water reticulation, solid waste management, public transport networks, health amenities, open green spaces, and fire and emergency services among others.

They said residents are suffering under the unmitigated weight of unplanned developments, many homes continue to experience dry taps, and infinite power outages while children have no space to play.

The city floods when it rains, causing damage to properties and deaths as well as hindering smooth traffic flow.

“While we agree that there is a need to accommodate Nairobi’s projected growth of 10.5 million by 2050, we wish to state that the governor’s approach blatantly disregards the correct legal procedure and good order,” said the President of the Architectural Association of Kenya (AAK) Florence Nyole, while reading a joint statement.

Ms Nyole insisted that the Physical and Land Use Planning Act 2019 provides guidelines on how ground coverages, skyline limits, plot ratios, and land use are arrived at through both technical processes and public participation.

The professionals noted that while Sakaja has the right to initiate zoning, such decisions must be aligned with relevant plans.

According to Emma Milloyo, former AAK president, the Local Physical Development Plans should be used.

Patrick Adolwa, former deputy director of Urban Development in the Ministry of Local Government said systems should work for the benefit of all.

On the online approval application system, the chairman of South C Residents Association Abdulmalik Gichuhi complained that only one person has access to the system and can manipulate it the way he or she wants.

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