Poor planning in Kampala to blame for congestion, building collapse: experts

Wednesday July 17 2019

Makeshift shelters on a railway reserve in Namuwongo, in Uganda's capital Kampala.

Makeshift shelters on a railway reserve in Namuwongo, in Uganda's capital Kampala. The sprawling urban population in Kampala continues to cause pressure on the already limited land space. PHOTO | KELVIN ATUHAIRE | DAILY MONITOR 

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On June 24, a perimeter wall at Lohana High School in Old Kampala, Uganda, collapsed, killing six street children.

The school head teacher, Mr John Bosco Mutebi, would later reveal that although the school had applied for a demolition permit from Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA), the approval had been delayed.


The incident attracted public ire, with majority accusing the city authority of failure to enforce physical planning standards to ensure a safer city.

The city authority’s Directorate of Physical Planning is mandated under Section 46 of the 2010 KCCA Act to ensure proper planning of the city.

However, in some areas, there are incompatible land uses, which not only suffocate businesses but also pose a danger to people living around them. In other cases, residential buildings, lodges, churches, markets and schools are crowded in the same place.


In downtown Kampala, Namirembe Road alone has at least three bus terminals and a taxi (town public service vehicle) park, all operating in the same place.

In addition, the city’s current public transport system coupled with multiple illegal public service vehicle and motorcycle taxi stages makes planning difficult.

For instance, the World Bank reports states that while the existing roads in Kampala were constructed in 1960s to accommodate only 100,000 vehicles per day, about 400,000 vehicles use Kampala roads every day. And out of the 2,100 kilometres of roads in Kampala, only 500 kilometres are tarmacked.


The city’s transport system is privately managed and insufficient to accommodate its population. To make matters worse, KCCA’s new transport master plan by that could ease congestion has not been implemented due to lack of funds.

The sprawling urban population also continues to cause pressure on the already limited land space. The 2014 National Population and Housing Census put Kampala’s resident population at 1.5 million people. A 2017 World Bank report projected that Kampala’s population will be 12 million people by 2050.

KCCA’s acting executive director Andrew Kitaka says the uncoordinated planning emerged because the previous structural plans for Kampala were not adhered to.

Mr Kitaka also attributes the breakdown in the city’s planning to political interference, which he says has compelled the city to grow up organically, adding that the authority is trying to reorganise the city.

Mr Samuel Mabala, an urban planning expert, says that political turmoil derailed the government’s structural plans for Kampala in the 1970s.

However, he argues that although Kampala City Council (KCC) made subsequent physical development plans for Kampala in 1994, it could not be fully realised because illegal developments had already sprouted.

In 2013, the National Physical Planning Board approved Kampala’s Physical Development Plan. The plan was meant to streamline the city’s planning and bolster economic growth.

Officials from KCCA’s technical team, who talked on condition of anonymity, say the plan has not been fully implemented because of limited funding. This, they say, is likely to leave many parts of the city unplanned.

However, Mr Mabala faults KCCA for taking a snail-pace implementation of the law, which he says has led to the establishment of illegal developments in the city.

“If the area has been planned for residential buildings and you are bringing in a shopping mall or church, you must apply to authorities for change of use. In other words, there are legal provisions but the only problem is that we have failed to implement them hence uncoordinated planning. A city worth its name should have the mechanism to monitor everything that takes place on every inch of land in the city,” he says.


Mr Mabala argues that the State must strengthen KCCA’s human resource and finances so it can effectively manage the planning function.

Kampala city’s physical development planning should not be confined within KCCA but expanded to the Greater Kampala areas of Wakiso, Mpigi and Mukono because the many developments taking place there affect people living in Kampala, Mr Mabala argues.

While Greater Kampala represents about 10 per cent of Uganda’s population, it contributes more than a third of the national Gross Domestic Product (GDP). This implies that for the Greater Kampala municipalities to attain economic growth, there must be coordinated planning.

The mayor of Kira Municipality, Mr Julius Mutebi Nsubuga, agrees that having a physical development plan for the entire metropolitan area will resolve transport and waste disposal problems, as well as flooding.