By Simon J. Mone
Urban towns in Uganda are fast developing owing to the enabling environment and opportunities being created.
Community access roads are easily facilitating the movement of agro-produce from villages to the markets in towns. This has led to demand for housing and business premises.
A number of people have thus conveniently established storage facilities and many other structures closer to the roads.
The growth of such structures has however, not regarded regulatory requirements for prohibited land like road reserves.
Constructions along the roads have most of the time initially started as kiosks and later been upgraded into permanent ones. With the continued boom in businesses, populations have increased and additional structures have been put up.
This practice has continued for many years meaning that they are therefore, bound to breach regulations that are in place.
The result is that many illegal developments have been put up in prohibited areas. Wetlands, road reserves, and forest reserves are being encroached on.
Construction activities have continued unabated in gazetted areas thereby altering cities’ urban planning. Relocating people from these areas has become less cost effective.
Laws exist but only in writing and enforcement actions on such illegal constructions have not taken place even when there is continuous growth of illegal structures.
Follow up of developments in communities to ascertain if they adhere to regulations are less rigorous. Deterrent actions on encroachers are non-existent.
Among the reasons for the silence in enforcing laws is the fear of the absence of adequate protection if some developers are exposed.
For proper development and expansion of towns, the planning should be carefully done earlier on. This calls for respect of legal requirements by both the Government and the public stakeholders. Kampala has experienced numerous developments especially in the estates sector. Many unplanned structures have been approved irregularly.
The absence of regulatory enforcement has encouraged impunity. Construction of permanent structures on reserves has impeded development improvements of road infrastructure.
If regulations were enforced, roads wouldn’t have been encroached on and they would be wider than they currently are.
A quick solution is to start thinking towards encouraging developers to plan for construction of high-rise structures to ease the pressure being put of gazetted land.
Stakeholder consultations and sensitisations should be combined with enforcement actions to try and restore prohibited land. Compensation of communities along road reserves is very expensive.
This has complicated the responsibility of District Local government on the oversight of district roads. The same applies to the lower local governments that oversights Community roads. Consultations with communities have not been able to effectively eliminate encroachment.
Communities are still not aware of existing policies and laws governing settlements along roads. The roads Act provisions requiring no activity to be placed in any area inside 15 meters from the centre either side of the road have not been well enforced.
Cases where attempts have been made to enforce laws to halt developments on road reserves have been countered with bribes and interference.
Therefore, in addition to sensitising communities, Government should publish reserved road boundaries for all road categories; National, District and community access roads and also duly enforce them.
Availing this information to all stakeholders will facilitate speedy and orderly development and approval process of such developments. It helps intending developers to get requisite awareness beforehand that enables them to make informed decisions about proposed developments.
The writer is a civil engineer