By MARY KARUGABA
A row has erupted between urban authorities and district land boards over allocation of land to investors.
This, according to local leaders, is one of the reasons there is poor planning in urban centres. As a result, road reserves, wetlands, schools, etc, have been encroached on.
Whereas the the Land Act entrusts district land boards with the authority to allocate land, urban leaders want the powers reduced to minimise poor planning.
They argue that each urban authority should have an independent land board to deal with the allocations.
There are 98 town councils and 13 municipalities in Uganda.
The leaders argue that most town councilsâ€™ land has been allocated to investors without consulting them. This has affected the planning of urban areas.
Entebbe Municipality Mayor Stephen Kabuye says land is allocated to investors without considering the physical plan of the towns. â€œYou only get to know about it when there is a structure or someone brings a plan to you for approval.
You cannot refuse to approve oneâ€™s plan when the person already has a title. So, how do you force someone to put up a structure that he does not want?,â€ he says.
â€œThings were ok before the Land Act, but they started getting out of hand immediately the district boards started allocating land that was not theirs,â€ he says.
Kabuye notes that the problem was mainly caused by lack of urban authority representatives on district land boards.
The board, which is located at the district headquarters, comprises five members who are elected from sub-counties.
â€œHow can a person from a distant village plan for a town? That is why most members are more interested in allocating land than preserving it,â€ he says.
Entebbe deputy town clerk, Amon Muzora, quoting a case in Entebbe, says: â€œThe Wakiso Land Board allocated the Mayorâ€™s Gardens in Entebbe to an investor, but luckily, the mayor sent them away.
They did not even consult the leaders,â€ he complains. Muzora says most board members lack experience in urban planning.
Lira Mayor Peter Owiny says the district board had allocated part of the Akii Bua Stadium to a hospital for expansion without even consulting him.
The hospital is now putting up structures.
â€œI protested and sent my officers there, but they were arrested. We were accused of sabotaging government developments,â€ Owiny says.
The conflict has not spared Moroto district either. Alex Lemu, the chairperson of Moroto North Division, says the board has allocated most of the land in the district to private developers. â€œWe do not have land approved by the council to give to investors,â€ he laments.
Masaka town clerk Begyira Rukiika says a town clerk has no authority to allocate public land to an investor.
â€œThat is abuse of office,â€ he says. Joseph Ssemambo, the Kampala City Council physical planner, says the Government cannot fight poor planning in urban areas without addressing the problem of land allocation.
The association secretary general, John Behangana, says some land boards allocate land in reserved areas such as road reserves and green belts, putting the burden of compensation on urban authorities, which are already resource-constrained. He says most town plans have failed to be implemented due to the costs involved.
Daudi Bashakara, the Jinja Municipality chairman, says: â€œLand boards give orders on whom a piece of land should be allocated to. You canâ€™t refuse lest you lose your job,â€ he says.
However, the chairperson of the parliamentary physical infrastructure committee, Abraham Byandala, says the conflict between the two bodies is caused by the urban authoritiesâ€™ failure to secure titles for all their land.
He says even though urban authorities create their own land boards, oneâ€™s land would still be taken away because in the lands ministry, land without a title is considered to have no owner.
â€œUrban authorities have so much power, but they are divided. If they co-operated, the Government would listen to their views,â€ he says.
He advises leaders to request the Government for more resources to survey and secure land titles. He says the committee is scrutinising the Physical Planning Bill 2008 to solve the problems.
MP Mike Mabiike blames poor urban planning on the land tenure system which, he says, grants land owners the authority to use their land as they wish.
â€œA country like China has been able to make a good city plan because the land is owned by government. With mailo land, you cannot just allocate land unless it is yours,â€ he says.
MP Nathan Byanyima says the Government should inject a lot of money into urban development because that is where the country is headed.
â€œJust like the road fund, the Government also needs an urban development fund to cater for urban developments,â€ Byanyima says.