'Council needs to review master plan'

HARARE – As Harare continues growing in all directions, its Master Plan (MP) has not been reviewed in the last 23 years after it was adopted in 1994.

The finance director Tendai Kwenda has sought approval of a supplementary budget of $3 million to fund the review of the document.

According to environmental management committee minutes, the reviewed MP should address current and emerging issues and open up opportunities for new investment in the city.

“Accordingly, the MP should be reviewed every 15 years but since it became operative, 23 years to date, the Master Plan had not been reviewed and had exhausted its life span.

“Although the Master Plan had exhausted its life span some of the provisions in the Master Plan had not been implemented and its review would enable the local authority to implement those proposals which were still applicable to current challenges,” read part of the minutes.

A MP is crafted by a multi-disciplinary team of urban development professionals such as engineers, housing officers, environmentalists, traffic planners, town planners, and health professionals.

The team is led by town planners as the custodians of the law that guides the master plan preparation, The Regional Town and Country Planning Act.

Town planning expert Percy Toriro told the Daily News that a Master Plan is a living document which should be reviewed generally after every 10 years but no longer than 15 years.

He said the MP outlines how a city is supposed to grow including major road upgrades, water and sewer infrastructure, strategies on housing delivery, employment creation and environmental management.

“A master plan has to be periodically reviewed because circumstances change over time. For example, when the Harare Master Plan was prepared the land reform programme had not yet happened, the economy was very formal, there were very few vendors who could all fit in planned areas, housing was still largely delivered by councils and not cooperatives, and the population of Harare was still around 700 000.”

“All these changes mean the policies in the master plan are no longer as relevant. It also means for all new developments outside of the master plan, there is no means of accommodating them in Harare’s spatial development.

“They will suffer from lack of trunk road connections, water reservoirs, and sewerage treatment plants,” Toriro said.

He added the absence of a Master Plan affects new settlements in that any new suburb that has not been provided with bulk off-site infrastructure will not be properly serviced.

Toriro said even the proposed new capital in Mt Hampden should have its own MP since its development was not envisaged in the current master plan.

“At the moment Harare has outgrown all its infrastructure requirements; From trunk roads and freeways, to major local distributors to water treatment plants, even to water storage facilities such as new dams.

“The existing sewerage treatment works were sufficient only up to around the year 2000. The discharge of untreated and partially treated effluent causing pollution in the water supply dams of Chivero and Manyame are all results of exceeded capacity.”

“So certainly Harare’s current infrastructure now falls far short of demand hence the many urban challenges we currently face. Our social and community services infrastructure such as recreational, educational and health facilities all need attention,” he said.

Toriro said with a review of the MP, current urban challenges cannot be addressed by an old archaic document.

He questions which need to be revised pertain to how housing delivery will be conducted, how cities can harness the informal sector without viewing it as a nuisance and what standards are to be adopted in the current environment.

“We cannot solve today’s problems with yesterday’s solutions. The questions we should seek to answer today are what do we do about large industries in Willowvale that are now largely shells? How do we manage the environment in this era of climate change and global warming?

“How do we address the growing poverty and urban food insecurity in our towns and cities? In reviewing the MP, these are some of the many questions we should seek answers to. Only then will we have a responsive strategy to manage our city,” the town planner said.

Local government expert, Kudzai Chatiza said the delay in updating the plan had created gaps in terms of strategic investments and also in relation with key stakeholders, including neighbouring councils.

“The evidence of this has been an upsurge of unconnected settlements. It is worrying that they are even pursuing the Vision 2025 in the absence of an MP,” Chatiza said.

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