Urban physical planning is an essential part of the rational and maximization of the use of the limited urban space. Such planning schemes require that standards are established and followed equitably and objectively. They cater for all types of users, including economic activities, leisure and aesthetics.
The development of the last urban physical plan in the Gambia was almost four decades ago in 1986 conducted by Dr Boro Susso, the then Director of Physical Planning under the financing of the German development fund GTZ. Naturally, the standards that were established are now totally archaic, to say the least.
The current demolition exercise may be attributed generally to a lack of an updated physical plan and particularly to a failure of development control over the years. That renders the objective of the current demolition exercise to be overwhelmed by its consequences on the economy and livelihoods.
The exercise itself requires a meticulous planning that would have regard to its overall impact on livelihoods. It should first try to provide alternatives and have great consideration for would-be affected persons. That is the common development practice these days – as may be observed from the implementation of projects of development agencies, such as World Bank, that have consequences on what they call “affected persons” – and that includes squatters.
It should be appreciated that the poverty rate of the country is pretty high – over 50%. Most affected persons in this exercise are the poor who are struggling to make ends meet. This fact is very apparent in the pleas and frustration that come out in the media by those affected.
Demolition exercises have had their share of planning for urban growth and development.
They are rarely unheard of in their crude form of the early 60s and 70s where shanty settlements were an eyesore in the midst of modern urban development and expansion. They are usually conducted to give way to an established plan for modern development, such as, new building developments (particularly housing) and road construction.
The current exercise was declared to have been conducted under the auspices of Physical Planning Department. However, it appears, from the media, that the decisions are being made by security officers. That begs the question – is there any plan and a program of implementation at all or the exercise is an arbitrary on-the-spot decision of the need to simply “clear” the roads.
The suggestion (plea) is to temporarily halt the exercise to allow for a technical study of such an expansive exercise and its impact on livelihoods and how affected persons could be treated or taken care of. On a long-term basis, what Greater Banjul needs is a comprehensive Urban Renewal Plan.
Laminno Lang Coma