Sierra Leone Telegraph: 29 July 2017
It is ironic that Freetown which is one of the first planned city in British West Africa is now becoming a massive urban sprawl. This due to a history of neglect by various municipal leaders since independence. What is urgently needed is a proper land use transportation planning strategy.
We must start by appropriate zoning of the city to identify areas for affordable housing, social amenities such as schools, hospitals, as well as cottage industries that will in turn reduce the need for travel – thus tackling the problem of congestion and the proliferation of illegal street traders.
Another important contributor to the development of the city is the establishment of a Western Region Metropolitan Transport Authority. This is because the city has spread far beyond its original boundary to areas that were once considered rural Freetown.
Accra has one, so does Lagos and Nairobi. In the case of Nigeria, the establishment of the Lagos Metropolitan Transport Authority by former Governor Fashola, has resulted in the development of an appropriate transport system for Lagos (Lagos Bus Rapid Transit System). This is managed under the direction of the Lagos Metropolitan Transport Authority (LAMATA), as well as the effective management of traffic through the activities of Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA).
The Goderich area in the Western Region is now as congested as parts of the East End of Freetown. Traffic congestion and transport-related atmospheric pollution is now impacting on the health and well-being of the urban population. This once quiet rural area is constantly becoming a major challenge for city planners.
There is also the lost opportunity for the development of the areas along the peninsula, due to the improvement in the road infrastructure. Instead of planned development we now have a ribbon system of housing development along the highway consisting of illegal shacks.
This is not simply an eyesore, but an impediment to any future development of the road network. This is because most of these illegal housing are located in what is supposed to be a road reserve.
A Western Region Metropolitan Transport Authority would be responsible for developing improved transport systems, as well as regulating the movement of human and vehicular traffic albeit with the support of the traffic police.
Such a move will include interventions in parking management and control, development of facilities for pedestrians; not forgetting the need for timely and improved road maintenance system with suitable drainage to avoid flooding during the rainy season.
My final priority is the provision of an effective and sustainable waste management system.
The growth in population has resulted in the need to provide suitable and appropriate sanitation and modern land fill sites, as well as the development of recycling initiatives.
A major challenge is managing the disposal of plastics – abandoned pure water/cheap alcohol sachets, plastic bags used for shopping and water containers, are all adding to the problem of managing waste in Freetown.
It is for this reason that Rwanda has banned the use of plastics and a similar move is being considered in Kenya.
The Municipality of Freetown should be a second tier of government, rather than an extension of central government. It must be free from political interference.
There are existing provisions for the Freetown City Council to make Bye Laws that will provide a positive impact on the lives of the urban population. And it is surprising that this system of governance has not been fully implemented.
Finally, the Freetown City Council needs to up the game on the collection of local taxes – both individual and property.
In the case of the former, it needs to employ Geographic Information System (GIS) to map out industrial and domestic properties with a robust database, to improve the system of tax collection.
But if the citizens of the municipality are not meeting their legal and civic duties to pay for services through taxation, then the existing and future administration are unlikely to generate enough revenue to provide the necessary services.
This is the evidence when ignorant electorate elect power hungry and uninformed leaders. I aree with the political scientist Larry Diamond, who says democracy comprised of four crucial fundamentals:
(a) A political structure for selecting and replacing the government through free and fair elections; (b) The functional involvement of the people, as citizens, in politics and civic life; (c) Fortification of the human rights of all inhabitants, and (d) A rule of law, in which the laws and practices operate equally to all citizens.