The Problems facing small urban centres in physical development planning: A Case study of Karatina town, Kenya
Ruthuthi, Johnson Muriuki
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Every time local authorities in Kenya fail to execute their duties effectively and efficiently, shortage of finance is usually given as the reason accounting for this failure. Another reason, and which has led to some local authorities such as Mombasa, Kisumu and Kiambu being dissolved, is maladministration. However, there are other underlying problems which include: shortage of skilled man-power, housing shortage, inadequate infrastructural services and facilities, inadequate employment opportunities, land shortage, etc. These problems largely contribute to the failure of the growth centre strategy in Kenya, to achieve its objective of balanced development and equity in distribution of economic and social benefits. It is clear that if the high and middle level centres have not been able to overcome such problems, low level or small centres are least able to overcome thern. The latter have little or no r'3sources at their disposal to deal with these problems. And yet they form the backbone to the human settlements strategy. The success of the strategy depends on the success 0= the service centres because they are stepping stones to the growth centres. Thus if the rapid rural-urban migration to Nairobi and Mombasa is to be effectively arrested, there is need to reduce the gaps between the large centres, the medium size centres, and small centres. The strategy that the. study suggests for solving the problems identified are as varied as the problems themselves. But most of them hinge on the question of funds, and most are so interrelated that they form a vicious circle. Thus, to provide more land for the provision of more facilities and services, funds are required to purchase the land and to service it such that it is within the reach of all sections of the society. Public participation is necessary to ensure implementation of physical plans, and especially to ensure success of development control. Public participation would also help in deciding whether: to acquire and compensate land owners in monetary form or In kind; to extend boundaries and leave the market to allocate land after zonation, or t~ acquire and compensate both In kind and in monetary form in terms of a plot within the town. Everything should be done to avoid speculation. The best strategy here, especially on leasehold land would be enforcement of leasehold conditions, and the provision of an effective inspectorate to police development control measures. The housing shortage should be seen against the background of the land shortage, values, and acquisition processes; infrastructural services; the building code; and the income structure of the society. The appropriate strategies in this field would involve: controlling land-values; s00rtening land acquisition procedures; providing either sites with no services, or with limited services, promoting self-help, cooperative ownership, and core housing; relaxing building code regulations on standards and materials; raising of incomes and extending loan repayment periods. These measures would go a long way towards meeting low income housing demands. To provide more employment opportunities and to raise people's incomes, the following strategies are suggested .. More resources should be made available to the small urban centres from the central government and other agencies. Such parastatal bodies like the National Housing Corporation, the Housing Finance Company and the Industrial and Commercial Development Corporation, should be strengthened. The shortage of skilled manpower is a national issue which should not be dealt with piecemeal. Thus the government should participate in the provision of technical manpower In local authorities, and especially the small authorities. The Local Government Service Commission (to be tabled in Parliament soon) should go a long way towards streamlining local government administration in Kenya. The channeling of more resources to small urban centres will help them to provide better infrastructure and services to the public. However they should be encouraged to explore and exploit local resources. There are more sources of revenue which have not been fully utilised in most local authorities. Local authorities should be helped to explore these sources and in drafting the necessary legal machinery to cover the sources. The public should be involved to ensure success of the decisions taken, as well as to incorporate their ideas on the kind of services to be provided, and how this is to be done more effectively.