Urban life needs law and order

Urban life needs law and order

We then went on to look at informal traders and argued that these days, anybody can trade anywhere without let or hindrance except for occasional city militia action which is failing to enforce law and order as the days go by. In this article we look at increasing lawlessness with respect to land uses. 

Tanzania, like most other countries, has a regime of land use regulations and these are most comprehensive with regard to urban areas. Strictly speaking, all parts of the republic should be planned. Indeed for rural areas, we have the National Land Use Planning Act of 2007 which gives directives on how rural land should be planned.

The National Land Use Planning Commission has a whole set of guidelines that can be used to plan land uses in villages.  Traditionally, however, land use planning has been associated with urban areas, where we have the Urban Planning Act of 2007 and other legislation and regulations.

We can ask ourselves a question. Why plan and regulate land uses? Why should we not be free for each one of us to use land as they like, as they deem fit?  Land use regulation entails determining and enforcing what type of land use should be at what location; overseeing land development as well as sanctioning land use changes.

Our earlier article on lawlessness with regard to informal trading and other activities implies a failure to observe and enforce land use regulations.  Looking at old urban areas one notes that there is a difference in the order of land uses between these cities and the modern city.

Those cities of yonder times, before the advent of the railway and the car, had narrow and winding streets reflecting the technology of the time. Travel was mainly on foot or by animals or by animal-draught facilities. The modern city, among others, requires that all properties are placed in form of some regularity and that there are access roads to reflect the modern technology of the motorcar, but also allow access to each property for normal living and also in the case of emergency so that the police, the ambulance or the fire tender can reach any property any time in circumstances so require. 

There are theoretical reasons why land use must be enforced. One is to allow authorities to proved goods and services with “Public Good” characteristics which are necessary but cannot be easily provided by the private sector. These include roads, open spaces and land for social infrastructure.

Left on our own we would leave no land for roads, for public uses and for schools, etc since we tend to look more into our private interests. This is evidenced in the unplanned areas where accessibility through roads, is highly restricted and in some instances, is missing altogether.

Now one of the elements of lawlessness in our urban areas is the encroachment on roads and roads reserves where they are provided; is the encroachment on open spaces, permanently where people build on them illegally or temporarily where people use these open spaces for unauthorized activities, thus making these spaces inaccessible to those who need to use them as open spaces. Lack of open spaces is making urban living unnecessarily difficult. 

Two, land use regulation is necessary to accommodate various uses and to prevent harmful and encourage positive externalities. Harmful externalities emanate from incompatible land uses locating near each other and affecting each others’ values downwards; or make it difficult for one user to enjoy their property because of the activity of another user. Industries and uses with obnoxious effects are separated from residential uses.

Trading uses may be located together to benefit from economies of scale (positive externalities). Looking at our urban areas we find a growing blurring of the separation of like and unlike land uses. Thus you may find noisy activities including garages and bars and dangerous ones like petrol stations, located right in the middle of residential neighbourhoods, sometimes with permission but many times without. 

Land uses may be enforced through having a comprehensive land use plan for an urban area, so that actors on the urban scene are required to abide by this plan. In Tanzania, only a small proportion of urban land is planned and even in these planned areas, land development and land use changes do not usually go according to the official land use plan and building regulations. 

Common tools for land use regulation include zoning, control of sub-divisions, building regulations, issuing of approval of development schemes by public agencies and urban planning. Land use regulation can also be achieved through inserting conditions in land ownership conditions. Numerous studies have pointed to the violation of zoning provisions in our urban areas. Sub-divisions, which should by law seek the approval of public authorities, are done without permission.

Building regulations are violated right, left and centre.  A more glaring violation is construction or making changes to buildings without permits. There are studies that have pointed out that most developers on planned land do not have building permits or do not construct according to the provisions o the permits if they have one. In many countries you are not supposed to change your building without a permit, not even the painting of the wall or the construction of a perimeter fence. Not here.

People add a property on their site, add an extension of change a residential room into a shop frame without looking over their shoulder about what public authorities are thinking. Plot ratios and building setbacks are rarely observed. Saddening examples are to be found in older parts of the city which are undergoing redevelopment, where high rise buildings are put up with little consideration of building regulations. 

In the Kariakoo area of the city of Dar es Salaam, it is common to see several storeyed buildings standing cheek by jowl so that it is impossible to open windows of one without touching the other. One shudders to think of what would happen if a serious fire broke out in these buildings. 

The list of violations of land use regulations is long and these are committed by all and sundry, everywhere: by those in low income brackets building in unplanned areas as well as by those in high income brackets building in planned areas. In some cases the regulations are unsuitable and unnecessarily inflexible but the biggest problem is lack of enforcement by public authorities, which have really to pull their socks and make sure that our urban areas do not develop chaotically.



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