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…The tasks before Ihedioha administration

The recent flooding in the South East, particularly, Imo State has revealed the absences of planning templates and implementation designs for our cities , particularly, Owerri , the heartland , of the Niger Delta.

Owerri Capital Territory remains the greatest attraction in our own side of Nigeria. It is not however an intelligent city, yet. It is far from smart in view of the planning neglect and self serving, extortive, and corrupt leadership of the OCDA, it’s planning Authority, whose bureaucracy, appears, seemly, more concerned in extracting self serving concessions from builders than serving the interests of the State at large.

It is therefore, very important, to restructure the organization and weed out the debris of corruption and inefficiency embedded in its administration. But then there are other issues which has eroded, planning, growth and threatens the ghettoization of the City into a sprawling urban slum.

First, what is needed is a new mindset and a reviewed master plan that is responsive to the catalytic urban explosion that threatens the insufficient infrastructures on ground and the needed approaches to address the problems of the emerging urban slum in Owerri .

Why has a new vision of rebuilding Imo become important? It is because of the people and their welfare. The welfare of the people is important to the Ihedioha Administration. It is the cornerstone of its policies.

Indeed “the greatest attraction of any city is its people. In locations around the world, we consider how people live today and how they want to live in the future. Our master plans are built around a range of human experience -both exceptional and everyday -for the youngest to the oldest residents of a city. Our approach closely considers the fundamentals of human form, comfort, and perception of place to help address trends like convenience, personalization and planning for technological integration.”

Owerri city exemplifies a typical planned Nigerian city under a master plan which however because of the self serving default of the planning authority has been abandoned with buildings on the pathway of flood water, built on drainages and sidewalks and creating an unprecedented urban sprawl congealed in odoriferous miasma.

This should not be the case because “Urban planning is a technical and political process concerned with the development and design of land use and the built environment, including air, water, and the infrastructure passing into and out of urban areas, such as transportation, communications, and distribution networks.”

The old master plan of Owerri requires to be updated in this regard and renewed to meet increasing challenges of the physical layout of human settlements, with the primary concern of public welfare, which includes sanitation, protection and use of the environment as well as effects on social and economic activities.

This appears to be addressed by the Ohakim led Environmental initiatives, but it is quite early to judge its effectiveness. My take is that the ebullient former Governor of Imo state, of the famed ‘Clean and Green initiative’ should rather be charged with the development of “Environmental Policy Administration “to provide guidelines and policy for the State and local Governments while the latter should be left with the provision of daily sanitation services as provided under the constitution.

Mere sanitation is not however enough. There are issues to be tackled arising from the lack of Zoning approvals as means of implementing enforcement controls which has contributed to the fresh challenges of waste disposal and management that has contributed to the emerging urban slum and environmental degradation. We need to implement these enforcement controls while enduring designs for streets, parks, buildings and other urban areas are in place.

This is more so because Urban planning, guides orderly, development in urban, suburban and rural areas, the planning and development of water use and resources, rural and agricultural land, parks and conserving areas of natural environmental significance.

The development of Owerri as an intelligent city requires a refreshing land-use planning, zoning, economic development, environmental planning, and transportation planning which should be developed and guided by policy administration.

The chaos in the city emanates from this deficiency. The absence of environmental planning allows shops and commercial buildings to be built everywhere and anywhere without concerns for the wastes they generate, their location and impact on transportation services and utilities.

The Owerri master plan which includes the construction manholes drainages and settlement plans has been seemly abandoned. Buildings now sit on drainages and flood path of Nworie River with many of them blocked and useless. This calls for why the planning services must be restructured and replaced. They are the problem and clearly ineffective.

First we need a proactive and updated replacement plan and a new beginning in a new Owerri master plan.

The master plan indeed should include the details of utility constructions, housing designs, infrastructural and urban implementation designs and development but there is clearly a lack of political will towards compliance or renewal of this master plan.

This may lead to the outbreak of epidemic in the backdrop of infrastructural decay in view of the appalling health issues, arising from the emerging environmental death. In the first place the state must immediately ban the production of satchet water responsible for much of the drainage blockages and environmental degradation. It is noted that this nylon-packaged water are not biodegradable. The production of bottled water should be encouraged rather by law.

In the WHO reports on Strategies for healthy, sustainable cities, it was noted that “Action to mitigate urban health risks can have important co-benefits for multiple policy objectives. Well-planned cities can offer unique opportunities to create urban patterns that minimize health risks from air pollution, traffic injury, and physical inactivity, while also mitigating climate change. While smaller-scale plans may not have the energy conservation or emissions reduction benefits of larger-scale developments, urban areas are products of thousands of individual site-level development and design decisions.”

The tasks before the Ihedioha administration are enormous. The primary step is to develop the political will and honesty to start afresh with a new Owerri master plan geared towards creating an intelligent city adapted to meet the challenges of a catalytic urban population explosion and emerging challenges of developing modern human settlements in Imo State. ByThe Leader News Online

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