Celebrating Golden Jubilee of built environment
Published On February 6, 2014 » 2118 Views» By Administrator Times » Features
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Zambia Institute of arcitects logoBy DIXON BWALYA –

THERE are two types of environments living side by side with each other in this world; there is the natural environment as created by the Almighty God and the quality of this environment is summarised in Genesis chapter one of the Holy Bible in verse 31 which states “And God saw everything that He made, and behold, it was very good” Then in Genesis chapter one verses 28 to 29 God decided to put man, who He had created in His image, to have dominion over His “very good” creation.

It is this man’s stewardship of God’s creation that led to the man-made and second type of environment; the built environment.

For a long time now man has recognised and realised his limitations in his capacity and ability to create a built environment anywhere near God’s “very good” creation and it is this realisation that made man to set up training institutions in the field of the built environment to improve conditions of the environment man lives in and try to be a good steward of what God created for man’s benefit.

Where nations have had insufficient human resource and/or technology they have relied on other nations which are more advanced in areas of local deficit as was the case in the planning of Lusaka where Professor Adshead, a renowned town planner, was brought in from London University to come and help prepare the initial town plan for the development of the capital Lusaka.

In 2014 Zambia will be 50-years-old since she attained independence from the British rule and is, therefore, an appropriate time to review Zambia’s performance in the various aspects of self rule.

The removal of colonialists was not restricted to the political arena alone; the process also involved the gradual replacement of those in such technical positions as city town planners, city engineers, city chief architects and director of buildings with Zambians such that ultimately the protection of such natural elements as forests and water bodies and the molding of the built environment and management of Zambia’s towns and cities were all in the hands of the Zambians.

In the colonial days forests were protected through consistent patrolling by forest rangers locally known as “bakapenda mabula because of the significance of balancing what man builds against the benefits of maintaining the natural forests and discourage unnecessary deforestation.

Water bodies provide means of human survival and personal hygiene and to protect and preserve these water bodies cultivation and cutting of trees along the river banks was prohibited and fishing was controlled especially from rivers that are a source of water supply to urban settlements.

Regulations were put in place to control such activities as car washing, starting of bush fires and cutting of trees within urban settlements and to enhance a health living environment littering was prohibited and garbage collection was the responsibility of the local authorities and residents contributed towards this cost by paying rates.

Some self employment activities must be assessed against their impact on the rest of urban activities, some noisy activities were kept away from activities that required a quiet environment for example tyre mending and welding would be carried out far from hospitals and learning institutions.

Uncontrolled street vending was not encouraged because of littering, negative impact on traffic movements and had no sanitary facilities and therefore compromised creation of a healthy urban environment.

These rules and regulations meant to help manage towns and cities which comprise and accommodate people from various cultural, social and academic backgrounds were not just enacted but also strictly enforced.

While the colonial town and city managers were replaced soon after independence most of these rules and regulations have been retained presumably because they have been deemed still essential and necessary tools in the management of Zambia’s towns and cities.

However, the theoretical recognition of the importance of these rules and regulations as evidenced by their continued retention on statute books after independence has not been matched by an equal determination to ensure that these rules and regulations are observed.

In a marathon period of about a decade Zambia had successfully managed to replace university trained town planners, who could have been colleagues of the likes of Professor Adshead, with cadres of the ruling political party accompanied by mushrooming of shanty townships as stated in Professor Peter Lloyd’s Slums of hope.

Thereafter, the management of towns and cities, planning and allocation of land has had a significant political influence irrespective of the political party in power there have always been reported cases of political cadres having a say on town planning matters.

After that nearly all town managers have behaved as if they believed in that lavatorial graffiti that says “Eat cow dung after all a million flies cannot all be wrong” this style of town management has spread to all towns and cities.

The next notable development was the successful introduction of such dirty-related diseases like cholera which diseases were unknown during the colonial days until the 1970s which led to a significant loss of life.

This was a result of the poor management of towns by the new “village headmen” coupled with the laissez-faire approach to urban planning as the euphoria of independence engulfed the nation; what with the removal of ifutupa and the new scenario of mayendele muno Zambia which seem to imply freedom to do anything without due regard to the consequences and therefore, littering and general careless life styles became prevalent which in turn led to increased dirty and blockage of drainage systems which we have failed to control to date.

An aerial view of all Zambian towns will most likely reveal an orderly gridiron layout in those parts of towns planned during the colonial times while the new town extensions will have an image similar to shanty townships.

This type of townscape marks the removal of the orderly town planning practiced during the pre-independence period and replaced it with the chaotic town layouts that started to image soon after post-independence era.

An architect who specifies carpet tiles or even porcelain tiles as floor finishes in a piggery would probably be considered a suitable candidate for mental examination at Chainama Mental Hospital because it is society that determines what levels of aesthetics to demand for their built environment.

The shanty townships image in existence in unplanned settlements could probably be explained and justified but this same negative townscape has imaged in the “planned” areas of towns in Zambia more so after independence.

The banning and control of pollution of water bodies and efforts meant to minimise siltation of water bodies was a means of preserving water bodies and ensure that raw water sources continue to be available to provide water for current and future human and animal sustenance since water is life.

Cultivation along river banks and indiscriminate cutting of trees culminating in the removal of protection of water bodies has since independence become endemic and, as if this is not enough, the current town planning approach does not seem to recognise the significance of deliberate efforts to protect surface and underground water bodies.

This is evidenced in the allocation of residential plots in very close proximity to surface water bodies without resolving challenges which are faced under such circumstances when it comes to disposal of sewage.

In the absence of planned and functional sewage disposal systems under such situations and since it is inevitable that human being have to answer the call of nature every so often the result has been that water bodies become dumping grounds of raw sewage.

This arrangement does not only make water treatment expensive but also reduces sources of clean water especially for the future generation.

Every society determines how it is to manage its affairs especially in areas of large human concentration and enacts its own rules and regulations to help manage urban affairs and resolve the inevitable conflicts that result from a clash of interests.

Since it appears like the rules and regulations inherited from the colonial rulers do not seem to fit the seemingly preferred new Zambia’s life style and Zambia has to its benefit the fifty years of experience of self rule in urban management it would be a more honest approach to throw away all these inhibiting rules and regulation and enact rules that suit Zambia’s way of life.

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