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Nairobi, Kenya's 1973 Master Plan Receives an Update

Urban planners from the County Government of Nairobi and Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) have produced a new Master plan called Nairobi Integrated Urban Development Master Plan (NIUPLAN). This is expected to guide the growth and development of the City for the next 15 years. It is the first major plan since the Nairobi Metropolitan Growth Strategy in 1973.

Nairobi covers 695 km2 consisting of both highlands and lowland plains. Urban development in Nairobi started when it was established as a railway headquarters in the late 19th Century. It grew to be the capital of Kenya Colony. From 380,000 people in 1965, the City population now stands at 3.5 Million and is projected to reach 5.2 million by 2030. Population density varies from upper class Muthaiga that has 5 persons per hectare (p/ha), to Highridge with 70 p/ha and the working class Mathare with 1,200 p/ha.

The city has seen continuous urbanization, expansion of industries, and increased densification. Places with detached single housing models have changed to apartments and offices, while urban sprawl has taken effect, especially along highway corridors. The rich agricultural suburbs are turning residential, while slums expand along rivers, railways and roads.

The City of Nairobi, Kenya

The plan's formulation covered six thematic areas. These were Land use and Human Settlements, Population and Urban Economy, Governance and Institutional Arrangements, Environment, Urban Infrastructure and Urban Transport. Key among the challenges identified are uncontrolled urban development, insufficient infrastructure, transport problems and high demand for mid-low income housing. Inadequate coordination between relevant organizations was also identified on the institutional angle.

The plan proposes an inclusive urban economy, effective and efficient transport systems, a healthy, thriving & green city, and pedestrian-friendly urban spaces for the Central Business District (CBD).

Better Pedestrianization is proposed, Nairobi, Kenya

It also proposes a more integrated road network and new land use plan suitable to current urban conditions. It acknowledges the current traffic situation – assessing the change in peak hours, lack of proper traffic management, increase in number of vehicles and unreliable public transport systems. Nine new corridors for mass rapid transport are proposed and this includes bus rapid transit, light rail transit, and metro rail, with a transit hub at the CBD.

Developing storm water drainage that integrates the city's rivers and localized drainage networks and the planning of renewable energy as a power source at household level are also proposed. Social facilities such as schools, health centers and markets have been mapped and proposals covered through an Infrastructure development management mechanism.

Many recommendations of the 1973 Master Plan were not realized due to shortages in capacity by the old City Council, as well as lack of commitment and political will. The current plan proposes more private sector involvement, something not evident in previous plans.

The plan now awaits final validation followed by approval by the county cabinet and county assembly. The City Governor has expressed full commitment towards implementation of the plan although many are skeptical about its realization.

Based on past experience of non-implementation of plans, what do you think of the new Nairobi Master Plan? Would it have been better to have sectoral plans instead of a master plan?

Credits: Images by Constant Cap. Data linked to sources.