/ 14 April 2008

Urbanisation to put pressure on cities

Worldwide urban populations are expected to double within 10 to 15 years, presenting threats and opportunities, city planners said at the Planning Africa conference on Monday.

Urban planners from 26 commonwealth countries met in Sandton to debate three global challenges facing all cities — urbanisation, poverty and climate change.

”The way cities are growing is unsustainable, as is the government’s approach to urbanisation,” president of the Commonwealth Association of Planners Christine Blatt said.

A developed country’s urban population stabilises at about 80% of its national population. If this trend is true for Africa, this will require 43 cities the size of New York to house urban populations, she said.

”Global collective action is required to address these challenges,” Blatt said.

”Sixty-thousand people are urbanised every day in the Commonwealth of Nations.”

Planning is critical to success and needs to be future-oriented and focused on capacity building.

Planning has a huge impact on societies and has to be an integrated developmental tool for all government institutions, said Lechesa Tsenoli, chair of the parliamentary portfolio committee on provincial and local government.

Tsenoli said planning has to continually improve. Planners have to identify the needs of the community and have to secure the resources from provincial and national departments. These plans then have to feed into broader development and growth strategies.

The key challenge in terms of South African urban planning is the lack of capacity and skills to meet requirements for service delivery.

Ebrahim Fakir, researcher for Centre for Policy Studies, said that planning has to be multi-disciplinary and be able to differentiate between the particular needs and universal needs of people.

Planners have to be cognisant of state needs and market needs and have to engage with a society holistically, he said.

”Such engagement is the hallmark of social capital.”

One planning programme in Johannesburg has been short-listed to be presented at the World Urban Forum in November 2008.

”Local examples and ideas get global recognition,” said Tsenoli. — Sapa