Proper Urban Planning, Management Crucial to Address Squatting: Experts

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Addis Ababa June 1/2019 Squatting and squatter settlements has become the features of many cities in Ethiopia, including the capital Addis Ababa and its surrounding, undermining their looks and environment.

Squatting has been considered as an option in urban areas due to the rapidly expanding population, lack of affordable houses, and limited access to land due to financial constraints.

For Daniel Lirebo, Dean of Civil Service University Urban Development and Engineering College, the problem is directly linked to urban planning and management.

The planning and management problem has led to the ever expanding borders of many Ethiopia’s cities, most of them do not have master plans, which resulted rampant illegal settlements in those areas, he added.

Noting that Ethiopia is one of the least urbanized countries in the world even by African standards, the development of the cities are shattered by squatter settlements due to lack of proper urban planning, Daniel said.

“If you see the squatting practices inthe capital Addis Abba and its rapid growth of illegal settlement in the city, it has been putting great pressure on the demand for urban spaces and leading conflicts,” Daniel pointed out.

This phenomenonhas undermined the looks of the cities and the environment, as most of the developments held on pieces of land reserved for green areas and development under the city’s master-plan.

“As you know it in Ethiopia, urban land is provided to residents on a restricted basis that is difficult for people to get easily the land and construct their own houses. Because the government is the sole provider of land through leasing and residents have been forced to pay high lease price with a small fraction of the land.”

He noted that urbanization is a global feature that is not new for Ethiopia, mentioning that 55 percent of the world population lives in cities.

However, the Dean emphasized the need for proper planning and management, saying if not the situation will be difficult to control.

“As urbanization is inevitable and is not a unique feature for Ethiopia, but we have been not managing this dynamic shift with effective urbanization policy and we have failed to translate into industrialization like many countries. For me, if we will not accommodate phenomenal urbanization, the trend will be directed into a bad situation.”  

Accordingly, a new policy approach and urbanization strategy is imperative for Ethiopia in order to give the everlasting solutions for squatting problems, he added.

Mismanagement, weak government control on open spaces, and lack of comprehensive legal response towards the problem are the reasons for squatting said Minwuyelet Melesse, Sociologist and Researcher on urbanization.

“It is the government’s obligation to guarantee that everyone can have access to houses irrespective of income or access to economic resources. Of cures during the past decades Ethiopian government has made commendable achievements which has transferred hundreds of thousands condominium houses to residents in Addis Ababa alone,” he said.

The experts suggest that enhancing access to public houses, properly plan urban development and implement master plans to sustainably address the problem.