Case study - Regulatory Guidelines for Urban Upgrading

Urban upgrading project gains momentum in Mavoko

"There are lots of mosquitoes around here," says Susan Kamene, a widow who lives in the Mavoko Slums. "Sometimes they attack in waves at night. The next day you're tired from lack of sleep, then a few days later you go down with a deadly fever - Malaria fever."

"My grandmother sent me to fetch water for washing the dishes from the stagnant pool because she does not have the one shilling I have to pay at the water point. We only buy water when it is for drinking," says four-year-old Susan.

sanitation problems in the Nairobi slums: the NUPP project seeks to reduce urban poverty using SLF approach and importance on supporting partnerships.  NUPP interventions cover water, sanitation, access, health and education"There is a lot of excreta all over this place during the rains and when the toilets are dirty. Anybody can tell from far when the latrines are full or when they are very dirty. They smell bad and nobody wants to use them. Even grown-ups leave their excreta outside the latrine," laments eleven-year-old Jane.

These are voices from Carton City, 39 Kijiji, KMC, Slaughter and Kaswitu - the informal settlements in Mavoko Municipal Council, located 20 km from Nairobi, along the Nairobi-Mombasa Highway. The settlements, characterised by shacks constructed from old carton boxes and plastic paper, are homes to some 1,800 families. The structures offer the dwellers little protection from adverse weather elements. Being illegal occupants they are not permitted to put up anything of a more permanent nature.

The slums sit on a flood plain and are exposed to the danger of flooding whenever it rains. "There is more danger when the rains come at night," says Joseph Mulove, a resident of Carton City. "If that happens there is always a mad rush in the darkness. There are always your children, and your property to salvage. Often times, many are not lucky to save both."

At Carton City, there is only one pit latrine for every ten households - the same or worse goes for the rest. During the rainy season the pit latrines overflow discharging their piquant contents all over the place. "You can understand then, why the risk of disease outbreak is ever present at the slum," complains Mulove.

The Mavoko slum dwellers have no access to clean water. They beg for the commodity from the adjacent wines and spirit distillery plant. The Athi River and other small streams that they rely on for domestic water supply are now murky messes, thanks to the heavy industrial activity in the area. Residents who use the polluted Athi water suffer from fluorosis - a dental condition that causes the teeth to turn brown.

Besides the constant threat of eviction, malaria remains the slum dwellers' deadliest enemy. However, the biggest nightmare is the issue of land ownership. These people are not the legitimate owners of the land they occupy, yet some of them know no other home, having been born and brought up there.

Current shelter legislation in Kenya, like in most developing countries, is inappropriate for poor people who live in the rapidly growing urban centres. Many urban poor residents have been unable to adhere to planning standards, regulations and administrative systems. The regulatory frameworks in place prevent the urban poor from improving their physical assets and making the most of these as a source of income. This contributes to poor health, productivity, and vulnerability to eviction and violence. Complaints have been voiced over the length of time it takes to comply with the regulations and eventually have services and facilities delivered. Several government and municipal departments have to be consulted before a service is provided. Insecurity of tenure and limited access to credit further constrains investments in housing. As a result, the number of towns in which the population living in informal settlements is larger than in formal settlements is increasing rapidly.

The Regulatory Guidelines for Urban Upgrading (RGUU) project hopes to help the low-income communities gain capacity to regulate urban development; improve their standards of living and incomes; become less vulnerable to eviction; improve their housing conditions; improve the relationship between them, and the local authorities and CBOs, and improve their environment.

Diverse interest groups and various stakeholders have expressed the urgent need for changes to existing regulatory frameworks. Leading amongst these is the Nairobi Informal Settlements Coordination Committee (NISCC) - a consortium of actors from the public, private and NGO sectors that are active in Nairobi's informal settlements, of which ITDGPractical Action-EA is a prominent member. Others include NGOs and CBOs affiliated to Shelter Forum (SF), as well as community groups that were among the key stakeholders in the Integrated Urban Housing Project initiated by ITDGPractical Action-EA in Nakuru.

The Mavoko project is a logical continuation of earlier work that ITDGPractical Action-EA did on the Enabling Housing Standards and Procedures (EHSP) Project in Nakuru Municipality under the World Bank funded Local Authorities Reform Programme.

See also the ITDGPractical Action East Africa exhibition at the WaterDome in Johannesburg for the World Summit on Sustainable Development

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