Town Planning: Crossing The Quagmire

Cities and towns are weeping under immeasurable traffic jam, housing cacophony and obstructed thoroughfare. These are just some of the negative consequences weighing on development and good living in our communities. It is a matter to be solved by proper town planning and urban development. Drawing from experts’ definition, “town planning is the process of managing space or land resources to control existing and future development”. 
Town or city planners are the specialists most required for community progress. They embody more than a dozen characteristics to express their art. Simply put; proper urban planning balances community, business and environmental needs. It combines the work of developers, surveyors and architects. Proper planning equally advises on transport traffic and infrastructure. The planners create suitable space and ease up social friction in the public realm. Their work wards off pollution, facilitates availability of housing, and spaces out community facilities for common enjoyment and advancement.
From the mentioned characteristics, can one ascertain that the train of town planning is on its rails in Cameroon? On the one hand, yes. This is because the State has put in place all necessary upstream structures to manage the sector. Among Cameroon’s over 30 Ministerial portfolios meant to give good life to people on Cameroon soil are many that hold the reins and bridles of towns and city development. Such existing institutions directly destined to engineer community life in agglomerations include the Ministry of Urban Development and Housing, Ministry of State Property, Surveys and Land Tenure, Ministry of Decentralisation and Local Development. 
On the score of manpower, the State has created schools that train civil engineers and architects for Public Works alongside University research departments with mettle in town planning. Concerning the legal platform, the State has in place an array of legal dispositions to guide town planning. The legal arsenals governing town planning include the 22 July, 2004 law to lay down rules applicable to councils and relays from the 1973 instruments governing the sector.  
At the local and executive levels, there are Subdivisional, Local and City Councils that are directly involved with community life. The key actors of town planning are the local and city councils. They are supposed to have the staff and the means to spill out all necessary planning in their various localities. These councils are supposed to sit periodically to deliberate on progress in their respective localities. They are the ones to have a direct eye on the nature of township roads and streets. They should check lighting of streets, construction of dwellings. The councils must have their hands on deck regarding city and town expansion. With the collaboration of centralized departments concerned, the councils should police trespass, control the nature and location of buildings, ward off pollution, monitor fire outbreaks, demarcate disaster zones, ensure sanitation as well as provide and manage market space. 
Those are just some of the areas of direct concern to the councils. For real, the councils are de facto and de jure local governments supposed to drive development in their respective communities to desirable horizons. They hold the people’s direct vision of wellbeing. As to whether they possess the necessary means to enhance their mission is another debate. But, one must not brush aside the old adage that “where there is the will, there is the way”. 
On the other hand, a conscious look at the way our communities fare leaves many questions hanging on the lips as to whether the councils take necessary resolutions during their sessions. Do the councillors live the same realities like the citizens in their respective communities? Otherwise, what happens that traffic jams, pollution, trespass, housing disorder, floods, and littering among many dysfunctional situations remain unsolvable equations in many council areas? Is it the vision that is lacking or the will? Understandably, too, the citizens must, in addition to taxes, contribute their part to enable civic and good living in the communities. This is because some city dwellers have been observed to be a nuisance rather than a partner in common care. It is noticeable that many parochial persons see their interest as superseding that of the community.   
However, one can observe that the train of town planning in Cameroon is moving at snail pace. Who is to blame? Accusing fingers point at inertia, lack of will, lack of foresight and misplaced priorities on the side of officials in charge. And so, the communities remain...



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