Urban Development: Shared Responsibilities!

As the population of Buea, Fako Division of the South West Region, struggle to recover from the shock and destruction caused by the devastating flood that hit the city Saturday March 18, 2023, keen observers are certainly asking why such a disaster in an emblematic city. Could that be as a result of natural or man-made factors or a combination of the two? This is where the problem of urban development once again comes to the fore. How is the development of the country’s cities planned? Do they even have development plans? If yes, are they respected in building? Who bothers to ensure the respect of construction norms in our towns and cities? Million-dollar questions whose answers are sadly still blowing in the wind. 
In the face of the prevailing Buea flood saga, there is need to set records straight for today, tomorrow and afterwards. If such a shattering tragedy could hit a strategic city like Buea this early into the rainy season, many begin to wonder how the population would survive when the rains get heavier. Will they be able to cope or forced to perish? The latter regrettably seems more feasible given that the volume of the water that comes from the mountain cannot be controlled especially when it rains heavily. The situation even becomes worse when the water ways are tampered with like is the case now. But much more, there is near confusion on how well Cameroon’s urban development is planned.
These and others are some of the questions keen observers have been asking ever since rain water from Mount Fako once again swept through the streets of Buea, destroying everything and anyone on its path. The wailing of loved ones from the deaths and gnashing of teeth of victims following the huge material damage are, to say the least, pathetic. The pain is near unbearable!
On his field visit to assess the damage caused and obviously report to hierarchy; normal for an administrative authority anyway, South West Governor castigated the root cause of the floods that keep occurring in Buea, like elsewhere - the haphazard nature of constructing in the city. Telling anyone who cared to listen that the material damages and human casualties from the floods in Buea are the consequences of indiscipline by the population was simply the bitter truth. For, most city dwellers do not want to respect the laws and regulations concerning urban construction. By virtue of being at the foot of the mountain makes Buea a risky zone. The mountain has its water ways and when it rains up the mountain, people down may not know. The water may pile up in the mountain and when it comes down with all its force and meets its channel blocked, what happened a few days ago could simply be inevitable. Reminding the people to respect nature and the laws of the Republic so as to pre-empt suffering from the daily misbehaviour of others who cut trees, build on water ways and block water from using its natural passage was a wise counsel from a senior civil administrator who knows much about his area and people.  Understandably so because every two years, as the Governor said, “these floods are coming. People always want a crackdown on them before they can obey simple or even life-saving norms. Anybody in Buea going against building or urban development norms must be ready to face the law.” Hopes are high that the administrative warning will not die down once the families bury their dead and the affected population resettle back either in the death traps, for the recalcitrant ones, or seek safety elsewhere. 
Observably, what is happening in Buea has occurred in many other cities and villages of Cameroon and could still take place anywhere else in the country looking at existing population settlements. Like anywhere else in the world where towns are swelling owing to increasing rural exodus, Cameroon’s towns and cities are witnessing high population density, inadequate infrastructure, inadequate affordable housing, flooding, pollution, slum creation, crime, congestion and poverty. Some of these people who rush to towns do not always have the suitable means to live comfortably. They are bound to manage in shanty areas prone to all sorts of disasters.  Like someone once said, if left unabated, landslides, flooding, sporadic fire outbreaks, collapse of major road axis, houses and bridges have the potential of plunging such urban centres into an abyss of environmental chaos. In fact, according to Journal of Environmental Prot...



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