Monday 7 November 2016

Urban Planning and Its Impact on Environmental Sustainability

By Kehinde Disu for Sustyvibes

Most cities in Nigeria especially in the South South and South West regions due to their low-lying topographical locations are presently facing a recurring trend at this time of the year. These regions are faced frequent and incessant downpour which leads to flooding and eventually becomes a threat to the environment and the inhabitants at large.

While it is certain that man has no say over natural occurrences, as in this case of the rain, the efforts to mitigate its negative impact on the inhabitants can be increased. The natural drainage basins have been encroached upon and different structures have been erected on them. Water, in its natural state, will always find its course irrespective of imminent obstacles. The apparent result is recurrent flooding of streets and houses.

An environmental issue such as this has become a continual threat to both lives and properties, yet, we tend to be more reactive rather than proactive. Institutions that are responsible for finding solutions to this scourge seem not to have it working for them.


Nigeria, being one of the most populated countries in Africa, is expected to have its ministry of regional and urban planning at its toes, working day in and out to effect necessary plans and regulations. However, growth and development in these urban areas are occurring haphazardly. Buildings are erected without regard for proper urban and regional planning permits. Most urban areas do not have the proper development plans and even the existing plans seem outdated.

Urban and regional planning policies seem to only exist in black and white. Proper policy implementation has long been a thing of the past. Structures are seen marked for demolition rather than making sure they are not built in the first place; if the right and necessary steps had been taken. It is either negligence on the part of the building owners and contractors, or the urban and planning ministry or in most cases, both.

Resources and time are seen wasted; first for putting up the structures and second for bringing the same structures down. Cases like this should have been fended off if the Urban Planning authorities had restricted some of these areas to wade off constructions.

Some few years back, the UN-HABITAT declared Abuja as the only ‘real city’ in Nigeria. One gets to wonder what a real city is when places like Lagos and Port-Harcourt are mentioned. The reason is not far-fetched. Abuja had a town planning master plan and it was followed, almost to the letter. Hence, Abuja looks like the hub and the number 1 go-to city as far as Nigeria is concerned.

While we understand that Nigeria is a developing country, we still cannot neglect some basics.  It is indeed very easy to point fingers to the power ministry and PHCN when electricity production and transmission is in comatose. The ministry of works takes the blame for bad roads, same goes with the ministry of education if the educational state is dwindling as compared with international standards.


However, a silent ministry where no one seems to remember its existence is Urban and regional planning. A good looking edifice will take the shine off any form of ills associated with it on pre-construction basis. Even if it the structure location violates the master plan of the area, there are better ways to settle such issues out of court.

SDG Goal 11 – Sustainable Cities and Communities, has some of the targets under it as stated below;

  • a – support positive economic, social and environmental links between urban, peri-urban and rural areas by strengthening national and regional development planning

  • b – by 2020, increase by x% the number of cities and human settlements adopting and implementing integrated policies and plans towards inclusion, resource efficiency, mitigation and adaptation to climate change, resilience to disasters, develop and implement in line with the forthcoming Hyogo Framework holistic disaster risk management at all levels

  • c – support least developed countries, including through financial and technical assistance, for sustainable and resilient buildings utilizing local materials.

In order to have sustainable cities and communities, urban and regional planning ministry both from the federal, state or local levels do not just have a role to play; they have the majority of the role. The success of it all depends on this sector. The rot is there and it seems insurmountable. But we can start and we can start well. All our cities can look like Abuja. With the right policies and proper implementation, this feat can be achieved.

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