One of the greatest issues facing urban areas in Kenya is the increased growth in informal settlements. Kenya has a population of approximately 40 million according to the census carried out in 2009 and the level of urbanization is rated at 39.7%. The density contrast between ‘slum’ areas and high end residential areas is simply amazing.
With the issue of informal settlements becoming more complex as time passes, various measures have been taken in an attempt to solve this conundrum. One of the methods employed is the carrying out of mass evictions.
On 22ndSeptember 2011, mass evictions began in the Mukuru Kwa Njenga area and have since been carried out regularly until now. The result of these operations is a population of over 100, 000 slum dwellers being rendered homeless with some losing their lives in violent evictions. It is in view of this background that the Mukuru Kwa Njenga project was incepted.
The Mukuru Kwa Njenga project is a flagship project that has come as a long awaited answer to the prayers of many dwellers in informal settlements as well as good-willed stakeholders of the built environment. Its objective is to determine the population and building densities in the area, assess environmental and physical suitability of the area for upgrading, promote community participation and form basis for a partnership development and financing proposal for upgrading of the area.
It is spearheaded by AMT who have sought partnership with UIP/CURI. The vision of Jane Weru (AMT Director) is a situation where there are no evictions, no demolitions, affordable housing and enough space for recreation. She allowed the use of the vertical dimension but with no lifts in the buildings. The studio area is an available 23 Acres to house 318 households.
Currently, UIP has formed a planning team comprising students of the University of Nairobi on internship who have commenced preliminary work such as literature review, secondary data collection and acquisition of images and base maps/map layouts with the help of MuST. The project is still in its preliminary phases but is on schedule.
The success of this project is crucial not only to the inhabitants of Mukuru Kwa Njenga areas but also the country at large. It would prove that there are indeed better ways of dealing with informal settlements without robbing people of their inalienable right to shelter and quality life.
By Judith Achieng’