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Of Dar`s continued misuse and abuse of open spaces

29th April 2012
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Minister for Lands, Housing and Human Settlements Development Prof Anna Tibaijuka

In the centre of the city of Dar es Salaam close to the DTV television station, at the junction of Libya and Zaramo streets, there is a newly built building whose shape resembles that of a cement block.

Although the building has changed the area’s skyline quite considerably, its owner is now rumoured to be engaged in an exercise that runs counter to the ideals of a well planned city.

The proprietor has fenced off a designated space area which used to house pay-in public toilets and appears set to turn the area into a development of sorts.

According to the whispers, the developer plans to build, in the fenced-in area, a police post and the office of the local ward executive officer. But what is quite interesting about this seemingly philanthropic move is that just 70 or so metres away, along Jamhuri street, there is already a police post and an office of the ward executive officer.

Now your guess is as good as mine, but if it has not yet occurred to you, then here is the explanation. This latest chessboard-like move is nothing but an old-fashioned Bongo style attempt to be seen by the community (or is it the powers that be?) to be doing something good for them.

‘Putting back to the community,’ to borrow an overused industry phrase. But insiders say that the developer’s real objective is to build in the area a building that would house a parking lot after turning the current parking area in the newly built building into a hotel.

In short, the police post and office of the ward executive officer are nothing but a ruse to hoodwink those who may question the developer’s temerity to encroach on a clearly marked open space.

Interestingly, as the proprietor continues with his work, the city fathers remain mum and pretend not to see what is going on in front of their very eyes. According to city rules and regulations, private developers in the city are required to ensure that buildings they erect are also provided with parking lots within the buildings’ area.

The aim, which is quite plausible, is to ensure that Dar es Salaam streets are free from parked vehicles, hence help in the decongestion process. That is why when the said developer at the junction of Libya and Zaramo streets set out to build the building, he also provided it with parking bays - but which he has since transformed it into a hotel!

What raises more questions than answers is that the proprietor fenced off the designated open space over three months ago and elected to lie low, apparently in a move to gauge both the public’s and city fathers’ mood.

However, last weekend he decided that he had had an adequate gestation period and therefore, decided to swing into action by felling a mango tree behind the pay-in public toilets.

The whispers say the proprietor has been giving conflicting views on the fate of the pay-in public toilets. While initially he was quoted as saying that the toilets would remain latest reports have it that he plans to close them entirely for his own development purposes.

However, if he goes ahead and closes the toilets, he would rob city residents of a vital service whose continued existence has helped in giving the city centre a modicum of cleanliness. The million-dollar question is why are city fathers not acting against the developer’s decision to appropriate an open space for his own personal use?

Should the city fathers’ silence be interpreted that they have actually allowed him to make use of the open space? And while on the same subject, a few metres from Bamaga petrol station at Mwenge a very interesting development has been going on.

The proprietor of a newly opened hotel has developed a botanical garden of sorts in front of his hotel, hence transforming the area into a very beautiful site. In fact these are actually the kind of investors that the city fathers should give every encouragement because they are doing the right things for the city.

The city needs hundreds more such people to transform it into one of the most beautiful cities in East Africa. Indeed, the city desperately needs people who could transform open spaces into their intended purpose: botanical gardens, and not the erection of tasteless concrete blocks.

The city residents need such botanical gardens as recreational centres which generate clean air both for themselves and the city at large.

SOURCE: GUARDIAN ON SUNDAY
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