Will new law save decreasing Kampala’s green spaces?

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By AMOS NGWOMOYA

A new law that seeks to regulate the management and control of Kampala city’s green infrastructure is in the offing.
The Urban Green Infrastructure Ordinance, 2019, a copy which Daily Monitor has seen, is expected to be ready by May this year. It is expected to be tabled before Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) council on March 26 for further scrutiny.
If passed into law, it will perhaps put to rest the ongoing wrangles over management of Kampala’s green spaces.
The Ordinance is currently being scrutinised by KCCA’s legal directorate and the political wing headed by the Lord Mayor. It comes barely one month after KCCA passed the Markets Ordinance that will regulate operations of city markets.
According to Section 7 of the 2010 KCCA Act, the authority is mandated, to among others, initiate and formulate policy, and enact legislation for the proper management of the city.
KCCA’s director of public and corporate affairs Peter Kaujju told Daily Monitor in an interview last week that the Urban Green Infrastructure Ordinance is an enabling legislation to prevent the misuse of the city’s green infrastructure.
“This law doesn’t only look at green spaces in the city but the general conservation of the environment in its entirety.
“For instance, majority of people don’t know that when you are building a house, you must leave some part to plant a tree. These are some of the things which the law talks about,” he said.
Although public green spaces in the city are supposed to be maintained to among others provide recreational services and conserve the environment, some of them have since been encroached on by investors, posing an environmental threat.
Besides, the public, which ought to have free access to all city public green spaces, have always been locked out by some of the investors who have since taken over their management.
KCCA, the body mandated to control all public assets in the city on behalf of government, is embroiled in battles with some investors whom they accuse of refusing to hand over the green spaces even after expiry of their contracts.
The controversial management of Kampala’s green spaces, to date, still triggers debate, with majority accusing KCCA of failure to play their supervisory role.
According to the Ordinance, the city authority will be mandated to regulate both private and public open spaces, private spaces, parking lots, wetlands, lakefronts, waterfronts, drainage channels, infrastructure corridors, signage and advertising, trees, vacant lots, hilltops and hillsides, among others.
Public open spaces
Under the Ordinance, the authority shall provide for the recreation and enhancement of the aesthetics of the city. The control and management of all public spaces within the city shall be vested in the authority or any other person appointed by the authority.
It further states that the minimum tree planting requirement in public open spaces will be one tree per every 120 square metres.
The Ordinance further gives the city authority powers to grant a club, association or similar body or any other person, the exclusive use of any public green space or part of it, but that person shall obey laws or terms of the agreement as given by the authority.
However, the Ordinance states that no person shall carry out activities like entertainment or exhibition, conduct any trade or auction in an open space without a permit from the authority.
The authority, according to the Ordinance, may impose and collect fees and charges for hiring and use of any facilities and equipment provided in any public open space.

Private open spaces
According to the Ordinance, no person shall operate a private open space without a permit from the authority.
The minimum tree planting requirement in private open spaces shall be one tree per 120 square metres.
The Ordinance further states that the owner or tenant of the premises within a private open space shall maintain cleanliness of the grounds around his or her premises by doing among others, keep the grass on his or her premises short or not taller than an inch and maintain the tree hedges and flower beds.
Currently, there are many private open spaces in the city. Some of them have unfinished structures while others are still vacant posing both environmental or health risks.
Private spaces
All infrastructure developments in Kampala city that include, but not limited to developments in residential, industrial and commercial areas, shall make provision for a private space in their plan for development.
For every residential areas, all developments shall allow for a minimum open green space plot coverage of 40 per cent of the plot, and such green space shall be open to the sky and predominantly permeable.
The owner of a development in a residential area shall be required to plant at least one tree for 80 square metre of open green space.
The Ordinance also states that all developments in both commercial and industrial areas, shall allow for a minimum open green space plot coverage of 10 per cent and 35 per cent respectively of the plot for purposes of conserving the environment.
Wetlands, lakefronts, waterfronts, drainage channels
According to the Ordinance, the authority shall hold in trust and have the mandate to protect the wetland, lakefronts, waterfronts and drainage channels of
No activity shall be carried out in these areas without permission from the authority.
Activities like harvesting papyrus, trees and reeds, collection of water for domestic use, carrying out any hunting activities, brickmaking and burning, shall not be permitted in Kampala wetlands.
Infrastructure corridors
Under the Ordinance, the authority shall identify and map all infrastructure corridors in the city to ease movement of both underground and overhead infrastructure with minimal disruptions to the environment.
It further states that an occupier of premises with an infrastructure corridor frontage within Kampala shall be responsible for planting, installation and maintenance of landscape and soft scape on the verges as per the guidelines established in the authority.
However, activities like excavation of any part of the corridor, repair works, plant or cut trees, and construction works, shall not be allowed without permission from the authority.
Signage and advertising
The Ordinance gives mandate to the authority to promote a visually attractive city, protect the environment and allow for harmonious co-existence of signage within the city’s landscape.
But the Ordinance also gives mandate to the authority to grant permission to any person or company to install signage or advertise in a particular location provided it doesn’t destroy or degrade any green infrastructure.
However, no application for advertising and signage in Kampala shall be approved unless it is among others, be placed at least five metres away from the drip line of a tree or sapling or has an installation, maintenance and decommissioning plan that takes care of the surrounding green infrastructure.
Trees
According to the Ordinance, the authority shall create an urban forestry management plan for efficient, effective and sustainable management and conservation of Kampala’s urban forestry.
A spot check by this newspaper found out that the city is short of trees as they have since been cut to pave way for construction of buildings.
Its understood that the city authority has started valuation of trees in Kampala to ascertain the remaining green infrastructure and how it can be boosted through planting of more trees.
To promote conservation of the environment, the Ordinance provides that any person who meets the minimum tree planting requirement for their land and dedicates an extra 50 per cent of their properties to trees will be granted a property tax rebate of 0.5 per cent of their property tax by the authority.
Further still, the authority shall ensure that a minimum of four trees of the same species are planted for every tree that is cut in the city.
Protection of hilltops and hillsides
When this Ordinance is passed into law, all those seeking to develop, mine or render alterations to the natural topography of a hillside or hilltop shall apply to the authority for a development permit but the permit shall only be issued if the space meets the requirement.
However, no permit shall be issued in Kampala city for mining of natural materials from hilltops and hillsides.
Key words
Green infrastructure: shall include but not limited to trees, vegetation, green roofs, private gardens, parks, woodlots, wetlands, urban forest, agricultural land, vacant lots, infrastructure corridors and water bodies.
Green space: means land that is partly or completely covered with grass, trees, shrubs, or other vegetation.
Infrastructure corridor: shall include but is not limited to road reserves, road verges, railway reserves, way leaves.
Lakefront: means any land or dock area that directly boarders a lake.
Private open spaces. Means land owned by an individual, private business or a Non-Government body and is open to public access and recreation.
Private spaces: means land owned by a national, local government body, an individual, private business or NGO and is for private use only.
Public open spaces: means land owned by a national or local government body that is open for public access and recreation.
Signage: means use of signs and symbols to communicate a message to a specific group.
Urban forest: means collection of trees and vegetation that grow within Kampala city.
Water front: Means any land or a dock area that directly borders a body of water.

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