The Freetown City Council, the National Authorising Officer (NAO) of the European Development Fund and the European Commission Delegation have launched the Freetown Development Plan with a Preliminary Study project which started in May this year.
This is a project financed by the European Union and the main objective is to assist the decision-makers in the process of formulation and execution of the Freetown Development Plan (FDP).
In close cooperation between an expert team from the EU and members of the Freetown Municipality, an appraisal of the situation in Freetown concerning the living conditions and the most urgent needs of the population was undertaken. The main results were compiled in three reports:
-the available past and present legal and technical documentation related to the urban planning and management of the city of Freetown;
-a preliminary assessment of the city of Freetown as for governance, management, infrastructures and services;
-a draft of the most likely contents of the FDP.
This week, five months after the project started a final conference and a workshop have been organised to inform the line Ministers, the National Authorities, the Donor Community, the civil society and the public about the findings of the expert team and to propose steps to be undertaken to draft the Freetown Development Plan.
The Conference was held on the 15th of October at the Country Lodge.
The Workshop was held on the 16th at the Bank Recreational Complex in Kingtom.
This project was conceived and implemented in the light of the decentralization process, giving mandate to the FCC to operate in the field of urban planning.
The preliminary assessment of major problems affecting Freetown combines a technical appraisal with a participatory approach, based on wide consultations with local NGOs and inhabitants of the city of Freetown. It defines the objectives of and the strategic action to be taken for the FDP:
a.By identifying immediate measures (Quick-Wins) to fight some of the most pressing problems in the city, to be implemented as soon as possible.
b.By pointing out the FDP contents and the further studies to be carried out in this same regard.
For the preliminary assessment several main topics were investigated: Industrial and commercial production, Road & Transport, Telecommunication, Energy Production & Distribution, Environment and Health, Culture, Housing, Slums, Urban Core Activities, Urban Management & Governance, Urban Planning.
Freetown is basically a city composed of small villages developed around a colonial settlement. The sewage system is limited to the business district, the roads are indifferently used by pedestrians, cars, poda poda, carts and street sellers, the water supply is leaking, open urination and defecation is still a very common practice, the living habits are peculiar of the rural areas. Housing and land, instead of being a reliable economic resource are a heavy constraint to the urban and economic development. A large part of the population is living in overcrowded slums. They, but also the inhabitants of other residential areas, face many plights, like flooding, lack of proper waste collection and sanitation, and, as a result regular outbreaks of life-threatening diseases.
The public parks are limited to the Victoria Park: one hectare for more than one million inhabitants. The green belt and the beaches that featured the capital is disappearing, whilst the use of the Freetown natural resources is often hazardous (disposal of garbage in rivers and the sea, cutting of trees) and not appropriately regulated. Market places, fortunately providing a living for the majority of the population, are not properly accommodated. They are scattered all over the city, often in dangerous places, spoiling the traded goods and posing a health risk to traders and clients.
The international airport, instead of attracting visitors and offering convenient services for any kind of travellers (businessmen, humanitarian operators, tourists) poses problems due to its location, and to the absence of reliable transportation between Lungi and Freetown.
Though these topics are well known, ways of solving and managing them are contradictory and uncertain. However, the legal and institutional vacuum and the obstacles to urban planning can be overcome if there is the political will for cooperation and coordination between the different stakeholders in order to form an effective partnership. The legal framework of the Freetown Development Urban Plan could be induced by the practice of the Freetown Development Plan itself.
Moreover, the technology required to start the Freetown Development Plan is already available, well known and used in Sierra Leone.
The Donor Community is also eager to participate in this key planning activity, which could coordinate comprehensively and harmonically the development of a wonderful town.
In the Freetown Development Plan, many basic proposals have also been made.
First of all, Freetown needs to be released from the migration flow pressure. To achieve this objective, development strategies are to be defined aiming at:
a.Enhancing the economy and making attractive the major mid-size town, and at the same time
b.Devolving functions (clogging Freetown) to neighbouring areas (e.g. the slaughterhouse, green wholesale markets, some of the main retail markets, industries processing agricultural and farming products and whatever product coming from the inland) in order to divert or channel the interest of the newcomers elsewhere.
The most likely place to where Freetown urban functions can be devolved is Waterloo. Being located at the ‘entrance door’ of Freetown, Waterloo could act as a screening wall reducing the demographic pressure on Freetown. Also the second airport (national and charter flights) might be located in this area.
Thus, the most exclusive and attractive tourist resorts could be easy reachable bypassing the capital.
Lungi is also another potential development location. The airport surely contributes to create a development pole in the area, however seven kilometres away from Freetown.
This is a considerable distance that could prevent from high-density urban development in favour of low-density green villages. This could provide high quality residential areas at a more than reasonable one hour distance from Freetown.
These key recommendations are conceived of course within the overall political framework of keeping the main institutional and capital functions in Freetown.
As a matter of fact, all the FDP general contents and recommendations reported in the preliminary assessment of this project focus on a so called “Greater Freetown” area which is neither limited by the administrative boundaries of the FCC nor by the regional constraints of the Western Region. The European Union is committed to finance Quick Wins which are immediate measures to be implemented in the meanwhile the Freetown Development Plan is drafted, and is also committed to keep on supplying the Freetown City Council with adequate Technical Assistance. However the funds from the EU will not be enough. The entire Donor Community needs to be involved and a coordination effort needs to be done.