NPI is very pleased to present an interview with Nairobi Urban Planner Jeremiah Atho Ougo who works at the Kenya Desk of UN-Habitat. Architect Activist Anna Oursler conducted the interview and caught up with Planner Atho Ougo in Quito where the New Urban Agenda of Habitat III was being discussed and ratified.
1) NPI: Explain what brought you to Quito and what made the biggest impression on you so far?
I came to Quito in my capacity as UN-Habitat staff responsible for Country activities. In this capacity, my tasks were to organize side events on Kenya. The biggest impression so far is how Quito has utilized public spaces to enhance NMT (Non-Motorized Transport). The streets are adequately planned for vehicular and pedestrian use. Recreational Parks are accessible to public and this contributes to reduction in urban crime.
2) What specific elements of the New Urban Agenda (NUA) are particularly important for Nairobi and why?
NUA is about Sustainable Urban Development. Nairobi needs to embrace urban planning and design as a tool for sustainable urbanization. In doing so, the City must mainstream sustainable urban planning principles into its master planning process. These Principles include densification, mixed land use, public spaces, street design and social integration. The second element of NUA that Nairobi must embrace is enforceable legislation that buttresses urban planning and design. In doing so, the city must have regulations and rules that guide planning particularly with regard to zoning, plot ratios, plot sizes, minimum and maximum. Thirdly, Nairobi must strengthen its municipal financing by enhancing revenue generation streams so as to maintain stable revenue that can support sustainable urbanization.
3) What are the challenges to implementing the NUA in Nairobi and how will you start working to overcome them?
Social exclusion and segregation are a huge challenge in urban areas, and this will affect social integration. On the other hand, urban sprawl will greatly affect attempts to ensure sustainable urban planning while inadequate financing to implement NUA will be a huge obstacle. It may also be too difficult to bring all actors on board.
4) What lessons or ideas from Nairobi have you shared this week and what will you take back to Nairobi from being in Quito?
Nairobi has good lessons that the world can learn from while implementing the NUA. The leadership of the Capital City has developed the Public Spaces Programme that seeks to enhance effective utilization of existing public spaces. Further, the City in collaboration with partners including UN-Habitat, have developed an Inventory of all existing public spaces in the city. This inventory will be a tool that will be used in monitoring the public spaces in order to put them into better use and reduce chances of land grabbing by private developers.
Jeremiah Atho Ougo is an Urban Planner currently working at UN-Habitat’s Kenya Desk in the Regional Office for Africa. He previously worked as a Physical Planner with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees where he supervised shelter, physical planning and infrastructure provision to refugees and host communities living in the Dadaab refugee camps and environs. Jeremiah was also part of the team that prepared (on behalf of Devolution and Planning and Land Housing & Urban Development Ministries) sustainable Integrated Urban Development Plans for various towns in Kenya including Othaya town. He holds a bachelor of Urban Planning degree of Makerere University and a master degree in Project Planning & Management from the University of Nairobi and sits in the Governing Council of the Kenya Institute of Planners as Assistant Registrar and Corporate Member. He is also a registered Lead EIA/EA Expert with the National Environment Management Authority.