Halting urban decay

2014-03-11 00:00

AN ambitious urban improvement programme to be driven by the eThekwini Metro is being hailed as the antidote that will prevent the city from sliding into economic oblivion.

Tapping into the global success stories of New York City, Singapore and Calgary, Canada, as well as the Urban Improvement Precinct (UIP) programme in Umhlanga, the council wants to make Durban the most liveable city in Africa.

And it has identified that grand infrastructural projects are of little consequence towards improving the lives of residents unless the city is clean and safe.

In a report released last week in conjunction with the city’s launch of the Clean My City Campaign, the council has devised five urban improvement management plans to be rolled out across the city in a staggered approach that they believe will turn the entire city’s economic fortunes around and prevent the slide into grime and crime.

The detailed report titled “Clean My City Urban Management” says urban management creates economic opportunity, restores investor confidence, secures property value and acts as a catalyst for social and environmental sustainability — in other words it makes the area safer, cleaner and more desirable.

The report states that unless the city is clean and safe economic development will not follow.

The plans intend to use a mixture of initiatives, including public private partnerships with community involvement at its core and heavy focus on restoring the CBD into a vibrant city centre.

And the report acknowledges the city’s own success, pointing towards Umhlanga. The upmarket suburb has been running several urban management zones since 2003, which include the Umhlanga promenade, residential areas, commercial and open environmental spaces.

The key behind a UIP is that a recipient pays an added levy to top up services such as street cleaning, management of public open spaces, formalised car guards and non-invasive security.

The report cites as challenges a lack of bins, refuse not collected timeously, illegal dumping, illegal informal traders, poor ablution facilities, defective traffic lights, illegal car guards and illegal car washers as well as illegal stickers and posters.

“Illegal wall advertising is rife and safe abortion stickers are placed on every flat surface, defacing the capital assets,” said the report.

Brian Wright, who heads up the Um­hlanga UIP among others within the metro, said it is fantastic that the city has made the move to urban rejuvenation.

“We must have a working city and the only way we will do it is through working with the private sector and communities. We are on the cusp [of city degradation]. Unless we have a competitive city we will be placed in an uncomfortable position,” said Wright. He said this is a “serious challenge” that will require a “mind shift” from residents on what they expect from the city. “The metro cannot do it alone. It needs the support of every single resident for it to work. Each area will come with its challenges and we will learn along the way but this intervention is fundamental to our success,” said Wright.

Significantly, the eThekwini Metro has identified the CBD with six Urban Management Zones (UMZ) stretching from Margaret Mncadi Avenue (Esplanade) to the Umgeni River.

Each zone will be subject to increased security and policing, litter picking, poster and sticker removal, painting of light poles, verge maintenance, pothole and manhole repairs and monitoring of illegal parking, among others.

The key driver of the push for the UMZ is that the city needs to achieve economic growth of four to seven percent per annum from 2013to 2018 to create jobs and reduce inequality over the same period.

“Key to reaching these targets, inner city densification and regeneration is key. New investment must be attracted and efficiencies must be improved,” said the report.

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