Friday, September 18, 2020

Interview with KMC Director of Planning and Development

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Nyima Camara, the Director of Planning and Development at the Kanifing Municipal Council (KMC) has on Monday told Foroyaa they are in the right direction towards making the municipality a city-state.

Camara, in an exclusive interview with Foroyaa, discussed several topics about the activities of the Council including what they have done so far since they assumed office and what their plans are towards their daydream of making KMC a city-state.

The current Council was voted in on the 12th day of May 2018 and they are halfway into their mandate. They have a four-year mandate which will elapse in 2022.

Foroyaa: How are you working to make the municipality a city-state as promised by the Mayor?

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Well, we are working hard towards that and that is why the department (of planning and development) is well equipped through the CEO’s Office to see how best this dream comes through.

Foroyaa: The Council has only two years to go; they are almost half-way into their mandate. Do you think this dream could be actualised in the coming two years?

Of course, yes. The issue is whether it will get to the level we want it. As much as possible, we will do whatever possible to take KMC to another level. We have started doing all it takes to take the Council to another level.

As you can see around the Westfield Area, we have tried to at least upgrade the centre because Westfield is the heart of the municipality. So we started beautifying and upgrading the area.

Foroyaa: What other thing have you done aside of beautifying KMC?

Yes, we have been doing a lot of things because we have been doing daily cleansing and we make sure we have street bins. We make sure we work with other institutions in making sure we make KMC a city-state. On the other side, we are doing road rehabilitation in collaboration with NRA. We want to make sure we have inner roads so that we contribute to the decongestion of the traffic.

Foroyaa: How far have you gone with the project of constructing feeder roads?

For the feeder roads, this year we had one which is the (Serrekunda) “Sandinka” Road because there are a lot of potholes on that road. So we are trying to connect the “Sandika” Road to the Brikama Highway to at least ease the transportation for uploading and offloading these market vendors especially around the “Sandinka”end.

Foroyaa: Since taking over the Council you have seen what has been happening within the municipality, particularly in terms of runoff water which causes destruction to structures and properties. You have seen how people struggle during the rainy season particularly Churchill Town and other areas. You will see that there is flood almost in the entire KMC. The problem is there are no proper drainage systems in place. Drivers and commuters struggle to get to their destination because of the heavy runoff water. Do you have plans to address the problems of drainage system?

Considering the flooding within the municipality, for the past two years the Council has taken a bold decision in trying to address that. Most of it (the flooding) happens on the highways. There are drains on the highways but the drains on the highway are the sole responsibility of the NRA. Nonetheless, when floods happen it affects the communities and the communities are the responsibility of the Council (KMC). So we see how best to support and mitigate the flooding. That is why the month we are getting into which is May to be precise we have the Department of Service within the municipality which is responsible for drainage cleaning has a team called the “Drain-Gang”comprising youths from KMC. We try to see how best we can support them on development aspects and engaging them. The (Department of) Services identify all the drains within the municipality and the“Drain-Gang” dislodges all the blockages so that there will runoff of water. So the biggest activity we do towards the rainy season is the opening of the canals. We have one along the Sakung Sillah Road opening towards the Ebo-Town end. We have realised that if we dredge (dig up) it mitigates flood in Ebo-Town. We have the canal in Bakoteh. We have the canal in Manjai and all these canals are opened during the dredging exercises in collaboration with NDMA (National Disaster Management Agency) and when all these canals are opened, it contributes towards the mitigation of flood.

Foroyaa: Town Planning is very imperative when you talk about development. The population of KMC is increasing and the demand for land has increased. One can safely say it is somehow populated. What plans do you have in the pipeline in terms of allocating (getting) lands for development use? How about designating areas for industrial and residential uses?

Unfortunately, KMC has run out of land. Just like you said it is densely populated but the allocation of lands is not under the purview of the Council. We work hand in glove with the Ministry of Local Government and Lands, which is our parent ministry, and the Department of Physical Planning and (Department of) Land. The allocation of land is entirely under their purview and not the local councils.

Foroyaa: How about waste management? We were promised by the Lord Mayor that he was going to introduce recycling as a means of waste management but we are yet to see that. Instead of recycling as promised, you people carry on with the burning-of waste which is causing health problems in the area.

Unfortunately, for the burning, there is no activity KMC is doing towards burning. We don’t burn waste. The biggest problem we are facing at our dumpsite is encroachment. People get access to the dumpsite so easily. As you can see, it is surrounded by residences; Dippa Kunda, Bakoteh and some parts of Manjai. So people get into the dumpsite and there are so many scavengers.

What we did from last year to this year, we made an open tender for the fencing of the Bakoteh dumpsite which we achieve this year. When we opened the tender, people bid and the company called Bajam won in the bid. They have been given the certificate of award and last week Thursday on the 23rd April the contract was signed by the CEO (of the Council) and the company (Bajam). The construction will be starting in earnest.

Foroyaa: How about coming up with recycling scheme as promised?

Of course, just like I mentioned, it is the biggest challenge we have because if there is fire everybody thinks that KMC is burning waste. We don’t burn waste because it is illegal to be burning waste in the open. So when we achieve the fencing of the dumpsite, we don’t only concentrate on the fencing of the dumpsite it goes along with other activities of waste management because in managing waste, we have 19 fleets going to each of the 19 wards within the municipality to collect waste. Collecting waste is one aspect of managing waste. Our entire activity is geared towards closing the Bakoteh dumpsite which is not happening anytime soon but the activities are to have a proper waste management system at the dumpsite. Recycling is one of them. Kanifing Municipal Council has just tendered waste processing management which is part of the management of the dumpsite. We have four bidders and out of them, we have one that we are communicating with at the level of signing between the Council and the company to see how best we can properly manage the waste generated at the Bakoteh dumpsite.

Foroyaa: Are you still considering moving the dumpsite as promised?

Of course, yes. When we are successful in making we it a proper landfill the next target is, will be moving. We are working towards this because all these three councils – the Banjul City Council, Kanifing Municipal Council and Brikama Area Council are working towards getting one property to make it a landfill. We don’t want to duplicate what is in Bakoteh. So when we are moving, we are moving the entire management – not just the waste. It will be a proper landfill and not a dumpsite like what we currently have in Bakoteh.

Foroyaa: How about the car parks? Almost all car parks, if not all of them, are on or along the highways?

Having car parks on the highway is not a problem but having them on the roadside is the issue.

Foroyaa: That is exactly what is happening.

There is one identified in Bundung and one in Bakoteh. These are the only two identified car parks. Council is trying to work to see how to develop those (two) in trying to see how best they can accommodate others. We are also trying to see whether we can have other properties that we can turn into proper car parks so that we can avoid having the vehicles – taxes and vans parking on the roadside which is also contributing to traffic congestions.

Foroyaa: How about coming up with car parks where you can generate some revenue?

We working towards that but just like I say, we have run out of land. We are trying to work with our Ministry to get pieces of land in different locations which we will use as proper car parks. The Council relies 100% on revenue and if we have these car parks, the entire revenue will be coming to the Council. That will support the Council in delivering services to its people.

Foroyaa: How about public toilets?

We are thinking about public toilets but in disaster-prone areas. Right now the target is Ebo-Town. In Ebo-Town when it rains, they find it difficult to ease themselves. We are experiencing open defecation and we are working on that. We are trying to see how to get them elevated toilets because the water table is very high. Digging two meters, you will get water. So it is very difficult for some of the vulnerable people to have their proper toilets in their homes. So we are trying to see how best to create these (elevated) public toilets in Ebo-Town. Right now the target is Ebo-Town.

Foroyaa:  How about the other areas of the municipality?

Just like I said, Ebo-Town is a flood-prone area that is why we are starting with Ebo-Town. So if we are successful with Ebo-Town we will replicate it with other areas which are needed. You cannot have a public toilet in Serrekunda.

Foroyaa: What do you have for the youths?

Well, we have seven community centres within the municipality but most of them are dilapidated. Council is trying to see how best to reconstruct those youth centres and make them fit for use so that the youths can be accessing them and use them for their activities.

Foroyaa: What about recreational centres?

We used to have one at the Buffer-Zone but unfortunately, it is dilapidated. Right now, we are constructing the Latrikunda Market and because the recreational centre was dilapidated and out of use, we identified it as a temporal market. When the construction of the market is completed, the vendors will go back to the market and we will see how best we can maintain the place.

Foroyaa: People pay their daily dues to the Council at the market and yet the majority of them still sell under the sun.

What do you mean by selling under the sun?

I mean street vendors are more than those selling in the market.

At the Serrekunda Market, we have constructed a three million dalasis shelf with tables but unfortunately, people refuse to go there. People selling outside the market and along the road, it’s true, it’s our market but the road clearing is entirely the responsibility of the police. Traffic police are responsible for the clearing the road.

KMC has 17 markets within the municipality but unfortunately, people refuse to go and sell there. We have done everything possible; we constructed markets; we created shades; we created stalls but some people decide to sell on the roadside. The clearing of the road is the entire responsibility of the police and if the police could help us in the clearing of the road, we will definitely appreciate that. We have police; the municipal police with the mandate of supporting the national police (Gambia Police Force). The clearing of these roads and maintaining clear roads to have vehicles on the roads is the responsibility of the traffic police.

Foroyaa: I am someone who has been reporting from the Serrekunda market. What you are saying here is just a claim because there are no spaces in the market.

I agree it is a claim. It is a claim. But if the traffic police help us in clearing the roads, all these vendors will go back to their markets. Have you been to Latrikunda Market lately?

Foroyaa: No.

Go there and see. At the backside, vendors used to cause roadblock and when the construction started, they all went to Serrekunda. They are selling at the Serrekunda Market. They are sitting on the road selling. Last year, the Council (KMC) sent 2.7 million dalasis to construct that road but it is being by vendors selling.

Foroyaa: I want to understand something here. Do you know the number of vendors in KMC so that when constructing you will know the space required? Do you have a list of vendors in KMC or any of the markets? As far as the Serrekunda Market is concern, those selling in the street are more than those selling in your markets.

That is why I cited one example – Latrikunda Market. All the women selling there are selling there are now selling on the Lakumbaro Road. They could have been selling in Latrikunda because they have access. If the police are stopping them from selling on the road they have to be selling in Serrekunda.

Foroyaa: Vendors, every day pay their dues to the Council. What benefits do they get from these monies?

One benefit is the shade we have provided for them but unfortunately, they refuse to go and sit there. Everybody wants to sell on the roadside because they have access on the roadside. If the roads were blocked and no one was selling on these roads, they will be selling in their respective markets. We have markets in Jeshwang, Abuko, Latrikunda, Tallinding and most of these markets are vacant. We have only two markets which is Serrekunda and Latrikunda. What is happening in the other markets?

Foroyaa: Vendors, particularly shopkeepers have been complaining that the taxes you impose on them are high. Every year you increase tax.

Not every year. It is this year. We have increased it this year.

Foroyaa: Ok. What I am explaining is taxes have never decreased in the history of KMC.

How can it be decreasing? I told you we rely entirely on tax. We are not having subvention from the Government.

Foroyaa: Ok. You are saying you do not receive subvention from the Government?

We don’t receive subvention from the Government. The Council does not have any subvention from the Government.

Foroyaa: Aside of taxation what other ways do you generate revenue?

No, that is the only revenue we have. We only generate our revenue from taxes.

Foroyaa: Taxes in terms of payment of rent and others:

Not rent, payment of land rent, land rates, payment of taxes at the market, payment of licenses and court fines. These are what we rely on. Those are the taxes we rely on and we need to fix the problems of the municipality with those taxes. These are taxpayers’ money.

Foroyaa: With this, you are saying you will be able to address the problems of the Council in the coming two years?

Yes, we will be able to address lots of challenges of the municipality. Now we have a challenge with this COVID-19 because not everybody is paying their dues.

Foroyaa: Are you not thinking of diversifying your source of revenue aside of taxation?

Of course yes. We trying to see – when you talk about land we are trying to see how to acquire land to have proper car parks. Taxis use it and pay taxes to the Council. Having other avenues like having properties, we construct and have motels and have restaurants. The Council needs to have other avenues of making money because we have to give back to the communities. If you (we) don’t have the money it will be very difficult to give back to the community.

Foroyaa: On COVID-19, apart from the buckets and the detergents you provided the people, what other help have you rendered the people of KMC?

Well, we have tried to distribute about more than 300 buckets especially at our markets and other public places and then within the communities through the (ward) councillors so that people will have access to be washing their hands all the time. That is one of the advice given by the health personnel (in the fight against COVID-19). We have also launched 1000 household food support which has started. We have distributed 3550 bags of rice within our communities through our councillors to see how best we can target the vulnerable people within our municipality.

Foroyaa: You said the vulnerable’. What are your criteria for identifying vulnerable people within your municipality?

Well, the criteria we are using through the Director of Services is getting on the record and the data we have on disaster because all those who are affected we consider them as the most vulnerable. So within all our settlements, we do have people suffering from all types of activities we call disaster. So the NDMA have a representative sitting here (at the Council) and when disasters happen, we collaborate with NDMA to see how best we can support them. There is a register of those people within the municipality. That was the criteria used to identify these people.

Foroyaa: Do you have any final remarks to make?

What I want to add is I think KMC is working in the right direction. We are trying to see how best we can manage the little resources we have to give back to our communities and hopefully, we will get there. With time we will. Now we have fleets of vehicles going round. Every community – every ward within this Municipality has a brand new truck that is collecting their waste and all the waste that is being collected is been dumped at the Bakoteh dumpsite. This year we have signed a contract for the fencing of the dumpsite which will start on the 2nd May 2020. So when we achieve the fencing of the Bakoteh dumpsite I think that will be one great achievement the council has done towards managing the waste because the passer-by won’t have access. It is going to make it easy for the Council to control and manage the Bakoteh dumpsite. Before the end of the year, we are hoping to have a concrete agreement with a company to create waste management facilities on the dumpsite. So we are hoping to achieve this and other dreams and proposals we are having at the Council level.

Foroyaa: Thank you.

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