Minister of lands, housing and urban development Atupele Muluzi says government has put in place legal frameworks and policies which will ensure that public spaces are registered as public land ensure that such places are properly managed for the benefit of the general public.
Muluzi was speaking in Blantyre during a press briefing held after a big walk from Blantyre Civic Offices to Government buildings in the city as part of activities to mark the World Habitat Day which falls on the first Monday of the month of October.
He said it was sad to note that public spaces such as parks and community grounds were abused or invaded by private developers to the disadvantage of the public.
“In our cities and towns, one can hardly find adequate public space that is suitable enough to cater for all needs of the general public and even the limited space that is available is not properly managed and used as such,” said Muluzi.
He said Public spaces provide room for social and cultural interaction, provide a democratic forum for citizens and society and foster a sense of belonging and pride in the public.
He called upon all stakeholders in the built environment, local councils, Civil Society Organisations and the general public to support government in making sure that there are public spaces which are accessible in the right quantity and quality.
“As government we are working on efforts that will help us contribute to the implementation of the proposed Sustainable Development Goals, in particular Goal 11, target 7 which highlights Public spaces as a key and important topic,” he said.
He urged councils to create, revamp and properly manage such places for the benefit of all.
On his part, Mayor for Blantyre City Council, Noel Chalamanda called for concerted efforts in planning and managing public spaces in the country’s cities.
Chalamanda said it was sad to note that public spaces such as Njamba Freedom Park, Rangeley and Queens Park, Chimwankhunda and Chiwembe Dams in Blantyre city, Masintha ground in Lilongwe and Central and Katoto Parks in Mzuzu were not properly utilized to revamp the economy of the three city councils.
“Well designed and managed public spaces are a key asset for a city’s functioning and has a positive impact on its economy, environment, safety, health, integration and connectivity,” said Chalamanda.
Chalamanda said a mixed and diverse public space also provides a place that is vibrant and busy and helps reduce insecurity.
He called on the general public to utilize the spaces to their benefit and not vandalise resources put in such places.
“The major challenges we are facing are vandalism especially of public toilets, lack of community participation on issues of open space utilization, lack of policy on public open spaces and policy meddling,” Chalamanda said.
He said he was optimistic that with the day’s theme “Public Spaces for All”, various city development initiatives will incorporate the open space issue for the betterment of the cities in general and residents in particular.
World Habitat Day was established in 1985 by the United Nations General Assembly and was first celebrated in 1986. The day is used to draw the attention of the international community to focus on the housing situation of people worldwide.
Here in Malawi, commemorations of were supported by UN Habitat together with the main partner UN Women.