Most buildings constructed in our cities central business districts (CBDs) in the past three years do not comply with the Town and Country Planning Act of 2015, Weekend Nation findings show.
The Act specifically prescribes a minimum of six floors for all structures in CBDs and commercial areas of Blantyre, Zomba, Lilongwe and Mzuzu.
The law demands that commercial buildings in Lilongwe’s Area 13 and 16, along the Presidential Drive, Lingadzi River, Convention Drive and Independence Drive should be six floors and above.
But on the ground, the situation is different with many structures built in the past three years flouting the law.
A spot check by Weekend Nation in Lilongwe on Tuesday found newly built structures in Areas 2, 4 and Old Town that have been constructed in defiance of the amended Act.
Lilongwe City Council (LCC) spokesperson Tamara Chafunya in an e-mailed response admitted that the council was facing problems to enforce regulations.
She, however, said the main problem is that some of the building plans and structures—although she did not mention them—were processed before the new building heights were stipulated.
Chafunya further explained that enforcement of the prescribed minimum six floors for commercial structures has been difficult because of low demand for use of such structures.
She said this has necessitated the need to change guidelines to provide for mixed development.
“The mixed use allows the same building to have commercial use on the ground floor and offices and residential apartment for the upper floors.”
But the mixed use system has also raised eyebrows because it has allowed the approval of structures that are questionable, especially in Blantyre, Lilongwe and Mzuzu.
Some mixed use projects that have raised eyebrows are service stations built within the precincts of hospitals.
Blantyre City is equally on the wrong side of the law when it comes to structural heights according to zones.
Blantyre City Council (BCC) public relations manager Anthony Kasunda in an e-mailed response acknowledged the responsibility the council has to ensure compliance of the laws governing land and construction within its area of jurisdiction.
“BCC has powers to enforce the demolition of all illegal structures within its jurisdiction. But not all structures that are low rise are illegal,’’ he said.
The situation is the same in Zomba where single storey structures have been erected along the main highway from Zomba General Hospital to Mulunguzi Secondary school.
Zomba City Council chief executive officer Dyson Ngulinga on Tuesday attributed the rise in illegal structures in the city to lack of enforcement.
Mzuzu City has also not been spared the illegal constructions. Spot checks at Katoto near the Reserve Bank show that several single-storey buildings have been constructed in contravention of the law which prescribes a minimum of three storeys.
The failure to comply with the law, industry experts say, is worrying as the illegal structures pose a threat to life.
Experts blame the mess for not enforcing the law on technocrats.
In an interview, a civil engineering lecturer at the University of Malawi’s Polytechnic Edward Chikhwenda warned that poor town planning will have negative ramifications on the country in future.
He especially faulted the development of single storey buildings on prime land, describing it as a waste of valuable resource.