Blantyre City mayor Noel Chalamanda has said well-designed and managed public spaces and streets as key in a city’s habitability and economy.
Chalamanda said this in Blantyre on Monday when he officially opened a three-day workshop on public open space management which has brought together stakeholders from the UN Habitat, United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG), International Union of Architects and officials from Malawi’s city councils.
Said Chalamanda: “This workshop has provided a neutral space to discuss how each profession can assist in building people-centred public spaces. Recent trends in development control impart a new urgency to planning for parks and open spaces now if we are to continue to enjoy their benefits in the future.”
He urged participants to the workshop to brainstorm on how to come up with measures that can revamp their city’s open spaces, water parks and green areas in accordance with urban structure plans.
“The country’s cities were designed to have open spaces for recreation but due to other reasons, most of the spaces were taken up for other land use development. It is only prudent that the remaining pieces of land be safeguarded and kept for recreation purposes,” he said.
Blantyre City Council’s director of town planning and estates services, Costly Chanza, bemoaned vandalism as one of the setbacks in managing public spaces.
He said the council has embarked on rehabilitation of public spaces such as Njamba Freedom, Rangeley and Queens parks, Chimwankhunda and Chiwembe dams to restore their glory and reframe the city’s image.
“We are now planning to deploy guards and involve community participation in the protection of the spaces,” said Chanza.
Puven Akkiah, technical chairperson of the Urban Strategic Plan Committee for UCLG, called on authorities to start looking at public spaces as a structuring element and come up with strategies aimed at protecting and developing them.
He said good public spaces enhance community cohesion and promote health, happiness, and well-being for all citizens as well as fostering investment, economic development and environmental sustainability.
The recently adopted Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) highlight public spaces as a key and important topic.
SDG 11 target 7 states that by 2030, governments are required to have provided universal access to safe, inclusive and accessible green and public spaces, in particular for women and children, older persons and persons with disabilities.
In 2011, UN Habitat adopted a resolution on sustainable urban development through access to quality urban public spaces.