Rwanda: City of Kigali to deploy new technology to monitor illegal construction
If you have been or intend to use overnight or weekend cover to illegally build or apply unwarranted extensions to your home, your days are numbered.
Rapid urbanization in developing countries often results in uncontrolled urban growth. In order to support sustainable urban development, measures must be put in place to control informal settlements.
In Kigali, authorities are rolling out advanced aerial mapping technology that will be aligned with the Building Permit Management Information System (BPMIS) and Kigali City’s online master plan to monitor settlements. informal; which implies that any construction which is not in the BPMIS will be identified remotely.
When the Senate Political Affairs and Governance Committee, headed by Senator Lambert Dushimimana, visited City Hall last week, some of the key issues raised included the informal settlements that are springing up in different neighborhoods despite the efforts to curb them.
The senators wanted to know what more the city leadership was doing to deal with informal settlements.
It was during the meeting that senators were briefed on the new system being developed which will use imagery to identify any informal structures put in place.
In an exclusive interview with The New Times, the city’s Deputy Mayor for Urbanization and Infrastructure, Merard Mpabwanamaguru gave a detailed overview of the state of informal settlements, the progress of the new system and how it will address issues related to informal settlements which continue to proliferate as the government has invested resources, guidelines and several legal instruments to contain this.
“There are people who persistently build structures illegally. They build at night. Most of the houses affected by disasters are informal houses. To deal with this, we have decided that in addition to regular inspections that we are doing, satellite-generated imagery showing us which houses have been built and where they are,” Mpabwanamaguru said.
He added that; “All the permits we have issued are now geo-referenced. All of our land and building systems communicate with each other and generate data showing which permit has been issued, whether it is building or renovation. The data overlays the system and show you which house is within the issued permit and which has violated the permit.”
There are cases of people applying for renovation permits and ending up doing extensions on the house. The system detects it easily. “As we update the cadastral GIS data in the master plan every three months, we will be able to see each house that has appeared, its UPI and the person it is registered on. The data will be shared with the inspectors of the construction at the sector level and everything that is built illegally, it is removed,” Mpabwanamaguru added.
This new system is developed by Esri Rwanda Limited, which specializes in ArcGIS software, mapping and data analysis to provide location intelligence. Esri Rwanda connects the new software to BPMIS and Kigali’s online master plan system.
So far the new system had been tested on Bumbogo sector of Gasabo district and by next month Esri will submit the draft report on the system and by December this year the system will be complete .
According to Deputy Executive Administrator of Gasabo District, Regis Mudaheranwa, the system has many advantages that will solve many problems that are causing informal settlements.
“The system will have several advantages, we will have quick ways to access construction information, efficient data storage and also accountability in following up on all reported cases on the system,” Mudaheranwa said.
The use of the new satellite imagery system will indeed give Kigali the possibility of linking geographical locations to precise socio-economic data, which is a powerful tool in the planning of human settlements, whether formal or informal. .
Josephine Malonza, a senior lecturer at the University of Rwanda’s School of Architecture, believes that using technology in settlement planning and coordination is one of the effective antidotes to tackling informal settlement in rapid urbanization.
“Thanks to technology, the city is able to generate data very quickly, in order to inform policies at the right time. We have always wondered why urbanization works at cheetah speed while urban planning and formulation policies are walking at the speed of a chameleon, so technology is a big intervention in this gap,” she said.
Malonza, who describes herself as an architect and urban planner with a keen interest in the dialectical relationships between architecture and society, also says that new technology will help analyze the growth and changes in informal settlements which are quite a dynamic phenomenon. and most often with limited data for planning.
“The other benefit of the technology is that it will also have a surveillance component in place that combines both special and social data. Informal settlements house the most socially and economically vulnerable people in a city, a common feature to most developing countries. Therefore, many interventions are always welcome in terms of improving the living conditions of the people who live there. I believe that the first step is to design with the people for the people “, she said.
The development comes a year after the Rwanda Land Management and Use Authority (RLMUA) issued guidelines on informal settlements.
In an October 2021 interview with The New Times, RLMUA chief executive Espérance Mukamana said the lack of clear guidelines had led to the rise of informal settlements in the country.
Reports indicate that more than 61% of the Rwandan population currently lives in informal settlements and plans are underway to relocate them to well-planned settlements.
The country’s population is expected to nearly double by 2050; from the current 12 million to 22 million people, according to estimates by the National Institute of Statistics of Rwanda (INSR).
According to estimates by the Rwanda Housing Authority, the country needs at least 5.5 million housing units compared to 2.5 million units in 2019 to accommodate around 22 million people in 2050.
It is expected that 90% of Kigali’s residents will live in formal settlements by 2050.