At the intersection of development planning, engineering and political will: the case study of the relocation of the red light market to Omega

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Engineers are normally trained in the science of natural forces, mechanics and material properties, design principles and the technological ability to build with the sole purpose of improving the quality of life. This suggests that engineering alone as an applied science cannot solve the complex problems of development and at the same time quench the need to stimulate political will to influence development initiatives. When it comes to the implementation of complex development projects like relocation of trade hubs, it certainly cannot be a stand-alone engineering / construction project.


David D. Wounuah, [email protected]


It must be a multi-faceted initiative that requires the transdisciplinary intervention of engineers, architects, social specialists, environmental experts, economists, planners and project managers to develop , design and implement. It is obviously necessary to seek a point of convergence between engineering, development planning and political decision-making. Once a problem is identified, solutions manifest themselves through development projects that are planned and envisioned through the lenses of multidisciplinary planning processes; visualized, designed and costed by engineers / architects, then sanctioned for funding and implementation through the political decision-making process. This is the normal process. It is the process by which we are able to maximize the likelihood that development projects solve development problems. Notwithstanding any contrary approach.

As I am a civil engineer, trained in theories, mechanics and technological ability to design and build, and also a development planner with a good understanding of the development planning process as a multidisciplinary effort and Data-driven, let me try to use the much-heralded decision to move the infamous Red-light Market from the commercial district to the predominantly residential Omega community. As laudable and bold as this move may seem at first glance, let’s take a look at some of the difficult questions that I believe need to be have answered as part of the development and planning stages of this project. We cannot begin to apply here whether or not these questions were reviewed, asked or answered before construction of the new market began or even before the move date was announced; however, the visible unintended consequences, confusions, ongoing land grabbing, chaos, uncertainties, traffic wahala and the newly induced messy Omega community can only suggest what seems obvious. Have we considered any, some or all of the questions below as part of the design, planning, design or implementation stages of the project?

  1. How many traders are currently trading in the red light and Gobachov markets which are relocated?
  2. How much of the commercial space is being moved?
  3. Do we have an allowance for future expansions?
  4. Have land rights issues around designated market areas been established and resolved?
  5. Are the facilities built sufficient to accommodate the total number of market stalls we intend to move?
  6. How much storage space is required by the average trader?
  7. Are there adequate storage facilities in the newly built market to accommodate the volume of goods to be moved?
  8. Are there adequate social services required for a new functional market: toilets, clinics, electricity, drinking water, parking spaces, police station, district courts, loading / unloading docks, etc.…
  9. How will relocation of the market affect traffic congestion on the Red-light highway corridor in Kakata?
  10. Are there other access routes to and from the Omega community that can be improved as part of the Market Relocation Project to reduce the demand for primary market access?
  11. Are there alternative options for pedestrian access that can be explored to reduce foot traffic along the vehicle access?
  12. Would the extension of the road link between Parker Paint and Mount Barclay from two to four lines respond to the increase in traffic volume resulting from the relocation of the market?
  13. Could we extend the Omega access road and redesign the Omega junction to accommodate a higher volume of traffic?
  14. Will the construction of a pedestrian viaduct at the Omega junction reduce pedestrian-traffic conflicts?
  15. Since the Omega community is mainly lowland / swamp land, how will the relocation of the market affect the environment and upland flooding, since the expansion of the market has justified the unlimited infill of swamp land in the highlands? surroundings to accommodate additional market stalls?
  16. How would market relocation affect the crime rate and other social vices in the Omega region and how can this impact, if any, be mitigated by the new market project?
  17. What other opportunities for economic development, light manufacturing, market access, market linkages and market integration can be created by market relocation that can be exploited by this project?
  18. How will the relocation of the market affect the quality of life in the Omega community as a residential area?
  19. Is it beneficial to move the entire market or does it make more sense to move perishable food components from the market and keep a small but controlled dry goods trade in the original space of the Red-light market?
  20. What alternative use of the land space freed up in Red-light can be explored for the benefit of the economy and to improve trade and development?
  21. What short- and long-term positive and negative externalities do we expect from market offshoring and how can we advertise or exploit these externalities?
  22. Are we trying to solve a red light congestion problem by handing the problem over to Omega or are we just “throwing the box further?” “
  23. How do we make market relocation sustainable so that offshored marketers just don’t come back to the red light when all the dust has settled?
  24. Are there any advantages to taking a transparent and systematic approach to relocation based on the types of goods traded over an extended period versus a one-day move?

These are just a few questions that crossed my mind as I normally drove a 3-minute drive from the Coca-Cola factory to the FDA junction around 10:15 a.m. on July 13.e, only this time it took 1 hour 15 minutes and it wasn’t even rush hour. I can only dream that things will get better and Liberia will change for the better. I can only dream that it is a new day in Liberia.

I can only dream that we are living in a new era. A new era in which Liberia has improved and development is approached as a process guided by the careful and meticulous efforts of professionals and decisions are made based on empirical evidence and not on knee-jerk reaction. In the new era of development, when it is decided to move the red light market to the Omega market, here is what we would do:

  1. We will set up a multidisciplinary project team to assess the feasibility of the proposed project, develop an implementation plan, a project design package and a project budget.
  2. Our multidisciplinary team would include: civil engineers, architects, land use planners, a development economist, a social and environmental specialist and representatives from the Liberian Marketing Association, Paynesville City Corporation, the Omega community and of Liberia’s Land Authority.
  3. This team would seek help from academia. For example, our team would enter into an agreement with the Graduate School of Regional Planning at the University of Liberia to initiate studies to answer the complex development questions associated with this project, as demonstrated above.
  4. Based on the results of studies, consultations, surveys and analyzes, the project team will develop and submit for approval an implementation plan, technical details, budget and timelines.
  5. An approval panel composed of representatives of the Ministry of Public Works, the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Marketing Association, relevant stakeholders from civil society , etc. affected communities, interact with the project team and possibly approve the plan after several iterations.

(At this point, the technicians take a step back and the policies come into play)

  • The following now becomes a political decision: i. whether or not to implement the plan, ii. when to implement iii, what percentage of the plan to fund, etc. After that, implementation begins according to the approved plan.

This process could take anywhere from six months to five years depending on the size of the proposed project, but in the case of market relocation it could be six months. This is the process. Its long, tedious, looks far ahead, considers everything but offers the best chance of solving development problems. This is how the theory and practice of development planning are conceived in universities. We have the expertise and local technicians to do it right here. It is only a matter of political will to get it right. This is the process that Nigerians used to design and move the capital of Nigeria from Lagos to Abuja in the 1980s. This is how the United Arab Emirates developed and implemented a plan to transform Dubai in 20 years. . This is how Rwanda put together a plan and transformed between 1994 and 2014. All of these changes and developments that we are seeing in the world around us have not just happened, they are not miracles, they are It is not because these countries are lucky or lucky that these development results have been deliberately planned and meticulously implemented. Unless I brave the storm, think sincerely about Liberia, stay focused on the big picture, move past quick fixes and the current political expansion, I’m afraid my dream will be just a dream. If we don’t make the change for the better now, we will all continue to look at other countries and ask ourselves’ when will Liberia be like this? It’s not rocket science, we know how to do it, we can learn to improve what we know, we can learn from those who have already done it. As for our robust case, for fear of sounding like “a prophet,” all I can say is that at this rate the new Omega market might turn out to be an even greater horror than Red- light and Duala combined in the next five years and we may have to move the new Omega market further down the road to Careysburg.

Having said that, I can now fall back to sleep and continue to dream of the new era, which may or may not come.

My two cents!


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