Journal of Environmental Protection, 2010, 1, 15-23
doi:10.4236/jep.2010.11003 Published Online March 2010 (
Copyright © 2010 SciRes JEP
Environmental Consequences of Rapid Urbanisation:
Bamenda City, Cameroon
Emmanuel M. Nyambod
Department of Human Ecology, Vrije Universiteit Brussels, Brussels, Belgium.
Received December 21st, 2009; revised February 27th, 2010; accepted February 28th, 2010.
Human settlement conditions in many parts of the world, particularly the developing countries, are deteriorating. Natu-
ral hazards now occur right at our door steps and the frequency of occurrence and magnitude of damages that they
cause is seen to be on an increa se especially in poor urban co mmunities. The natural environmen t is deteriorating at a
rate faster than the rate at which natural occurring processes and resources available within the environment can re-
plenish. If left unabated, landslides, flooding, sporadic fire outbreaks, collapse of major road axis, houses and bridges
have the potential of plunging urban centre’s into an abyss of environmental chaos. This paper chooses Bamenda city-
Cameroon, a rapidly expanding city in the third world as an example. The paper therefore assesses the overall situation
of deteriorating urban qua lity by randomly selecting some of the quarters within Bamen da city that are generally con-
sidered as hazard prone. It was noticed that deteriorating urban quality stems from the phenomenon of rural exodus.
The situation is further exacerbated by inappropriate systems of land administration, poverty and an overall anarchy
and ignorance in the handling of environmental issues. This paper therefore calls for a multidisciplinary and holistic
range of approaches to solving present day environmental hazards of Bamenda. It calls for the adoption of modern
technology and the systematization of the processes of land acquisition and registration especially at state and local
government levels.
Keywords: Bamenda City, Hazards, Environment, Flooding, Landslide
1. Introduction
The word “u rbanization” refer s to an increase in the pro -
portion of national or regional population living in cities
[1]. For the f irst six thousand years of urb an life, no soci-
ety was long able to maintain an urban percentage greater
than from 5 to 10 percent. Starting in late eighteenth-
century England, however, one nation after another ex-
perienced an accelerating shift from rural to urban popu-
lation. After several generations of rapid urbanization,
the process leveled off toward a new equilibrium in
which about three-quarters of the population lived in
cities and many of the rest pursued city-related activities
in smaller towns.
Chapter 7 of Agenda 21 acknowledges the fact that
human settlement conditions in many parts of the world,
particularly the developing countries, are deteriorating
mainly as a result of the low levels of investment in the
sector attributable to the overall resource constraints in
these countries. The natural environment of Bamenda is
deteriorating at a rate faster than the rate at which natural
occurring processes and resources available within the
environment can replenish.
Emerging as a city in the colonial days of the British,
French and Germans from around 19th century, Bamenda
has transcended from being a traditional monoculture
village to becoming a complex heterogeneous city offer-
ing many services to its inhabitants as well as to its hin-
terland. Besides hosting the headquarters of the North
West region and thereby serving as the socioeconomic
nerve wire of the region, it serves as a pivot to major
political, religious and cultural happenings in Cameroon.
Bamenda is located at a cross route linking cities in
neighboring Nigeria such as Enugu and Calabar to the
economic and capital cities of Douala and Yaounde re-
The numerous services offered in Bamenda have
somehow encouraged rural exodus and accelerated the
urbanization process of Bamenda. People; especially the
youthful folk migrate into Bamenda in search of jobs and
scholarly pursue. This net flow of population within the
recent past has not been compensated for by an increase
of or improvement in social infrastructure. The demand
for low cost housing and social amenities such as roads,
waste disposal sites, water as well as landed property has
noticed an exponential increase since the 1980s. Varied
Environmental Consequences of Rapid Urbanisation: Bamenda City, Cameroon
Copyright © 2010 SciRes JEP
forms of housing developments that are dependent on
miniature, inaccessible and undulating footpaths have led
to a situation of urban sprawl and an overall deterioration
in the scenic beauty of Bamenda city. The devaluation of
the CFA currency by 50% in the 1990s, increase in the
price of building materials and a general increase in cost
of a square foot of land have led to a situation of uncon-
trolled and illegal occupancy and an overall disorderli-
ness in civil life as people are now seen to occupy high
risk hill slope systems and swampy valleys more than
ever before.
The gradual but steady encroachment of population
onto high risk soon is characterized by the erection of
unplanned buildings (no building permits) of very low
quality standards. Such lands are known to be about 300
times cheaper than properly located pieces of land within
the city. The acquisition of such land is usually through
mere land agreement and not through the complicated,
expensive, bureaucratic and time consuming land title
acquisition procedure whose cost could well be more
than a hundred times higher than the value of land in
such unstable zones. As a consequence to the above, the
city of Bamenda is witnessing an ever increasing high in
the number of natural hazards, which very often claim
lives; a situation which if left unabated could plunge the
city into an abyss of widening urban instability and
The situation of urban hazard within this millennium
appears to be different in scope and magnitude. Not only
do such hazards occur frequently, but they are seen to
occur with even greater intensity and at threatening
scales seen to be dangerous to the very existence of man
and to the disruption of a onetime ecologically balanced
complex. The situation within the city of Bamenda is that
which beck for an answer as the incidence of flash
flooding, mudflow, landslides, fire disasters, and sheet
and gulley erosion are on a disheartening increase in the
phase of a rapidly expanding human numbers. Ensuing
natural hazards that occur due to man’s disruption of the
geomorphic processes are that which man himself can’t
prevent from occurring. They are certainly inevitable and
man has a price to pay.
The one time physical environment of Bamenda that
knew little or no stress in the 60’s has seen the progres-
sive replacement of pre-existing vegetation with build-
ings and pavements of varying degree and quality. In as
much as this change is seen as man’s quest to improve on
his immediate environment with the desire to lead a more
comfortable life, there is need for such change to follow
a planned and comprehensive pattern that can still stand
the taste of time in generations to come. This paper calls
for the adoption of a multidisciplinary approach in the
planning of present day Bamenda. Bamenda, the metro-
politan centre of the North West Region has a pano ramic
and well-drained natural site. In spite of the existing
largely unplanned urban development, it could be re-
planned, upgraded and systematically extended to offer a
beautiful, healthy, safe, secured, comfortable, convenient
and functional living environment which provides equi-
table opportunities to all its inhabitants. To do this, the
current situation where private interest over land com-
pletely dominates public interest has to be reversed
without necessarily undermining the former.
2. Objectives and Hypothesis of the Study
The aim of this study is to point out the peculiarities
about urban catastrophe in Bamenda. The main objec-
tives that this research aimed to achieve were the fol-
To show the extent to which haphazard urban de-
velopment planning provokes and is prone to the
occurrence and effects of urban environmental haz-
To make an assessment of peoples perception of
urban environmental hazards in Bamenda
To propose appropriate ways in which urban envi-
ronmental hazards in Bamenda could be checked.
3. Hypothesis
Rapid urbanization does not lead to urban environmental
4. Statement of the Problem
Bamenda city has seen the progressive deterioration in its
environmental quality as a result of rapid and unplanned
urbanization that took off since the early 80’s. There has
thus been an upwards surge in the frequency of occur-
rence of natural hazards within the environment which if
left unabated have the potential of plunging Bamenda
into an abyss of environmental chaos. Landslides, flood-
ing, sporadic fire outbreaks, collapse of major road axis,
houses and bridges are thus on an ever increasing high.
There is thus a rising need for concrete environmental
management plans that can meet the taste of time in the
short, medium and long term for present day Bamenda.
At the same time the environmental implications of ur-
ban development should be recognized and addressed in
an integrated fashion by all countries, with high priority
being given to the needs of the urban and rural poor, the
unemployed and the growing number of people without
any source of income [2].
5. Conceptual Framework
In the developing world most especially, high birth rate
within the surrounding hinterland and within an urban
sector leads to deterioration in living condition and pres-
sure on rural resources. In a quest to find a way out of
this dilemma people often migrate to the cities where
they hope to better their living conditions. This more
Environmental Consequences of Rapid Urbanisation: Bamenda City, Cameroon
Copyright © 2010 SciRes JEP
often than not leads to overcrowding and the develop-
ment of shanks and squatters within the urban built with
attendant deterioration in urban environmental quality.
Figure 1 below shows the intricate link between rising
urban population and urban environmental quality prob-
6. Methodology
6.1 Primary Data
Questionnaires, historical linings, interview, visual
appreciation through pictures were used to collect raw
data from the field. The city of Bamenda was classified
into highly prone, moderately prone and least prone
quarters with respect to the occurrence of natural haz-
ards following some critical satellite interpretation ex-
ercise. Flood prone areas were digitized using Arc
View GIS 3.2. For the purpose of sustainable manage-
ment of the built environment, the researcher saw the
need to concentrate more on four quarters classified as
highly prone- Abangoh, Sisia, New layout Nkwen,
Ngohmgham and Mulang. These quarters were further
broken down into two categories. Category one quar-
ters relate to quarters that have been earmarked for
demolition and rehabilitation by the state. These in-
clude part of Abangoh, Sisia and New layout Nkwen.
These quarters have sudden and localized hazards
whose occurrence more often than not provokes the
attention of public authority. Category two quarters
refers to quarters whose hazards though recurrent ap-
pear to vary in nature and are delocalised (Ngohmgham
and Mulang). Digitised data of habitat swamps and
contour lines were superimposed using geo-informatics
layering concept to further concretize this categoriza-
Twenty questionnaires were administered to each of
the quarters that make up the respective categories. The
questionnaires comprised of short structured questions to
which responden ts were asked to make a choice between
“Yes” or “No”. Responden ts equally had to provid e short
answers in some cases for clarification. The responses
that ensued were then coded and introduced into statisti-
cal packages such as excel and SPSS. In this way some
results were obtained, presented in the form of graph;
reflecting the actual situation on the ground. From this
some recommendations that to lead to an amelioration of
the existing situation were given.
Figure 1. Urbanization and urban e nviro nme ntal problems
High Birth rate
in rural areas
Rural Exodus
Over population
and overcrowding
in urban sect o
Development of shanks
and slumps
Land, stream and air pollution
Green house gas
of fire
urban road
Draw up and ensure a strict follow up of
comprehensive and integrated urban man-
agement plan
Environmental Consequences of Rapid Urbanisation: Bamenda City, Cameroon
Copyright © 2010 SciRes JEP
Two interviews were held with the indigenes selected
from the aging and young folks. This was recorded on a
tape recorder with the prime objective of gathering cross
generational perspectives abou t prevailing environmental
problems in Bamenda.
6.2 Secondary Sources of Data
Secondary data was gathered through literature review
and from data obtained from ministerial delegations op-
erating within the city of Bamenda. Some materials were
equally downloaded from the “web of knowledge” data
base of Vrije Universiteit Bru ssels
BIBLIO/ubwebsite_database_alpha_en.html#W by using
key words such as urban environmental problems and
causes of urban growth. The Human Ecology library of
Vrije Universiteit Brussels was equally used to collect
some information from books.
7. Urban Growth Patterns
7.1 Global Pattern
The 21st century is the Century of the City. Half of the
world’s population already lives in urban areas and by
the middle of this century; most regions of the develop-
ing world will be predominantly urban [3]. Cities are
perhaps one of humanity’s most complex creations,
never finished, never definitive. They are like a journey
that never ends [3]. Cities drive national economies by
creating wealth, enhancing social development and pro-
viding employment but they can also be the breeding
grounds for poverty, exclusion and environmental deg-
In some regions of the world, the urban transition
occurred decades ago, in the 1950s and 1960s, if not
earlier. More than 70 per cent of the populations of
Europe, North America and Latin America are already
urban; Asia and Africa remain predominately rural,
with 40 per cent and 38 per cent of their populations
living in urban areas, respectively. However, if current
trends continue, half of Africa’s population will be
urban by 2050. In Asia, the urban transition will occur
even earlier, owing to rapid urban growth rates in
China, a country that is expected to be more than 70
per cent urban by 2050. Urban growth rates in India
will be slower; by 2050, 55 per cent of its population,
or 900 million people, will live in cities. Globally, ur-
banization levels will rise dramatically in the next 40
years to 70 per cent by 2050.
Every day, 193,107 new city dwellers are ad ded to the
world’s urban population, which translates to slightly
more than two people every second [3]. But not all re-
gions are affected by this growth in the same way or on
the same scale. In developed nations, the total increase in
urban population per month is 500,000, compared to 5
million in the developing world. In terms of absolute
numbers, the growth of cities in the developing world is
ten times that of cities in the global North. Annually,
cities in the developing world grew at a rate of 2.5 per
cent in the 1990s, compared to an annual growth rate of
0.3 per cent in the developed world [3].
Harmony in cities cannot be achieved if the price of
urban living is paid by the environment. Harmony within
cities hinges not only on prosperity and its attendant
benefits, but on two pillars that make harmony possible:
equity and sustainability.
Migration is necessary for the growth and develop-
ment of nowadays societies, but also detrimental when
rural-urban flows exceed the absorptive capacity of
towns, leading to a degraded kind of human settlement
called “slum”,. Urban growth rates are thus highest in
the developing world, which absorbs an average of 5
million new urban residents every month and is re-
sponsible for 95 per cent of the world’s urban popula-
tion growth [3]. The problems of poverty and depriva-
tion in rural areas and their spill-over into urban areas
cannot be solved by preventing urbanization and keep-
ing rural people confined to rural areas-which would be
impossible in any event [4].
7.2 Socio Demographic Characteristic and
Spatial Evolution of Bamenda
Bamenda center already stretched beyond Old Town in
the early 1980’s. This area also known by the name
Ntambag II and III experienced a high population bump
as was the case with quarters like Azire, Musang,
Mougheb and Bayel. GRA was moderately inhabited.
The newly occupied areas were amongst others
Ntarikon, Nitop, Atuakom, Ngomgham, Ntambesi and
Mendankwe. The development of Bamenda happened
very quickly over th e last two decad es. This grow th was
in every sense profoundly alters the cityscape. From
1982 to 1992, the spatial evolution was in the low den-
sity neighbourhoods inhabited in 1982. Accessibility
has also played an important role in extending the city
Opening Many secondary roads has encouraged the
extension of linear habitat around these roads. Since
1992, the urban area of Bamenda has continued to
spread in all directions: the north-west it extends to
Alamatu, crossing the north-east to Mulanga and
Ntenefor to six Nkwen Mile. Ntatru, Atuakom, high
Ngomgham, bayel III, IV and Sisia Abangoh. The area
now known GRA extension, with part of Mendankwe
now incorporated in the urban space.
Environmental Consequences of Rapid Urbanisation: Bamenda City, Cameroon
Copyright © 2010 SciRes JEP
Table 1. Evolution of population – Bamenda
Years Population Growth rate
1976 47.955
1987 110.692 7.9
1992 148.812 6.04
1997 199.496 4.67
2003 249.489
2005 298.300
2007 302749
Source: Adapted from MINDU Bamenda (2 0 07).
P2007 =P97 (1-r/100) n-1, P2005= Population in 2005, P97= Popula-
tion in 1997, n = number of years in between 1997-2007, r = Population
growth rate
8. The Natural Environment of Bamenda
The city of Bamenda was chosen for this study because
of the peculiarity of its physical environment on the one
hand and its susceptibility to natural hazards on the
other. The Bamenda station escarpment has an impos-
ing characteristic has transformed the morphology of
Bamenda city. Bamenda could be divided into an upper
and lower half. The upper half known as Up-station lies
at 1455m above sea level and is host of the administra-
tive and government residential area (GRA). The lower
half of Bamenda lies between 1330m above sea level
around Sisia quarter to a height of 1200m around Lower
Ngomgham quarter. Up-station is separated from down
town Bamenda by an abrupt escarpment. This abrupt
gradient difference of 255m between Up-station and
Lower Ngomgham could permit an easy and steady
discharge of runoff into river courses under natural
conditions should the natural ecology be left undis-
turbed by human activities.
9. Results and Discussion
9.1 Land Tenure System
The present state of urban development in Bamenda
could best be understood with recur to land admini-
stration practices that transcend to colonial days. Most
land in sub-Saharan Africa has no registration of who
owns it or has rights to use it. Various new initiatives
are underway to address this, in the belief that land
registration and titling can promote investment, reduce
poverty and encourage better natural-resource man-
agement [5].
The rapid and unplanned growth of the Bamenda
urban space is having huge repercussions on the envi-
ronment and resource processes in the rural hinterland
and on the regional economy in general. Bamenda
region provides a good illustration of the impact that
urbanization can have on the rural landscape and
economy [6].
9.2 Environmental Problems Emanating from
Rapid Urbanization
9.2.1 Floods
Natural hazards in the form of flash floods are very
common within Bamenda. Given the increased rate at
which surfaces are being paved, new houses constructed
and stream channels distorted and reduced in width span,
flooding now features top on the list of natural hazards
within Bamenda. There are a total of 48.8km of tarred
primary and secondary roads in Bamenda. In the recent
past, floods has taken away scores of souls, damaged
roads and buildings and above all other properties of
economic value have been reduced to bear zero within
the twinkle of an eye.
Although one might argue that from the point of view
of earthquake build ing risk, the system is relatively good,
unfortunately it must be noted that there is hardly any
building regulation which applies to floods [7]. Inhabi-
tants in certain quarters in Bamenda are beginning to
notice failures in their architectural design of their
These areas are built along and across the confluence
of a centripetal drainage network that drains all the flood
waters generated over the entire city of Bamenda. More
than 90% of resp ondent living within flood affected area
declared that they are always afraid of heavy rains and
are very willing to quit their present residence for a new
one should the government provide them necessary fi-
nance and site for them to relocate. Inhabitants are aware
of the dangers that come with their living in such flood
prone areas but lack the financial and material means to
afford for a new site elsewhere. As a coping strategy to
the floods in Bamenda, more than 70% of inhabitants
within these flood areas have resorted to the pu tting sand
in bags to block advancing water during floods, others
use buckets to send out water from homes after flooding
while the well to do afford to raise their foundations to an
appreciable height that “might” not be attained by flood
waters. Some of them even declare: “flood has caused a
lot of destruction to our properties, making life a living
hell in Bamenda”. The table below shows some of the
losses incurred through urban environmental hazards in
Bamenda in the recent past.
There were plans by the Bamenda city authority to
rehabilitate and raise the height of bridges along major
roads axis that are prone to flooding after heavy rains.
As if to make things worse, bridges constructed are just
a miniature and are still unable handle huge volumes of
water after heavy rains. The reasons to this dilemma
could be twofold: misappropriation of funds allocated
for engineering projects by unscrupulous contractors or
an increase tendency of the population to deposit waste
into river courses resulting in heavy river load after
Environmental Consequences of Rapid Urbanisation: Bamenda City, Cameroon
Copyright © 2010 SciRes JEP
Table 2. Impact of environmental hazards emanating from
rapid urbanisation: Bamenda
Landslide and mud flow
Quarters Damages Year
Up-Station Traffic arrest on major high way
for about 24 hours 4th/08/2009
Sisia One death, two seriously injured 4th/08/2009
Abangoh Three deaths 2007
Anindoh Collapse of bridge on major national
highway 7th/08/2009
Mulang Two death 2006
Ngomgham Houses and properties Annual
Nitop I Houses and properties Annual
II and III Houses and properties Annual
Ntaturu One death 2007
Mougheb Swept away 700 bags of 50 kg rice,
One death 2007
Azire Houses and properties Annual
Source: Field data, 2009
As a consequence of the above, bridges still under re-
habilitation are already proving their incapacity to be
able to retain the vast volume of water generated from
paved sur fa ce and ro of of buil dings afte r h eavy rai ns.
9.2.2 Subsidence/Collapse of Bridges
Subsidence is very common with in quarters like Atuazire.
Since 2004, most residents of Atuazire have noticed a
progressive up serge of water in the form of spring from
underneath their foundations. It has now done on this
group of people that the onetime stable pond ecosystem
whose bed was filled with soil and rocks of varied tex-
ture and resistance could pose as potential hazards during
present day more than it was about 20 years ago when
this area began noticing a progressive encroachment man
and his construction works on this ecologically fragile
environment. During a field survey and interview session
the researcher could notice tilted imposing cracked walls.
Many a building have been brought down as a result of
the inability of the underlying clay and cretaceous soil
materials that once was under pond conditions to resist
huge masses of blocks pilled to appreciable heights.
It has been estimated from field survey that if some-
thing is not done and done fast, the number of houses
that shall continue to suffer from subsidence within Atu-
Azire quarter shall keep increasing with increase rainfall
and wetness of the basement rocks.
Figure 2. Floods areas in Bamenda
Current Distortion Evaluation in Traction 4Q Constant Switching Frequency Converters
Copyright © 2010 SciRes JEP
9.2.3 Landslides
Landslide is fast becoming one of the major environ-
mental problems in Bamenda that come about as a result
of the rapid urbanization. Landslide is seen to occur in
the heart of the rainy season i.e. between the months
of July and September with rainfall varying between
340 mm and 450 mm. Landslide in Bamenda is thus pro-
voked by rapid urban development resulting from pro-
gressive occupancy of steeper slopes adapted by cutting
terrace-like areas and re-distributing materials in order to
provide building sites. Heavy rains have the tendency to
soak and dislodge large rock masses sometimes resulting
in the complete crushing or burial of an entire housing
Mean values were used to represent the results ob-
tained from the questionnaires that were administered to
twenty randomly selected respondents in each of the
quarters sampled. Respondent identified landslide and
land subsidence to be more common in Abangoh and
Sisia quarters while flooding was seen to be more com-
mon with New Layout Nkwen, Ngohmgham and Mulang
quarters (Figure 3). In the same vein, fire disaster was
identified as an emerging urban hazard in Bamenda with
its occurrence more rampant during the dry season peri-
9.2.4 Fire Disaster
Sporadic outbreak of fire especially during the dry sea-
son is fast gaining grounds to becoming a very serious
environmental problem emanating from rapid urbaniza-
tion. Statistics from the army rescue unit indicated that
the number of fire outbreaks per year has passed from 10
in 2006 to 59 in 2008 (Table 3 below).
The Kyoto Protocol, the international climate change
agreement finalized in Marrakech in 2001 lists six
greenhouse gases (or groups of gases) whose emissions
signatories to the Protocol agree to reduce. These gases
include: Carbon dioxide (CO2), Methane (CH4), Nitrous
Source: Field data
Figure 3. Urban natural hazards – Bamenda
Table 3. Fire disaster and other urbanization problems
Activity 2006 2007 2008
False calls 4 14 12
Fire 10 34 59
Relief victims 24 51 114
Traffic accidents 2 15 19
Assistance to people 4 13 14
Water, gas, a nd electricity 0 1 0
Protection of property 0 0 3
Drowning 2 4 3
Source: Army rescue unitBamenda.
Oxide (N2O), Fluorocarbons (including hydro fluoro-
carbons (HFCs) and perfluorocarbons (PFCs)), Sulfur
hexaflu oride (SF6).
Many of these gases come from natural sources. When
fire out breaks thus occurs, there is the release of an ap-
preciable quantity of green house gases into the atmos-
phere further compounding the phenomenon of climate
change which is already being felt within and around
Bamenda. CO2 and other green house gases such as
methane and N2O are released in vast proportions during
such incidence.
9.3 The Mystery behind Natural Hazards
The natural environment of Bamenda has been over-
stressed as a result of high population pressure on land.
Environmental hazards provoked by rapid urbanization
don’t show signs of warning before their outburst. They
are all too sudden and their impact on the inhabitants
living within and without its area of occurrence cannot
be underestimated. The first few days of the month of
August i.e. 4th–10th August 2009 were characterized by
sporadic outburst of natural environmental hazards
within the city of Bamenda. Environmental experts will
be quick to say Bamenda had exceeded its carrying ca-
pacity. Geologists and Geographers will definitely have
their own site of the story: there has been the percolation
and progressive upwelling of soil top layer due to water
accumulation from heavy rains.
Given the uncertainty that looms, we must not forget
the fact that the indigenes have their own part of the
story. To this effect therefore:
Major road in the heart of the city linking the
Business District (CBD) to the administrative cen-
tre was attacked by landslide (4th August 2009,
Figure 4), few day later and about 4 km away from
the landslide area, Major bridge linking the North
West region to the rest of the country collapsed, 7th
Mean Values
New Layout Nkwen
Hazard Stri ken Quarters
Environmental Problems of Rapid Urbanisation in Bamenda
Lands lides
Fl oods
Land Subs i dence
Fire Disaster
Environmental Consequences of Rapid Urbanisation: Bamenda City, Cameroon
Copyright © 2010 SciRes JEP
August 2009.
Within the same days, at the foot of the Bamenda
station escarpment, a major landslide occurred kill-
ing a child and completely engulfing a housing unit
into its bosom.
As if that were not enough, some major incidence
of flooding and destruction of properties were re-
ported in many parts of the city.
The bridge collapse and landslide along the major road
axis brought untold suffering to people travelling into
and out of the city of Bamenda. This saw the transporta-
tion of corpses over and across the natural barriers by
porters, people trekked in mud, commercial and private
vehicles were grounded because of lack of fuel supply
and above all people missed their appointments. These
natural environmental hazards drew the attention of both
national and international press organs. It then began to
done on the people of Bamenda that “the God’s have
forgotten them.
Indigenous people put the blame on engineers for fail-
ing to respect and apiece the “Gods” of the land before
and after major construction works. In the construction
of the backward retaining wall, two anonymous indi-
genes recounted:
If one were to go by the fact that the frequency of en-
vironmental hazards in present day Bamenda is on an
increase and hasn’t been equaled by any in the histor y of
Bamenda, and also by the fact that the population of
Bamenda has increased from 110.692 people in 1987 to a
projected high of 302749 people by 2007, then one might
be tempted to believe that rapid urbanization stimulates
the occurrence of environmental hazards. With this in
mind therefore the null hypothesis is accepted.
10. Sustainable Cities: Meeting the
Millennium Development Goal
The lack of improved sanitation and water facilities are
two of the four defining characteristics of urban slums.
The others are durable housing and sufficient liv ing area.
In 2005, slightly more than one third of the urban popu-
lation in developing regions lived in slum conditions; in
sub-Saharan Africa, the proportion was over 60 per cent
[8]. It is particularly ironic that the battle to save the
world’s remaining healthy ecosystems will be won or
lost not in tropical forests or coral reefs that are threat-
ened but on the streets of the most unnatural landscapes
on the planet [9]. In today’s risk adverse society, com-
munities are expected to identify geo-hazards that affect
their existing and planned developments and infrastruc-
ture and prepare zoning maps based on these geo-hazards,
as part of their infrastructure risk management and
emergency response planning [10].
Simple, low-cost interventions to correct these specific
Source: Field data 2009
Figure 4. Landslide on the Bamenda station escar pme nt
Anonymous indigene aged 29 years:
“Look at that forest over there. That is where the
“God’s” of this quarter reside. The time has come
for the engineers who constructed this backward
retaining wall (Figure 7) to know that our God is
not someone you can joke with and go scotch free.
Before the engineers could begin working on that
site we advised them to bring some money and
drinks and food for our Gods to be apiece. They
hesitated now look at what this is costing them and
the government. To site you an example, that this
black forest is not a forest to joke with. Some few
years back, I was doing laundry in this same
stream that has swept away the bridge. I suddenly
noticed a sound in the forest. It appeared as if
there was something in the forest moving slowly
but steadily towards my direction. Little did I
know what was happening? I suddenly saw a huge
volume of water rushing towards me. That was
floods waters from coming from no where since
there were no signs of rains around Bamenda on
that faithful day. So I think it’s high time these
engineers involved the local community in the
planning of their projects”.
Anonymous indigene aged 71 years:
“I was born in this town and have lived here all my
live. The magnitude of the environmental hazards
that have occurred during the past couple of days
in this city hasn’t been equaled by any since I was
born. Perhaps it could be because of the high
population in this city these days. But all the same
we must not forget the fact that the “Gods” of the
Environmental Consequences of Rapid Urbanisation: Bamenda City, Cameroon
Copyright © 2010 SciRes JEP
deficiencies would go a long way towards improving the
lives of many slums dwellers.
11. Recommendation
Culshaw [11] calls for an enhanced understanding of
ground conditions to better define hazard zoning in urban
environments, linking hazard, infrastructure and risk, and
an improved recognition where mitigation is required.
The following key poin t need to be taken into con sidera-
tion when drawing up urban management plans in an
effort to eradicate the environmental consequences of
urbanization in a third world city like Bamenda.
Develop building and population risk zonation.
This building risk map from the point of view of
reduction, the building risk map highlights the areas
where building re-strengthening or demolition
works are necessary.
A system that combines economic incentives (e.g.
Lower construction permit fees or annual property
taxes) to develop medium-rise housing using par-
ticular structural systems together with educational
Government institutions should ensure that the
population understands that they are both victims
and contributors of environmental problems.
Architects, urban planners and engineers need to
cooperate in order to develop projects that not only
fulfill its objectives in terms of flood levels [12]
reduction but also consider other needs of local
communities and the urban poor.
Since urban flash flooding is one of the most press-
ing environmental problems in Bamenda, canals
and bridges should be constructed with widening
ends and not with tapering ends . Such is an applica-
tion of urban geomorphology and hydrology to city
engineering practice.
The use of distributed storage and on-site control tech-
niques are usually cheaper than traditional approaches of
enlargement of the drainage net [13]. In this way, devel-
oping countries, where significant investment capability
restrictions is a reality, should make an effort to use these
kind of solutions more frequently in post-event engi-
neering constructions. One of the proposed actions con-
sists in the possibility of re-urbanization of public
squares to work as temporary detention reservoirs. Maps
therefore seem to be the chosen interface for transferring
information from geomorphologists to engineers and
planners [13].
A combination of indigenous approaches to hazard
management and technical appraisal by engineers is
therefore necessary in the analysis and mitigation of haz-
ards within Bamenda. There is need for a multidiscipli-
nary research and action into the current problems of
12. Conclusions
At the confluence of high birth rate and unplanned/rapid
urban development lie the devastating consequences of
urban environmental hazards. Such hazards have been
seen to be on an increase and the degree and losses both
of life and property increase with increase in the propor-
tion of the rural poor who flood the town each day in
quest for a better living. There is need for a change of
mentality of the Bamenda man towards an awareness
that the environment has its carrying capacity and when
over stretched could lead devastating respond in an un-
desirable manner. The time to re-planning and reshaping
the urban spatial structures of Bamenda is now if this
city is to evade greater catastrophe in the pipeline.
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