Egypt announces plan to redevelop 82 villages and 18 cities this year

Egypt announces plan to redevelop 82 villages and 18 cities this year

Egypt’s Ministry of Planning and Local Development announced a redevelopment plan for 82 villages and 18 cities, to curb the spread of unofficial settlements and reduce migration from the country’s rural provinces to its urban centres.

The ministry will partner with the Armed Forces’ Engineering Authority to introduce the redevelopment.

The plan, announced by the ministry on Wednesday night, aims to provide adequate housing for residents of particularly underdeveloped areas of the country, increase job opportunities in those areas and encourage real estate investment.

It also intends to organise and regulate construction activities in the included areas as well as allocating which land can be built on and which must be left empty for agricultural use.

Illegal construction on viable agricultural land is a common occurrence in Egypt.

The government launched a widespread crackdown a few years ago that resulted in steep fines being levied against offenders and the demolition of more than 6,000 structures by the military in 2020.

The areas earmarked for redevelopment under the new plan comprise dozens of rural villages in various parts of Egypt, whose residents are among the country’s neediest.

However, several large, lower-income urban centres such as Beni Suef, Fayed and Farafra will also be redeveloped.

While most of the areas announced are in provinces outside Cairo, the Greater Cairo areas of Al Ayat and Monshaet Al Qanater are also included.

The government has repeatedly replanned parts of the country and, at times, relocated residents to new cities constructed during the past 10 years as part of President Abdel Fattah El Sisi’s administration’s high-octane urban development plan.

Residents living near ancient heritage sites, particularly in various parts of Islamic Cairo, a densely populated area near the city centre that houses some of the oldest Islamic, Coptic and Jewish relics in Egypt, have been relocated to make way for tourism projects.

Construction on 30 new cities has been under way since 2014, Egypt’s housing minister Assem El Gazzar said in December during the launch of the first phase of New Mansoura, a new city erected in the Nile Delta on the Mediterranean coast.

Mr El Gazzar said new developments were essential to absorb Egypt’s growing population, which the government has repeatedly said is one of the country’s main challenges.

However, the new urban planning projects have not always met with approval from Egyptians.

On January 31, Prime Minister Moustafa Madbouly approved the replanning of about 700 hectares of land on Cairo’s Nile front by the Supreme Council for Planning and Urban Development, a government coalition made up of cabinet ministries and armed forces authorities.

Cabinet spokesman Nader Saad said the replanning was done to “maximise utility of state-owned lands”.

The replanning drew ire from rights groups concerned that the move would limit Egyptians’ access to the Nile, which they said belonged to all Egyptians equally, something they said was enshrined in law.

Of the Nilefront lands replanned by the council was a stretch of the affluent district of Zamalek. The area in question, near the area’s historic Marriot hotel, has been undergoing development for past two years that removed much of the greenery.

A protest by the district’s residents was held in December to decry the removal of several decades-old trees. It was attended by three former ministers, all of whom are Zamalek residents.

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