Thirteen buildings housing 82 families in the west Cairo district of Manshiet Nasser have been condemned after geologists confirmed they were on the pathway of potential rockslides.
Evacuated families have been moved to furnished housing in Moqattam’s Al-Asmarat district.
“Every now and then a rock slides from the mountain,” says Wafaa Hussein, 41, a resident of the area.
“This time, thank God, nobody was harmed, and the government took speedy action. They told me I will be relocated within days to Al-Asmarat. I don’t mind. Many of my neighbours have already been moved and I am waiting my turn.”
In 2008, and again in 2015, dozens of houses were flattened by rubble and tens of citizens killed in the neighbouring area of Duweiqa. The most recent rockslides have not yet resulted in any casualties, thanks largely to the fact the government has been moving residents to new housing away from the threatened shanty areas for several years.
The houses to which the 82 families from Manshiet Nasser are being moved were constructed by the Nasser Social Bank as a part of the relocation plan.
Informal Settlements Development Fund (ISDF) Manager Khaled Seddik says LE14 billion has been spent in the last two years to develop slum areas.
“The plan is to eradicate slums by 2030,” he says. Currently, there are 1,100 areas designated as slums in Egypt, and more than 300 in Greater Cairo. The city’s Manshiet Nasser district is one of the least safe areas in Egypt. There is the constant threat of landslides, and it has no running water, sewage system or electricity.
“We should all be rehoused soon, though I don’t know where,” says Sheikh Said, 45, a potter who owns a small workshop in the area. It is the workshop that is his major concern about relocating.
“It is the only thing I own. If I stop working for just one day we wouldn’t find anything to eat.”
ISDF helps identify and develop informal areas by providing basic facilities such as potable water, sanitation and electricity. It supervises urbanisation plans for slum areas, assessing, and where necessary, condemning, unsafe buildings, and encourages civil society organisations and the business sector to help develop informal slums.
“Developing Manshiet Nasser and Duweiqa involves demolishing houses and buildings deemed unsafe. Houses on the mountain’s edge have been demolished and the residents are being relocated. Other areas in Manshiet Nasser are being re-planned. We are building a sewage system, and electricity and potable water networks,” says Seddik.
According to Seddik, 130 slum areas have already been developed. Port Said will soon become the first city to be free of slum areas. By the end of 2019 80,000 housing units will be ready to take in residents, on top of the 215,000 new housing units already built.
SDF defines slums as either unplanned or unsafe areas. The latter are divided into four grades on the basis of the severity and type of danger they pose to residents, including environmental and geological factors (grade one); unsuitable shelters (grade two); exposure to industrial pollution, high-voltage power cables, or no access to potable water (grade three); and areas that include houses developed on state-owned land or property belonging to the Ministry of Religious Endowments (grade four).
Manshiet Nasser and Duweiqa are both classified as grade one areas.
Ministry of Housing Spokesman Hani Younis says an estimated 40 per cent of Cairo’s population live in informal settlements or slum areas, 75 per cent of urban areas across Egypt are unplanned and one per cent are deemed unsafe.
“The government has put LE20 billion into developing safer neighbourhoods and spent LE100 billion on 600,000 social housing units,” he says.
In 2014 President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi laid the foundation stone of phase one of Al-Asmarat district in Moqattam, a development of 6,300 residential ear-marked for residents of hazardous areas such as Duweiqa and Manshiet Nasser. Phase two of the project includes building 11,300 residential units, to which the ISDF and Ministry of Housing have contributed LE195 million.
For three decades the government has worked with international donors to provide informal areas with educational, health and social services.
“In 2015 the government allocated LE500 million to develop Manshiet Nasser, legalising the status of many residential buildings and improving their façades,” said Younis.
* A version of this article appears in print in the 7 February, 2019 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly under the headline: Safe relocation