The third phase of the Asmarat project to rehouse residents of slum areas was inaugurated this week. Home to 124 residential buildings with a total of 7,298 units, the project has been completed at a cost of LE1.75 billion.
The development, in southeastern Cairo, is one of the largest ever projects to rehouse residents from slum areas around Greater Cairo.
According to President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi “any Egyptian citizen who needs a housing unit will get one.” He said the government’s strategy since 2014 has been to provide direct support to the poorest so they can access housing.
Asmarat phase three buildings are nine storey’s high, with each housing 60 units of 63m2. The units are allocated to people who are living in structurally unsound buildings in slum areas, and are delivered fully finished in return for a modest rent.
Khaled Seddik, manager of the Slums Development Fund (SDF), says tackling the problem of slums has social, cultural, and environmental aspects.
“We need to give residents a chance for a better life, be it through providing appropriate housing or creating job opportunities that guarantees them a dignified life.”
“People who move from slum areas to Asmarat experience changes to their behaviour. They are no longer squabbling and fighting because they are busy working. The children have also changed after being enrolled in the nurseries of Asmarat where a spirit of discipline reins.”
Asmarat has a total of 18,000 residential units, is served by five nurseries, five medical centres, six malls and bakeries, a mosque, a church, and open sports fields. There is also a police station, a civil protection unit, three elementary schools in which 4,200 pupils are enrolled, a cultural palace, and a theatre.
“Asmarat is an integrated community, complete with services and utilities, that aims to improve the lives of residents of slums and give their children a better future,” says Ihab Hanafi, project coordinator at the fund.
There are 13 factories within Asmarat. One makes prayer beads that are exported to Saudi Arabia, and others produce ready-made garments and handmade carpets that for export to Europe. There is a technical institute that offers a diploma, in coordination with the private sector and the Ministry of Industry, in the design and manufacture of ready-made garments.
Asmarat offers a model for other projects intended to rehouse residents of slum areas, says Seddik.
The 357 slum areas nationwide that have been identified as posing a threat to their residents’ lives comprise one per cent of Egypt’s housing stock and are home to 1.2 million people.
Dangerous slums in 13 governorates have been eliminated so far, with 800,000 people relocated to 157,000 new residential units. Sixty-one dangerous slums are currently being redeveloped, and 65,000 residential units are under construction, Minister of Housing Assem Al-Gazzar recently said on television. He added that the cost of eliminating dangerous slums is estimated at LE61 billion until the end of 2020.
Developing slums, says Seddik, is not only about constructing residential units. Some areas suffer from dangerously high levels of industrial pollution. In such cases, he says, rather than relocate residents, the ministries of environment and industry are coordinating efforts to solve the problem of industrial waste.
In east Cairo there are areas where residential buildings have been constructed near to high voltage power lines. “This is a grave hazard to residents’ health and so the Ministry of Electricity and the Cairo governorate are cooperating to replace the towers with underground electric cables,” says Seddik.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 16 July, 2020 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly