Maadi residents' protests against El-Gazaer axis presented in parliament

Abdelaziz Abouelkhair, Friday 16 Jul 2021

Inside Maadi
a Maadi street in Cairo (Photo:Zeinab El-Gundy)

While Egypt’s road construction boom has eased traffic jams around the country, the costs of the construction are being paid by residents of the areas where construction is taking place.

In quiet areas like Heliopolis and Nasr City, road construction has brought controversy over aesthetic appeal of neighbourhoods. This has reached the point where residents have started to protest and petition against, for example, the building of a bridge above the Basilica Cathedral in Heliopolis, which has priceless historic significance.

In some cases, residents lost, such as in the case of the new metro line construction in Zamalek where some residents were forced to evacuate their homes due to their proximity to the excavation.

However, after a general outcry from Cairo’s Maadi district concerning the construction of the El-Gazaer highway (aka axis), MP Maha Abdel Naaser submitted a briefing request on Tuesday to the House of Representatives speaker, the prime minister, minister of transport and minister of culture concerning the effect of the construction on the environment.

The MP and member of the Egyptian social democratic party presented several arguments against the construction of the planned highway in her briefing request, including how the excessive number of demolitions would ruin the aesthetic appeal of the neighbourhood and take down trees that are nearly 100 years old.

The highway will increase the speed of cars in the upscale neighbourhood, which will make it impossible to walk or ride a bike in the already narrow streets of Maadi, which will cause more traffic jams.

All of these arguments, said Abdel Nasser, will tear the urban fabric of the region in a direct violation to Part Two on Urban Coordination in Law No. 119 of 2008.

With respect to areas with distinct value, such as Maadi, the law states: “It is prohibited to do any construction in public and open spaces or streets and squares within the region that interferes with the visual facade of the region such as pedestrian bridges, car overpasses or advertisements and the guiding signs crossing streets and squares,”

“It is also prohibited to remove, whether for the purpose of construction or any other purpose, any green areas or gardens, whether private or public, or change their use. The character of the neighbourhood must be preserved,” MP Maha Abdel Nasser added in her briefing request.

The briefing request comes after significant backlash from Maadi residents on social media in opposition to the construction of the El-Gazaer highway, maintaining that it ruins the visual appeal of the area and will cause overcrowding.

Maadi residents have shared online petitions urging the Egyptian government and Cairo Governorate to abandon their plan in Maadi, or to choose other routes outside Maadi, with alternative suggestions drafted by engineers showing those routes and how a win-win situation can be reached.

Hashtags like #Maadi_rejects_axis in Arabic have been top trending on both Facebook and Twitter with pleas to stop the project in the past couple of days.

Another major concern is the danger the highway poses to the livelihood of florists who work in Maadi’s gardens and flower nurseries, such as those on street 250, which would be covered by the planned highway.

According to one of the workers from a flower nursery on this street, who spoke with Ahram Online on Wednesday, the florists and nursery owners have not officially received an order to evacuate, but have heard informal word-of-mouth that leaves their fate in limbo.

“So far we continue our business till we get an official documented notification from the governorate or the district,” he added, telling Ahram Online that this afternoon a new delivery of exotic plants was coming to the nursery.

Maadi residents have aired their grievances on social media, explaining that florists now have to sell at a discounted rate as they cannot store the flowers outside of the gardens and need to sell them before the highway is built.

Many Maadi residents have taken the matter of supporting these businessess into their own hands and started buying flowers in bulk to support the florists who have lived in Maadi for decades.

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