Egypt: Improving informal lives

Ahmed Abdel-Hafez, Friday 21 Aug 2020

The government is pursuing a massive strategy to improve the quality of life for people living in the country’s informal areas

Improving informal lives
Informal settlements are inhabited by 22 million people (photo: Reuters)

Egypt will be free of dangerous informal housing areas by the end of the year, making safe the lives of the 1.2 million people who currently live in such areas, the government has said in its massive strategy to improve their quality of life.

Improving the quality of life of residents of such informal settlements is the role of the Informal Settlements Development Fund (ISDF), with unplanned areas, or informal settlements, comprising 40 per cent of Egypt’s urban areas and including safe residential areas that do not meet construction standards or urban-planning criteria.

“The safe residential units were often haphazardly built. They were constructed in areas suffering a lack of water, drainage, electricity, and road networks, or in high-density areas where the ratio between the population and the size of the networks is not appropriate,” Khaled Seddik, manager of the cabinet-affiliated ISDF, said.

Such informal settlements are inhabited by 22 million people, according to the ISDF.

Over the past two years, a 10-year strategy has been put in place in cooperation with the General Authority for Urban Planning and the UN Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) to upgrade the informal settlements. The estimated cost is LE318 billion, the majority of which is being directed to building wastewater management networks to cover a 20 per cent shortage, Seddik said.

“The priority will go to the main cities in each governorate, before moving on in the following phase to smaller cities. There are areas that lack electricity only and others that need minor planning or civil protection networks, including fire services,” he added.

Improving informal lives

The last, albeit costliest, stage will focus on improving road networks. Before these are tackled, underground cables, waste water, and gas and electricity facilities will be installed or upgraded.

The goal is to improve the quality of life of all Egyptians, Seddik said. “It’s the little details that can make the biggest impact,” he added, explaining that better roads could decrease the amount of time people spend in their cars, decreasing harmful emissions and lessening the dangers of respiratory diseases.

Better roads also mean people will have to spend less money on vehicle maintenance, improving their financial status.

Following the completion of the strategy, there will be a detailed plan for each informal settlement that takes into consideration the residential composition of each area, the aim being to lay out an investment and service-oriented plan to generate more job opportunities and reduce the number of factories and workshops producing harmful emissions.

These detailed plans will be executed in percentage stages, starting with three per cent annually in the first four years, five per cent annually until 2030, and then 17 per cent annually.

The plans target alleviating the burden on the state budget and creating investment opportunities in each city. Towards the final stages, the state should only be contributing about 40 per cent of the cost of the projects, while the rest should be financed from the investment opportunities available in each city, Seddik said.

“Projects in 53 informal settlements nationwide have already been finished. These areas, spread over 4,600 feddans, are inhabited by two million people. They were chosen as a starting point because they are complicated and they can test the handling of obstacles. Infrastructure networks had to be replaced without relocating residents, for example,” he added.

Similar projects are being executed in 79 informal settlements in which 700,000 families live on 6,900 feddans of land. Contributing to the projects are the state authorities and infrastructure companies, such as for water, electricity, gas, and telecommunications.

The ministries of supply and solidarity are in charge of identifying the priorities for each residential area.

*A version of this article appears in print in the 20 August, 2020 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

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