Minister of Local Development Mahmoud Shaarawi announced on Saturday the details of a new system that will impose a new building code and hand out construction licences in Egyptian cities, Gamal Essam El-Din reports.
Shaarawi said the new system aims to put the brakes on haphazard building which has swept the country in the last few years and led to the spread of slum areas in governorates. “Most buildings in these haphazard communities are unlicensed and illegal, not to mention that they lack any kind of proper planning, living facilities, and necessary utilities,” Shaarawi said.
According to Shaarawi, the new system of construction licences and building codes will be implemented over two stages. “It will be applied first in 27 cities for an experimental period of two months, beginning on 1 May and ending on 30 June,” said Shaarawi, adding that “in the second stage the application of the new system will be extended to all other Egyptian cities starting on 1 July.”
Shaarawi said the new building regulations and construction licences came after a study which was drafted in coordination with a number of ministries and parliamentary deputies. “There was a dialogue which included officials from the ministries of local administration, housing, higher education, and planning, in addition to MPs from parliament’s housing and local administration committees,” Shaarawi said, adding that employees in relevant ministries received intensive training on how to implement the new building system and how to issue construction licences.
Shaarawi explained that the new system states that in each city or district there will be an inspection committee which will be in charge of reviewing building requests and issuing licences. This committee will be led by the head of the city or the district and includes members from the concerned governorate’s technological centre, and the departments of engineering, urban planning, legal affairs, and financial affairs. Shaarawi indicated that the committee will be officially responsible for implementing the new construction code, and issuing all kinds of urban planning licences, including height and demolition licences.
He indicated that technological centres in cities will play a key role in implementing the new construction code and licences. A technological centre will refer a new construction request to the concerned governorate university to be reviewed, after which it will be referred back to the centre for study and then sent to the inspection committee for approval.
Shaarawi said the new system was approved by the cabinet in a meeting on 31 March. In that meeting, Prime Minister Mustafa Madbouli stressed that the new system was important for stemming the tide of haphazard buildings in Egypt and making sure that all new buildings in Egypt are licensed, legal, and observe safety measures and aesthetical criterion, Shaarawi, said adding that Madbouli also ordered the launch of an awareness campaign that would outline the new facilities provided by the new construction system. This would come in the form of holding press conferences and the production of explanatory video films showing the steps that citizens should follow to apply for a building licences, Shaarawi said.
He said the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research will be tasked with choosing one university in each governorate to be responsible for preparing the façade designs for new buildings across Egypt.
Minister of Housing Assem Al-Gazzar indicated that the new construction code and building licences will not be implemented in the countryside and new urban communities as these have their own regulations and codes. The new system will also not be applied to national projects implemented by the government.
MPs were divided over the new system. Atef Al-Nimaki, a senator representing the governorate of Qalioubiya, told Al-Ahram Weekly that it could eliminate corruption in city councils which was largely responsible for the spread of slum areas and haphazard building in Egypt in the last few years.
MP Abdel-Salam Al-Khadrawi, however, told the Weekly that the system was vague and lacked many details. “I think the new system needs more explanation from the ministers of housing and local development so that citizens know what measures they should follow exactly to get a construction licence,” Al-Khadrawi said, also noting that “from the few details announced, I see that the new system is full of bureaucratic measures that could make it highly difficult for a citizen to get a construction licence.”
The system should help achieve stability in the construction sector, stop building on agricultural land and eliminate corruption related to building licences, Al-Khadrawi conceded, suggesting that each governorate should declare the new building regulations in a transparent way, showing citizens in a very simplified way what measures they should follow in order to get a construction licence legally.
He also proposed that the ministers of housing and local development be summoned to parliament to answer questions from MPs on the new system.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 6 May, 2021 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly