Media round up on the city : September through November 2012
Infrastructure problems and waste management
That the capital and its surroundings suffer from chronic under-provision of services and lack of infrastructure is no breaking news. Cases that have caught our attention these past two months include that of Gezirat al-Warraq, where the scarcity of health and sanitation resources only worsens the waste-management crisis, but also less known examples, such as that of Abu Sir, a community just outside Cairo. Meanwhile, building collapses in Alexandria and Cairo, the last one on November 13th, continue to attest to the inadequacy of building standards throughout urban centres in Egypt.
Social issues, evictions and strikes
Every review about the city must, however, not forget the interplay between built environment, state institutions and the city’s inhabitants. On this note, Al-Ahram English publishes a note on street vendors in Cairo, their daily struggle and subsequent protests.
As for housing, the state continues to carry out evictions. An example, dating back to last summer, is that of Ramlet Bulaq, where protests by local residents have continued until recently, while similar ones ensued in Shagarat Maryam. Most recently, police authorities attempted to evict inhabitants of Qursaya Island on the Nile, allegedly off military-owned land (though there are debates over the validity of this claim). This resulted in at least one death and subsequent protest by the islands inhabitants, who blocked a road.
Housing and the role of the government/Ministry of Housing
Meanwhile the new government started taking some action in the field of infrastructure and housing. The new Minister of Housing, Tarek Wafik, was appointed on August 2nd, and is himself an Urban Planning professor. After reports on the new cabinet’s will to go ahead with electoral promises to build social housing, the government announced in late October the will to build 76 thousand units; the ministry also announced it intends to give more space to the private sector in this field.
In the same line, the government has announced a global tender for waste recycling in Egypt, in the form of a private-public-partnership (PPP).
Sustainable City Initiatives
From civil society we find a number of initiatives that, in one way or another, attempt to make a positive environmental impact on the urban landscape. These go from roof-top gardens in Cairo, to recycling initiatives, as well as a ‘seed-bombing’ campaign and others to increase the number of trees in the city. Other projects involved awareness-raising, especially through play with children. Finally, a new space has been launched, with support from the GIZ, to cultivate and support green actions in the country, in downtown Cairo.
Blogs and websites
In this last section we would like to suggest some blogs covering urban subjects that caught our attention: the already well-known ‘Cairobserver’, run by Mohamed Elshahed; ‘Cairo from Below’, a collective project for ‘information and debate on the urban future of Cairo’; ‘Badilab’, curated by a Cairo-based team of architects, focusing on ‘workshops, conferences, and design activities linking users, professionals, students with the built environment’; moreover, ‘Megawra’, organized by Egyptian NGO ‘Built Environment Collective’, which on top of running a blog, also offers a multi-use space in Cairo for architecture students and others; ‘Drawing Parallels’ is a wonderful site covering scores of stories from Cairo and beyond; and finally, ‘The Shadow Ministry of Housing’, a ‘blog that critiques built environment policy in Egypt’.