The Egyptian government can’t consistently strongarm elections and beat certain citizens to death and then expect its constituents to fall down with gratitude when their first serious green plan is rolled out. Especially when thousands of people will be pushed out of their homes in the process.
Cairo needs a green plan, of that there is no question. What was at its height an architectural and cultural marvel has become one of the loudest, smoggiest cities I’ve ever encountered. So officials should be commended for making an effort. But if they want support from Cairenes, they are going to have to “show the money.”
Bikya Masr reports that Cairo’s “cleaner, greener, better” plan is supposed to be complete by 2050, before the city’s population doubles and bursts at its already strained seams.
The plans adherents aspire to:
- Create 15 new metro lines and two new stations;
- Expand the current 30 square centimeters of green space per person to something closer to the international standard of 12 square meters;
- Move industry to the outskirts;
- Turn the pyramids, and old/Islamic Cairo into one giant open museum;
- Convert al-Warraq and al-Dahab islands into green spaces;
- Build a new airport;
- And redistribute the population.
Some people welcome the move. One resident of al-Dahab told Bikya Masr that they were excited by the prospect of moving off the island, that they were expecting a new lease on life. Others are less optimistic.
A man who sells camel rides to the swarms of tourists that visit the pyramids each year is indignant that the government plans to relocate the stables. He wonders how he will continue to make a living if everything he knows is uprooted.
And while the government has promised to compensate those thousands of shantytown residents and others, the paper reports that previous compensation schemes involved crowding several families accustomed to having their own residences into one apartment.
Nearly half of all jobs and hospital beds are in Cairo, for which nearly one quarter of the country’s population compete. Previous efforts to manage the swelling population include irrigating other parts of the country and creating neighborhoods far outside of the city.
These are good initiatives, as long as they are managed with care. The prevailing thought among citizens is that the state has failed to produce meaningful plans in the past, so why would they start now.
:: Bikya Masr
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