Cairo: Residents of the Nile Islands in Greater Cairo woke up in recent weeks to find officials taking the dimensions of their homes, the final step before enforcing demolition orders. Since then, the Warak people, who have lived on the working-class agricultural island for generations, have made renewed efforts to oppose a large-scale development project that would erase the features of the island and their homes. increase.
“Give us part of the island, even if it’s behind the wall,” a resident in his 30s told AFP. “We won’t be apart,” he added, claiming he had all the proper paperwork for his home.
Green fields, red-brick buildings, irrigation canals and livestock farming thrive in the Giza Governorate, just a short ferry ride from the traffic jams of Cairo, home to about 100,000 people. The government announced in late July a nearly $1 billion plan for the redevelopment of his six-square-kilometer (over two-square-mile) island, which will feature a glittering skyscraper, helipad and marina. Evoked images of Manhattan.
Housing Minister Asem al-Ghazal called those opposing the redevelopment an “evil divisive force” and called the old building “dilapidated”. But residents like men in their 30s are still rebellious. “We pay taxes, water bills and electricity bills, so why aren’t we profiting from the development of our islands?” he said.
Authorities “give some residents four days to leave their homes,” a resident in his 50s told AFP in late July. The move sparked demonstrations, clashes, and arrests the following month, reigniting the years-long battle against the project.
The government has promised huge profits in redeveloping Waraq since the regime of longtime President Hosni Mubarak, who was dismissed in 2011. The capital’s largest island project was restarted under current President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. His other “mega projects” include a gleaming new capital towering from the sands 50 kilometers (30 miles) east of Cairo.
The general-turned-president commissioned military engineers to build a Warraq project called “Horus City,” named after the ancient Egyptian sky god. In 2017, authorities embarked on the demolition of “illegal” buildings in Wallach as part of a campaign aimed at restoring state land.
At least one person died after the operation sparked clashes between residents and security forces. Opponents of eviction defended residents’ legal rights to their land, and attorney Khaled Ali shared on social media copies of residents’ property deeds and birth certificates of islanders born “100 years ago.”
However, two years later, a panel of experts ruled that the eviction was “in the public interest.” A Warrack resident in his 50s who works in the agricultural sector said he was not opposed to the relocation but called recent government proposals “ridiculous” and demanded fair compensation. I suggested 1,400 Egyptian pounds ($73) per person,” he said. “Then you can’t buy anything outside the island.”
Residents of other islands fear the Warak Project is just the beginning. This year, 17 Nile Islands, including Warak, were handed over to the military and subsequently lost their nature reserve status. Conflicting urban development projects come at a price. Warraq activist Ramy Kamel said he had been in pretrial detention for more than two years on “terrorism” charges before he was released in January.
Historian Amy Fallas told AFP: “Kamel is one of the most passionate activists in tracking state violations of Coptic migration due to security concerns and urban development initiatives. was a person,” he said. State bulldozers have recently targeted wealthier neighborhoods, but urban planner Ahmed Zazer said the lower socio-economic areas were demolished first. “It’s a process of gentrification, trying to get poverty out of the city center to make way for investment,” he told AFP.
According to World Bank statistics, one-third of Egypt’s 103 million people live in poverty, and another third are vulnerable to poverty. Zaazaa says Cairo’s redevelopment aims to prepare the city “for the new capital”. Workers can reach new areas, he said, because “the historical and traditional areas of Cairo are being destroyed.”
Some residents have relocated to “mega public housing projects in the surrounding area,” but most residents think “other informal areas are a better solution,” he added. Using official statements, media reports and satellite imagery, Zaazaa estimates that in 2013, “15,000 buildings have been demolished” in Cairo since Sisi came to power. Residents of Warraq fear the eviction will irreparably disintegrate their close-knit community and are already feeling the pressure. As the development plan progresses. “We don’t allow non-residents to enter the island,” said a resident in his 30s. “One of the ferries was recently closed,” he said, while the other two are “monitored around the clock by security services.” – AFP