Sunday,22 October, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1144, 18 - 24 April 2013
Sunday,22 October, 2017
Issue 1144, 18 - 24 April 2013

Ahram Weekly

Illegal building

Illegal buildings have been springing up across Giza, writes Mai Samih

features
features
Al-Ahram Weekly

Governor of Giza Ali Abdel-Rahman summarises the problem by giving the figures. “The amount of agricultural land that has been illegally built on is 580 feddans in the Giza governorate. Some 100,000 illegally built buildings were put up after the 25 January Revolution, most of them in Boulaq Al-Dakrour, Omraneya, Haram and Imbaba. In addition, there is the problem of reclaimed land, which is very difficult to monitor.”

In 2009, there were an estimated 318,000 illegal buildings in Egypt. In 2011, a further 900 were added in Giza alone. By August 2012, the New Urban Communities Authority had called on local councils to survey all building activities such that action could be taken if necessary, and similar instructions were given by the Ministry of Housing and Ministry of Interior.

However, according to Abdel-Rahman, “only 15 per cent of the illegal buildings in Giza have been pulled down. The rest are still the object of administrative procedures.”

Abdel-Rahman categorised the cases by saying that “there are two types of irregularities. The first is building extra floors on existing buildings or building on unauthorised spaces in the city, and the second is building outside the city, especially on agricultural land. In the first case, the person responsible is fined and a decision is taken to demolish the building. However, the Giza governorate has only carried this out in a few cases because of the large number of fines involved and the incapacity of the police to act in all cases.”

“In most cases, those who deserve a fine either rent or sell the buildings, making it difficult to act against them. Others prevent the police from doing their job,” he added. In cases where agricultural land is built on, a committee composed of a representative of the Ministry of Agriculture, the local council and the local police meets to consider the matter. However, this committee has limited authority, and it may only be able to order the demolition of part of any new building.

Ahmed Etabi, a building owner, listed the problems he faced before he was given permission to build. “It is a time-consuming process. For instance, a demolition permit can take six months to issue and a construction permit can take five months. An electricity permit can take a year. In cases of power cuts or damage, the government does little for us, and we have to take matters into our own hands,” he said.

There have been calls for the law to be strengthened to prevent illegal building, notably by reforming law 119 of 2008 to make it harsher, giving the authorities the right to inflict prison terms and forced demolitions as well as fines.  Another proposed reform has been to act against both people selling illegal buildings and those buying them.

Abdel-Rahman would like to see a third amendment. “We are waiting for a reform that is due to be issued soon under which any agricultural land built on without permission will be confiscated from its owners and sold and the revenues used for the development of the district it is in. This is because the land is no longer suitable for agriculture after the illegal buildings have been demolished.”

Etabi said that people acting illegally should be punished, but the law should also bear financial matters in mind. “The law must be changed. It is no longer right to allow only five-storey buildings on the grounds that they block the skyline in the Pyramids district, for example. We spend a lot of money on the land, and the more floors there are, the cheaper the apartments are for those buying them.”

Demolishing illegally built buildings also went hand-in-hand with improving security, he said. “Whenever there is stability in one sector, there is progress in others. The two ministries that could help us most are the ministries of irrigation and of agriculture.”

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