Sale of Imbaba airport land raises dispute between residents, Housing Ministry

Mohamed Darwish
10 Min Read

A dispute erupted between the Ministry of Housing and the Popular Committee for the Defence of Imbaba Airport Land after the ministry transferred ownership of 73 acres of the airport land to the New Urban Communities Authority (NUCA), in preparation to sell them to investment companies.

The committee announced that it will file a lawsuit in the Administrative Court to appeal the decision issued by the North Giza Development Committee and halt the project until they receive detailed maps of the disputed areas and negotiate with the residents collectively.

On other hand, NUCA is preparing an investment study for the ​​73 acres of the Imbaba airport land, after the ministry assigned the North Giza Development Committee to complete the development of the north side of Giza and re-use the airport land.

Mohamed Saleh, coordinator of the Popular Committee for Defence of Imbaba Airport Land, said that the committee is preparing to file a lawsuit in the Administrative Court against the Ministry of Housing to halt the North Giza Development project.

He told Daily News Egypt that the committee will demand the NUCA present detailed maps of the area and start collective negotiations with the residents over suitable compensation.

Saleh pointed out that the Minister of Housing’s decision violated the Unified Construction law which stipulates that the residents and civil society organisations must be consulted before the development of any residential area and the government must not take any executive action without the approval of the affected residents.

Saleh pointed out that the Unified Construction Law obliges government agencies to announce the areas of development and their planned activities after negotiating with the residents, asserting that the law forbids the government from determining the compensation value alone.

He claimed that the Housing Ministry seeks to negotiate with the residents separately to avoid facing a unified public opinion against the project.

Saleh added that the government seeks to sell the land under the guise of an “investment project,” while the North Giza area suffers from inadequate services and a high population density.

He added that his committee demands the ministry use the disputed land to provide health, education, cultural, and security services for the residents of the region because the existing service buildings do not meet the needs of the region.

Saleh continued that those in charge of the development of the North Giza area always talk about the development of informal housing areas, while they ignore poor areas such as Aziz Ezzat which includes hundreds of families living in small rooms and basements with shared bathrooms.

Saleh further continued that the government always talks about development while it allows the expansion of informal housing areas and unlicensed buildings on agricultural land, west of the Ring Road.

He said that the development will reach the residential area opposite to Warraq island, adding that the Housing Ministry will use the area for touristic activities regardless of the residents who have lived in the area for decades. “The government only cares about the investors’ interests and I do not exclude the possibility that the ministry might abolish some hospitals on the Nile river bank,” Saleh stated.

He said that his committee aims to reveal all the details of the project before the removal of the buildings, asserting that the committee will file a lawsuit against the ministry supported by the mass objection to the project.

He revealed that the board of state commissioners, an advisory body within the State Council, recommended that the Housing Ministry reveal the details of the project; however, the ministry only provided old maps of Imbaba when it was agricultural land. He noted that successive housing ministers were fined for not submitting the required maps.

Saleh pointed out that the committee will collect endorsements from the residents of the region and is preparing the required documents of the lawsuit to be filed against the Ministry of Housing in the Administrative Court.

He added that the Housing Ministry’s leaders justified their position in regards to hiding the project’s plan by saying they were afraid that brokers may use them to buy the land and increase prices after the expropriation.

Saleh asserted that the land prices are known to everyone and these maps were leaked from the ministry to some businesspeople and land dealers who bought large pieces of land in Ben El-Bahrain island in Warraq. These people bought the land in order to resell them after the demolition of homes on the opposite Nile river bank in Imbaba and turn it into a tourist area.

In January 2009, the cabinet issued a decree which was published in the Official Gazette setting the development areas in North Giza for public use, revealing that the cabinet has 35 detailed maps of the project, of which 17 maps are of the buildings to be abolished.

Saleh said that the prime minister’s decision has allocated 652 acres in Imbaba for the project without identifying the areas, noting that the targeted places have thousands of houses and streets and the government has no right to expropriate these lands without notifying the residents or offering compensation.

He added that the Housing Ministry will not grant free units to the affected people and will charge them for the cost of building alternative units.

Sales pointed out that the population density in Imbaba is around 1.1 million people per 1 sqkm, according to the statistics issued several years ago. However, the Housing Ministry is insisting to sell the Imbaba airport land, rather than providing adequate services for the people.

Some sources in the Housing Ministry said that the ministry will not pay attention to the threats of the Popular Committee for the Defence of Imbaba Airport Land, as the ministry plans to negotiate directly with the owners of the land and offer them the proposed consumption.

The sources told Daily News Egypt that there are attempts to disrupt the project and accuse the ministry of neglecting the residents, while the ministry has already established a number of service buildings in the area as well as a public park on an area of ​​40 acres.

They continued that the development project will reduce the population density and open new roads to the North Giza area which will facilitate movement, asserting that they do not care about the negotiation mechanism, whether individually or collectively.

The sources said that the NUCA has prepared a study on the 73 acres of Imbaba airport land, which will determine the best sites for investment purpose and the suitable investment activities in the region.

The initial study identified a number of investment activities, including recreational and commercial areas as well as administrative buildings.

The sources said that the NUCA has not yet decided whether or not it will build residential units in the area because of the high population density which will make it impossible to establish a closed compound, according to current plans.

They added that the development committee of North Giza aims to offer suitable compensation for the residents before the removal of their houses and to allocate housing units for them in the project.

According to the initial project plan, about 2,500 housing units will be expropriated in Imbaba area and the owners of those units will be compensated financially and will receive alternative units in the project.

After the removal of the old housing units, the ministry will start to develop the region by developing the utility networks and building new roads.

The sources pointed out that the final inventory will determine the number of units to be expropriated and the streets within the project, including the airport, Albohy, Elwehda, and Corniche streets.

Mohamed Nasser, head of the Central Agency for Reconstruction, said the committee will offer suitable compensation for the affected residents on a case-by-case basis.

He added that the committee will put in place a plan to develop areas with high population densities and to establish service buildings as well as green spaces.

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