The world today continues to advance through urban development in several countries by applying imaginative solutions to turn disadvantaged areas into more habitable, smart urban living communities suitable for citizens. In line with this trend, Egypt attempts to make Alexandria a more sustainable area.

In a motive complying with urban development standards, Egypt is keeping up to the pace with international development programs such as the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). Back in December, UNDP signed a protocol with the Egyptian Ministry of International Cooperation and the Ministry of Housing, Utilities, and Urban Communities to implement “Strategic Urban Planning for Alexandria 2032”.

Alexandria 2032 project will be developed over three phases and involves the participation of CEO of the General Organization for Physical Planning (GOPP) Assem Al Gazzar, according to a Ministry of International Cooperation statement. All parties within the agreement are to collaboratively work towards implementing an executive plan for Alexandria within the upcoming 15 years, including expanding the governorate, connecting Alexandria to Borg El Arab, and enhancing underdeveloped areas.

The project is to focus on accommodating the governorate’s rising population and increasing public services in an effort to improve the lives of Alexandrians and meet the development goals of Egypt’s 2030 vision, which revolves around urban strategy for safe and sustainable cities, according to the Ministry of Housing, Utilities, and Urban Communities.

The governorate’s step forward to sustainability, according to Alexandria resident and Architecture Teaching Assistant at Alexandria University Ahmed Mostafa, could be achieved through cause-effect assessment studies that will determine if a project is an obstacle to sustainability in the case of environmental, economic, social, and cultural effects on its surroundings. “Alexandria 2032 could, for example, have a social effect if it will exclude part of the Alexandrian community or an economic effect if the project is not properly funded, resulting in project delay,” Mostafa explains.  

Minister of Housing Mostafa Madbouly clarifies in an MOIC statement released last December that the UNDP will be provide the project with technical and financial support, while the Housing Ministry will work on providing social housing units for limited-income citizens. GOPP will develop strategic planning through its regional center in Alexandria, in collaboration with local development organizations, and provide funding.

“The first phase of the project was supposed to end in 2011, which includes information gathering and survey conducting in regards to the current demands of Alexandrians. It also studies the current situation in Alexandria, in cooperation with several urban stakeholders and society representatives,” says Mostafa. He believes that the project was not sufficiently promoted as the government did not manage to properly integrate details about the project to residents, who ideally should have been invited as representatives of the Alexandrian community in an open discussion with government.

While some members of the Alexandrian community are oblivious to the project, the agreement certifies that the project’s execution period will extend for over two years and until 2018, setting a strategic plan and developing staff capabilities in the GOPP’s center and the Urban Planning Department of the Governorate of Alexandria.

Moustafa reckons that potential obstacles could stand against certain developments to Alexandria, including the liability of expanding due to the presence of agricultural lands from the south and north of the city. “Borg El Arab requires further development as it should accommodate more residents than it currently does, but it is not adequately connected to the rest of the governorate,” he comments.

He further emphasizes the importance of implementing a successful transportation plan to reduce the ongoing traffic congestion on the Corniche Road. Increase of unlicensed buildings in Alexandria is another issue Moustafa highlights as they violate surroundings and historical sites, and place a risk on existing infrastructure and old buildings.

Alexandria’s transportation sector has been one of the fields attracting interest, requiring enhancements to accommodate population increase, according to Alexandria Governor Reda Farahat. The governor held several meetings at the end of 2016 with transportation and traffic officials to discuss transportation projects expected to be developed by the French Development Agency. The plans include developing a hanging tram, an electric train, building more tunnels, and expanding the main axis in the city to meet the strategic plan of 2030.

“Formulating a framework of urban governance to allow sustainability is what Alexandria lacks the most, as several strategic urban development plans have been created before; however, they were never executed due to the lack of urban governance, which should be implemented through legislation and local policymakers,” adds Mostafa. Another objective is increasing the number of drinkable water projects in Alexandria’s most disadvantaged areas.

Alexandrians have long been suffering from traffic congestions due to overpopulation calling for immediate solutions; therefore, the Arab Academy for Science, Technology & Maritime Transport (AAST), and Traffic Administration in Alexandria suggest changing directions in the areas of El Manshya and Sidi Gaber and decreasing congestion on Corniche through a bridge built above houses.

Further suggestions include developing all bridges, tunnels, El Mahmoudiya Road, and Abou Keer Railway in the upcoming period, as well as consulting AAST, Alexandria University, Marine Transportation, and Farous University in the development of long-term projects.

The governorate currently accommodates upwards of around 10 mn citizens, according to a report titled “Integrated Urban Water Management” published by Alexandria University and UNESCO, which argues that the Nile water supply has declined by 20% since 2007 and that rising sea levels are a threat more than ever. Therefore, the Water Vision for Alexandria 2030 plans to achieve a sustainable urban water supply system by 2030.

The crisis of heavy rainfall has previously damaged 49,000 acres of agricultural lands reformed at a total cost of EGP 10 mn last year, following President Abdel Fattah El Sisi’s orders to fix and renovate all damages made by rainfall and develop all infrastructure networks at a total cost of EGP 1 bn that was provided by the Tahya Misr Fund.

“Proper construction of pavements and roads that does not require frequent maintenance would be an adequate solution for this; however, engineering work alone is not enough without a sustainable framework,” says Mostafa.

A study conducted in 2009 suggests groundwater potential in the governorate, examining the overall contribution of production wells to the water resources policy. Results stated that the total number of production wells amount 1,315 wells.

The report also suggests that the Unified Building Law of 2008 could contribute to Alexandria’s Strategic Urban Vision, which entails cooperation between urban, suburban, and rural areas thereby fostering metropolitan planning.

In efforts to guarantee such strategic cooperation, several factors will be deemed successful if taken into consideration, such as allowing local authorities to participate in contracting management, providing developers’ political and financial needs, as well as providing program design and monitoring by project managers.

Other ways of contribution to the vision include the participation of residents, workers, and users in providing consultancy in mechanisms and sharing expertise.

The vision features plans that have been finalized, including a medical city, analysis on Matar Lake Area, Olympic City, and a communication strategy developed for the project to increase outreach to stakeholders, according to a UNDP statement.

The Alexandria governorate previously discussed the strategic urban plan and agreed it will include developments in several sectors such as urban planning and housing, local economic development, transportation, utilities and infrastructure, and environment. Alexandria’s development scheme was previously discussed during the period between 2010 and 2015 at Alexandria University’ studies, covering formulating a design approach and developing a Geographic Information System (GIS) in the governorate.

CEO of GOPP Assem El Gazar adds that the plan also previously discussed training staff in the regional center and the urban planning department on methodologies used to set strategic approaches through GIS, according to the MOIC.

The timeframe for project implementation may remain questionable amid the current economic conditions; however, the Alexandria 2032 Vision could prove a successful sustainable urban development model potentially implemented nationwide.