Alexandria Commits Collective Suicide as Buildings Tumble

Article Summary
In Egypt’s coastal city of Alexandria, illegal building projects are cropping up across the city. Contractors, motivated by greed, are not following safe building practices and employ thugs to intimidate objectors, writes Sabri Ghoneim. Calls from the governor for help to enforce regulation are going unnoticed, contributing  to the free-for-all.

Unfortunately, those following the situation in post-revolutionary Egypt will notice that chaos is manifesting itself in a variety of forms: lack of security, lawlessness, thuggery, etc. If we consider the chaos recently witnessed in the governorate of Alexandria, we should regret our apathy towards the lives that are being lost under the debris. Today, Alexandria is suffering from a phenomenon of collective suicide as a result of illegal housing that has sprung up in the absence of law. It is a serious issue, and architectural standards have significantly declined. ​Nowadays, we see structures on the Nile Corniche that are under the threat of collapse because of haphazard illegal housing units that have been built on top of them. This illegal housing is a result of the absence of law and control by local authorities.

After failed attempts at appealing to the government, the governor of Alexandria has called on President Mohammed Morsi to demand harsher punishment [for illegal construction]. This action indicates that the governor wants to exonerate himself from blame for the inevitable disasters awaiting Alexandria. However, he was brave enough to openly declare his inability to confront the violations being committed in the construction of buildings and high-rises. The governor has appealed to the government more than once, implying that he does not have the necessary tools or forces to address these violations. Unfortunately, the government has failed to provide him with assistance in removing the existing illegal housing in Fatouna. The government should have struck while the iron was hot to deter violators.

The question is: Why do we turn a blind eye to the appeals of the governor of Alexandria, Dr. Osama al-Fawla, when we will surely refuse to forgive him if disaster strikes? We would hold him accountable, criticize him and blame him for the lives that are being lost due to negligence and greed on the part of contractors. However, the governor has not been complacent concerning this issue and has repeatedly sounded the alarm. He announced that more than 10,000 properties have been illegally built in Alexandria. These structures were built without the required permits from neighborhood councils, and thus were not subject to inspection during the construction period. The construction process happened hastily and without applying the legal standards in the mixing of cement, therefore these buildings are vulnerable to collapse as the result of any earthquake.

This is in addition to buildings that were constructed without regard to the law, including the addition of [floors] on top of the roofs of old houses. Most of these roofs were sold to contractors, who then added additional floors against the will of the residents. Residents who objected received punishment from the contractors’ thugs.

Is it reasonable for this to happen following a civilized revolution aimed at achieving social justice?! Is it reasonable to deny citizens their rights and security, to subject them to intimidation through unethical deals made by a group of contractors? These contractors have capitalized on the absence of regulatory and legislative institutions, and their only concern is exploitation and greed through illegal construction.

I personally support the governor of Alexandria. He has announced his position clearly and emphasized that the current procedures are no longer sufficient to confront the scams and tricks of contractors. Today, there are many forms of violations. Construction is taking place publicly, and civil engineers no longer dare to object or issue a report concerning the offenses. Engineers who have reported these offenses are frequently assaulted in their offices. Concerning this issue, Maj. Gen. Hussein Ramzy, commander of the eastern Cairo district, condemns the assaults committed against employees and engineers in his district. He also criticized the destruction of records implicating the violating contractors. Those who have been targeted did not receive any protection from the police and the situation has spun out of control.

Professor Ahmed Khalifa, managing director of Dr. Wahib Moussa’s Center, said that the youth of Alexandria have reported building violations, but no one listened to them and they did not receive support to address these violations. Khalifa gave an example of this illegal construction, noting that two 17-storey towers have risen on al-A’sar Street and Mahmoud Rida Street, which intersect with Khalid bin-al-Walid street leading to the Corniche. The owners of these towers say: “I don’t care if there are those who don’t like what we are doing. It does not matter if disaster strikes and victims fall one day.” Yet these callous individuals, who profit at the expense of human life, will not be affected. Are these the ethics of Egyptians after the revolution?!

Found in: mohammad morsi, egypt, alexandria

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