In March 2015 plans were unveiled for a new capital city in Egypt, foregoing Cairo completely amidst inescapable infrastructure and population issues. More recently, the Egyptian Government gave approval for these plans to go ahead. All that was needed was the capital...
Now, it seems these plans will be going ahead and Egypt will eventually get its new capital city, as it was announced recently that funding for the megaproject has been acquired from a Chinese backer.
The China Fortune Land Development Company (CFLD) has reportedly agreed to provide $20 billion for the currently unnamed city, after a meeting between heads of the firm and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El Sisi.
The project is now closer to its $45 billion budget goal for construction on phase one, as this recent contribution adds to a previous commitment of $15 billion from another Chinese state-owned company.
The aim of the 'Cairo Capital' project, according to the website, is to build national spirit, foster consensus, provide for long-term sustainable growth and to produce a city that will create more places to live, work and visit. There will be a focus on sustainability and conservation, with the capital making use of the “sustainable technologies of today” as well as adopting a “credo of water”, with the city’s infrastructure able to make, reuse and conserve water.
Now that the project has money...
Constructions is reportedly already underway on the infrastructure that will support the future Egyptian capital. According to the Independent, the first phase of the new city's construction involves the expansion of the outskirts of the current capital to the east, adding an additional 105 kilometres of development. From there, the Independent says building will commence on a new administrative centre which would consist of government offices, diplomatic missions and housing, universities, a technology and innovation park and 10,000km of roads.
The first phase could take up to five years to complete, but when this phase is complete and the city is fully completed, it is proposed that it could provide for seven million people, over 1,000 mosques, smart villages, industrial zones, a 5,000-seat conference centre and the world's largest park.
Could this be a road to disaster?
Spirits are high for this new city, but there have been some concerns. According to CNN, the concerns centre on the possibility that the project will turn out similar to a number of Cairo's 'satellite towns', which have registered low occupancy despite high investment. These towns are often abandoned, and a good-intentioned yet poorly executed development goes completely to waste.
"The needs of Cairo should be met by the existing eight towns around it," said urban planner David Sims to CNN.
"But people call them ghost towns."The satellites repeated the same mistakes, says Sims, which are also likely to affect the new capital.
According to Sims, the satellite towns produced housing that is unaffordable, unobtainable and inaccessible for the majority of Cairo's inhabitants, and built with a high modernist approach that did not allow the informal enterprises and activities that most Egyptians rely on, CNN reported.
Architect and planner Kareem Ibrahim shared concerns with the project and future of Egypt's people, telling CNN that he believes the answer to Egypt's development is not to continue building new cities but instead to put investment towards providing equal rights to public services and utilities"Let's think about how to develop better governing structure for the cities we have, and then build new cities," he said.
Ibrahim's research found that around 50% of Cairo neighbourhoods lacked access to sewage services, while public services were failing, and municipal councils were operating with as little as $4 per capita per year.
Despite the mixed bag of hope, aspiration and concern, government approval and newly acquired funding has now ensured that Egypt's new capital will go ahead as one of the world's biggest development projects.