Transport, potable water, electricity and sewage networks in Cairo and across Egypt are in desperate need of development and upgrading. While some recent accidents have highlighted the poor state of this network—take for example the numerous train accidents in recent months and their high human cost—the state has turned a blind eye and because of the lack of accountability and the current political uncertainty no long or short term solutions to such fundamental infrastructural problems have been initiated.
The spectrum of political parties on the scene since Egypt’s 2011 uprising has not demonstrated any serious engagement with physical infrastructural needs of Egyptian cities in their political programs. The present situation, however, is alarming, and while the Mubarak regime carried out infrastructure project haphazardly lacking a comprehensive vision, this approach to governance and building cannot be afforded in the years to come.
Although the level and accessibility of basic services in Cairo is remarkable for a city its size, especially considering the minimal investment and development of infrastructure, a crisis is approaching. Not only has pressure on existing systems been continuously increased, entire new areas have developed in recent years in a process of real estate speculation that has produced millions of uninhabited square meters of residential space in the interstitial spaces between the core city and desert extensions. Desert cities also exert a new pressure on infrastructure systems, which have been planned in a way that favors these new low-density (and primarily wealthy) areas with a high margin for waste, particularly in water systems. Additionally these new cities lack a fundamental infrastructural component: transport. What will happen when these thousands of currently empty apartments and houses in these new satellite neighborhoods are occupied with families? These car-dependent residents will exert a huge amount of pressure on the Cairo’s road network as they drive from far-flung desert cities, accessible only by car.
In addition, massive swaths of self-built districts on previously agricultural land largely rely on infrastructure that was not designed for dense urban areas (.....)