Interview: Egypt's capital Cairo to be clean, orderly in 2 months: governor

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Cairo, the overcrowded capital city of the most populous Arab country Egypt, will be cleaner and more orderly within two months, Cairo governor Galal al-Saeed told Xinhua in an exclusive interview, speaking of a massive campaign to clean the capital city, reduce traffic congestion, eliminate slums and restore order after three years of political turmoil.

"In two months from now, the citizens will wake up in a clean, organized capital city with neither vendors nor congestion, and order will be restored to Cairo streets," the governor reaffirmed.

Over the past three chaotic years in which the country witnessed the ouster of two presidents, Cairo has become a land of turmoil and disorder amid deteriorating security. The capital city has seen constant traffic congestion, street vendors everywhere, thugs occupying government housings by force and other erect buildings on state-owned lands.

A World Bank official has recently said that Egypt's capital city wastes more than six billion U.S. dollars annually due to traffic jam.

"We admit there is economic loss due to traffic congestion in Cairo but I believe this amount of money is exaggerated," the governor replied, explaining that the loss in terms of time and energy could have been used in production instead.

He said that such problems in Cairo are also present in any major cities around the world, like New York City in the United States, London in the UK and New Delhi in India.

The Cairo governor pointed out that the capital city needs 10, 000 buses to ease traffic congestion and that the governorate will double the number of public buses this year as a start. He explained that new public buses with newly-introduced separate lanes will encourage private car owners to use public transport and would help reduce crowdedness in Cairo streets.

"We have 1,250 public buses transporting citizens in Cairo. We already injected 200 new buses and by the end of this year we will have introduced 1,350 new buses," Saeed said.

Resolving the traffic congestion issue requires a strong public transport fleet of public buses and the underground metro, according to the governor.

"Buses make around 23 million trips per day and we started to initiate separate lanes for public buses that would increase their transport capacity from 10,000 passengers per hour to 20,000 passengers per hour in some areas," the governor added.

Egypt's metro carries around 50,000 passengers per hour. The governor says that if separate lanes are generalized and provided by new buses, their transport capacity would be about half of that of the underground metro "without any cost."

"The establishment of each one kilometer of the metro line costs the country about 100 million U.S. dollars," the governor told Xinhua.

He also said that electronic traffic signs will cover 250 crossroads in the capital city after four months and that the necessary equipment and devices are currently being shipped from the United States.

Since Egypt's President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi took office earlier this month, a massive campaign has been waged nationwide to free the streets from the vendors' random stands, a large contributor to traffic issues and distorted downtown appearance.

Saeed told Xinhua that Cairo governorate plans to move the vendors temporarily to a vast downtown garage area until a specific marketplace is established for them. "We will not allow one vendor to busy the street," the governor said.

Cairo hosts more than 10 percent of the country's 94 million people, including a large number of migrants who come from other provinces to work in the capital city.

In addition to traffic congestion, slums are another chronic problem that faces Egypt in general and the capital city in particular. Though no accurate number of the slums in Egypt is available, recurrent reports confirm that they host about 20 million dwellers, of whom 33 percent are in Cairo.

Saeed said that while secure slums require developments, services and planning, insecure ones should be moved.

"We spent one billion Egyptian pounds (about 143 million U.S. dollars) to develop about 35 slums in Cairo and we need around seven or eight billion to eliminate the slums in the capital city, " Saeed said.

He elaborated that Cairo needs 28,000 housing units to accommodate slum dwellers who should be moved, noting that it needs a total of 42,000 housing units, including the 15,000 units already established by the governorate.

During the turmoil, some thugs occupied some 14,000 housing units in Nahda and Badr areas in Cairo. The governorate is working on restoring them in cooperation with security forces.

Thugs and armed personnel have also seized some expensive state- owned lands along the River Nile bank in Cairo that are worth millions of dollars. Those lands will be restored in the very near future, the governor said.

He also noted that the governorate had pulled down and removed 75 buildings that were illegally established near the Constitutional Court in Maadi district southern Cairo during the turmoil.

"We all will see Cairo in a new shape very soon," the governor concluded. Endi

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