CAIRO: President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi endorsed the Cabinet’s decision to dismiss Zamalek residents’ demand that the metro not penetrate their upscale district, an informed sourced at the Ministry of Transport told Youm7 Wednesday.
Approving the demand of Zamalek residents would disrupt all the new projects of the metro, and would trigger other neighborhoods to follow suit; the demand “excludes the interests of the public,” according to a memo submitted by the Ministry of Transport to the Cabinet.
The neighboring blue-collar district of Imbaba demanded they be “treated equally,” and that in case the demand of their rich neighbors were approved, they would not evacuate the buildings or lands in their area to leave room for the metro, the sources said.
The sources added that the company that would execute the project will be announced in days. The project was put out to a contractor tender in March 2014, according to the National Authority for Tunnels (NAT.)
Zamalek civic action
The residents of Zamalek have launched a fierce campaign to cancel the project or at least divert the route of the metro.
The European Investment Bank halted funding for the project after the residents reached out to it with their complaints, Al-Masry Al-Youm reported in May 2013. The bank had agreed to a first 200 million euro ($259 million) installment of a 600 million euro loan in November 2012.
The Third Phase of the Third Metro Line project is planned to connect Imbaba and Mohandiseen west of the Nile, and pass under the Nile River to Zamalek and continue to Attaba, Abassiya, Cairo Stadium, Heliopolis and the Cairo Airport.
Zamalek residents say they proposed different routes for the new Metro line so it would not pass through Ismail Mohamed Street, where old buildings “might collapse” as a result of the planned digging.
Metro chief Ismail al-Nagdi, however, told Al-Ahram Gate in September 2014 the Bank dispatched a commission to study the environmental and cultural risks of the Metro, and concluded that it “poses no threat.”
Zamalek residents met with several officials to voice their grievances, including a 2014 meeting with Nagdi that did not end on good terms, implicitly accusing them of “caste” politics.
The Metro, a Cairo traffic vein
The controversial phase of the metro will connect working class districts Attaba, Bulaq and Imbaba, and Cairo University in Giza. The phase will also pass through well-off neighborhoods Zamalek, Mohandiseen and Agouza. The 18-kilometer phase includes 15 stops, one of them underground in Zamalek, and is scheduled for inauguration seven years from the launch of the project.
The leafy Zamalek district, built in the 19th century, occupies the north half of Gezira Island, which lies on the Nile River between the Cairo and Giza governorates. The southern half is home to El-Gezira district, also one of Cairo’s old and affluent neighborhoods.
The Third Line with its four phases aims to move 2 million daily commutes above the ground to below it, reducing Cairo’s traffic congestion, shortening the duration of commutes, and saving 250 million EGP in the cost of public transportation buses. The project would save up to 2.72 billion EGP a year overall, according to the NAT website.
Entrances of Metro stations in Cairo usually host street vendors, who keep returning with their goods after occasional removal by the police. Metro stations also attract taxi drivers who park outside them, waiting for potential customers.
Gezira has withstood social and political changes in the capital, with many upper class residents of other neighborhoods moving to gated communities in the outskirts of Cairo, such as New Cairo, 6 October City and Obour City.
The island hosts several embassies, bars, Cairo’s oldest and most luxurious social clubs, Cairo Tower, and the Opera House.
The residents of Heliopolis, another upscale Cairo district, have also resisted change “for the worse” in their area, leading a social media campaign over a “tree massacre” at the Merryland Park.