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Egypt reclaims land to build a new port city. But environmental concerns are growing.
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Egypt reclaims land to build a new port city. But environmental concerns are growing.

CAIRO Engineers and construction workers are busy day and night putting hundreds of tons of soil in the sea to build a new city.

It is being called “New Abu Qir” and is located east of Alexandria, a northern coastal city.

The area where the new city will be built is 5 million square meters (1.235 acres). This is enough space to house the tourist, commercial, and housing projects that the Egyptian government has planned for the area.

This is a multibillion-Egyptian pound investment, involving several local and foreign contracting, planning and construction companies, which are coming together to create an urban-commercial-tourist community that will be unprecedented in the country and in Africa.

“This is a very significant project that will put Alexandria once again on international tourist and investment maps,” Abdel Fattah Yahia from Alexandria, who is a member of House of Representatives (lower house of parliament), told Al-Monitor. It seeks to take advantage of Alexandria’s wonderful location as one of the most significant cities on the Mediterranean.

The new community is Egypt’s latest attempt at making the most of Alexandria, the nation’s most popular summer destination for tourists. It boasts its own port, one the oldest in the Mediterranean.

The government is implementing many projects in the northern coastline city to get it back on the national tourist map.

New Abu Qir will be Egypt’s answer to Jumeirah Islands (UAE), as well as other multibillion dollar island cities in Gulf.

Late November saw the Egyptian Ministry of Housing sign a contract worth $807 Million with Etimad Holding. This UAE-based company specializes in security and public safety to build the basic infrastructure of the new city.

The Abu Dhabi Investment Authority will manage these works through the company. It will solicit support from several local and foreign companies that have started to operate on the site of the new capital.

The new city will feature a port that has the largest container handling terminals in the region with a capacity of 2,000,000 containers per year.

The new terminal and port will be added to Egypt’s ports, which are currently at the center of a $4-billion upgrade program. This program aims to make Egypt a major trading and logistics hub in the region. It also capitalizes on Egypt’s position along the route for international maritime movement.

The construction of the new city occurs at a time when Egypt seems to be trying to imitate and also outcompete the construction boom that is taking place in the Gulf states, including the UAE.

Egyptian construction workers and engineers are responsible for the design and construction of most major cities and projects in the Gulf states. This happened at a moment when Egypt was suffering from its own economic slump.

Egypt is now waking up and trying to make up the time lost in rebuilding.

This populous Arab country is building a large number new cities and urban communities in order to redistribute its people and provide more space to accommodate its rapid population growth.

It does this because it wants credit for being the home of the “first-of-a-kind”, “tallest”, or “largest” adjectives that precede most construction projects in the Gulf.

Egypt is currently building Africa’s tallest tower, in its New Administrative Capital. It is located between Cairo and Suez. The New Administrative Capital also houses the continent’s largest sports facilities, hospitals and water treatment plants.

“Egypt races against the clock to compensate for the time it lost due to the events it has witnessed over the past few years,” Mahmud Makhlouf from Cairo University, a professor of construction engineering, told Al-Monitor. “This is why Egypt initiates major construction projects that amount a construction revolution.”

According to local media reports, New Abu Qir is expected to include tourist projects and educational facilities as well as commercial markets, restaurants, hospitals and recreational facilities.

People with knowledge of the new city believe it will act as an investment magnet, particularly from Gulf Arab states with financial surpluses.

Abdel Fattah Yahia stated, “We expect the city to attract major industrial and commercial investment,” “The city will be the hub of all services, especially since there are many important road and transport projects around it.”

Egypt has been hard at work to attract international investment, particularly those that add value to the economy and help to transfer technologies.

The current construction boom has made the real estate and construction industry an attractive investment option.

Aside from the desire to alter Egypt’s demographic map and better distribute its population, the same boom in construction thrives on the existence of heavy demand for real property in a country where the population grows by 1.88% annually.

This is why major construction and real-estate companies in the Gulf are also attracted to the local realty sector.

Bassant Fahmi, Cairo University’s economics professor, said that the attractiveness of Egypt’s local real estate sector is due to Egypt’s current stability and strategic location.

Economists such as Fahmi expect similar considerations to draw major real estate firms to the newcity being built now east of Alexandria.

However, environmental concerns are affecting the construction of the city. Some environmentalists are concerned about the reclamation of some parts of the Mediterranean Sea coast.

They claim that reclamation would cause the partial destruction of marine life along the Egyptian coast, and unfavorable changes in the marine environment in the area.

Emad Eddine, head of Arab Office for Youth and Environment (a nongovernmental organization), stated that the project would destroy marine life in the region and cause environmental catastrophes. “The environmental risks from this project will be higher if proper studies about its potential impacts are not done.”

Egypt has shown a growing interest in environmental protection. This is evident in the Arab country’s strategy for increasing its dependence on renewable energies and mitigating climate change.

The same interest is evident in Egypt’s efforts at reducing emissions, both industrial and transport.

The advocates of the project claim that the reclamation and construction of new cities has been thoroughly studied prior to starting construction.

Abdel Fattah Yahia stated, “State agencies conducted sufficient research on the project before embarking onto its implementation.” “These studies included an Environmental Assessment that showed that the project will not have any negative effects in the area.

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