September 17th, 2008 by Editor
On Saturday 6/9/2008 approximately at 9:30 AM , residents of Ezbet Bakhet , Al Dowiqa , Mansha’t Nasser in Cairo – which is considered one of shanty towns which includes a large population groups localized up and down of the huge mountain plateau of Al Mokatam mountain – waked up on a loud voice of rocky masses collapse to crush many houses including hundreds of citizens who failed to escape .
The civil defense and emergency couldn’t do their best due to the fact that this region includes an adjacent buildings separated by a narrow ways near a highway road , besides the ruggedness of the area near Al Mokatam mountain which prevents the big equipments to lift rocks or crumble it easily in some sites of the area .Also the crowd led to the postponement of saving victims under the rubble . The government asked for the help of equipments , cranes and diggers belong to the armed forces and Arab Contractors company to lift rubble and rocky masses .However , these equipments have not been used except only after several days because these equipments need to erase about 13 houses and an old rail way line . In addition , a security cordon includes the military police troops surrounded the are and prevented journalists and media personnel to enter the area .
The crisis is not confined to Al Dowiqa crisis as far as it goes far beyond it to the crisis of the shanty towns in general . The report deals with shanty towns case which has emerged as a reaction due to several aspects including economic, political, demographic and natural conditions . This phenomenon led to a vast consequences and in some cases reached the disastrous results such as the prevalence of terrorism , streets children and violence .
The number of shanty towns became 1221 areas according to the census of 2006 distributed in 24 governorates inhabited by 15.7 millions persons and this rate represents 24 % of the total population of the republic . The rate of shanty towns reach 77% of the constructional growth in some cities as in Bani Mazar – Al Menia governorate and in some cases shanty towns reached about 87 % of the constructional extents like in Giza governorate .
As for Assuit governorate , it stands at the first position of the shanty towns followed by Cairo governorate which is supposed to be the cleaned city as it includes 81 shanty areas surrounded Cairo such as Arab Ghonim , Al Hakr , Arab Rashed , Kafr alow , Al Tebeen ,Al Basateen ,Dar Al Salam known as ” people republic of china ” and Kalat Al Kabsh in the middle of Cairo as its population is about 40 000 persons surrounded by Zein Al Abdin cemetery ,Azbet Khairallah , Kafr Kandil in Giza , Ard Aziza Ezat , Azbet Al Korood in Masr Al Kadima , Azbet Abu Hashish ,Hakr Al Sharabia .As for Alexandria , it includes 54 shanty towns inhabited by about 35 % of the total population of Alexandria .
In this regard , EOHR issued a report entitled ” Marginalized in shanty towns ….. Dead or a live : Al Dowiqa opens fire again ” . The report deals with the crisis of Al Dowiqa and shanty towns in general and the mechanisms that should be taken to solve this problem .
The report is divided as follows:
Section I: Legislative and legal framework of the right to housing
Section II: Shanty towns … The causes and results
Section III: Al Dowiqa … live witnesses
Conclusion and recommendations
Section I: Legislative and legal framework of the right to housing
No one can deny that the event of Al Dowiqa is considered a clear violation against the right to adequate housing which represents the simplest basic human rights .
The right to housing is one of the basic human rights and in the same time one of the fundamental bases for human life and the main tool for realizing other human civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights .
In addition , the right to housing exceeds the normal building to include the relation between human and the society which humane lives in .This right has a different dimensions and relations which are difficult to be defined such as employment, access to services ,standards of health , personal security , personal identity ,self- respect, privacy and family life .The suitable house builds the relations and links in an atmosphere of privacy, leading to respect the social relations among all individuals.
The international covenants paid more attention to this right , especially the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which stipulated in its article 25 that ” Everyone has the right to access a standard of adequate living for himself and his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and Necessary social services and the right to personal security in case of disasters such as unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other circumstances that deprive him from main livelihood .Also the International Covenant on Economic , Social and Cultural Rights stipulated in its article 11 that ” Everyone has the right to adequate standard of living for himself and his family to provide their needs of food, clothing and shelter “.Also the Vancouver Declaration on Human Settlements in 1976 which is considered the most detailed document related to the legal nature of this right stipulated in the second paragraph part three that ” Housing and the appropriate services are the fundamental human rights which the government must provide for all people” and chapter 2 stipulated that ” Ideologies must not be used to deprive people from their houses or lands or to establish privileges and exploitation. The Istanbul Declaration -1996 confirmed the same meaning as it stipulated that ” Adequate shelter means more than one roof over the head of human, also it means the appropriate privacy, adequate space, adequate security, legal protection of the population, rigidity and durability Structural, adequate lighting, heating, ventilation and appropriate infrastructure.
The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights issued a report No. 4 related to the right to the suitable house as it identified the key elements which form the basic guarantees provided by the international law to enjoy the right to adequate housing . These keys elements are :
-The legal guarantee for the continuation of house occupancy .
– Providing services and materials , utilities and basic frameworks .
– The ability to bear the cost of living ( affordability) .
– Access to the adequate housing according to the cultural background .
The Committee focused –according to the general comment No. (7)- on the legal protection related to the forced eviction and other cases which conflict with the commitments emerged according to the international Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
Also there are many other conventions that have paid attention including the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women which Article 14, paragraph H confirmed that ” The right to enjoy with a suitable living conditions especially what related to housing and drain utilities , electricity and water supply ,transport and communications and the convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women in Article 41, paragraph 2, the Convention on the Rights of the Child Article 27, paragraph 3 and article 10 of the Declaration of Social Progress and Development, and Article 8 (1) of the Declaration on the Right to Development And recommendation 115 of the International Labor Organization on housing for workers in 1961, the Convention on the Rights of Refugees in 1951.
This right didn’t take the correct position in the regional conventions for human rights , also there was no interest in the constitutions of Arab States as there are 17 Arab countries that didn’t mention this right in their constitutions, although there are more than fifty national constitutions in the world stated This right .Section II: Shanty towns … The causes and results
The suitable house supported by basic services is considered a base of preserving the authentic character for the family and the maintenance for values and traditions which represent the basis for economic and social development . The second section of the report entitled ” Shanty towns ….. Causes and results” deals with the exacerbation of the crisis in the last period in Egypt which was the problem that the report of United Nations fund for Population bewared .
The report clarified that the inhabitants of Cairo swelled dramatically in the past three decades as the number duplicated from 6.4 millions in 1975 to 11.1 millions in 2005 , adding that the rate reached about 1221 shanty towns including from 12 to 15 millions persons who live in unhealthy environment where health hazards arise from poor drainage system and the lack of pure water and the poor ventilation in work and living areas besides , air pollution and industrial pollution and inadequate food. These shanty towns are established by tin or zinc or wood or cartoon or distracted huts with narrow alleys where cars can’t move inside . These shanty towns are established without a license in the territories owned by the government or others and usually these shanty towns are established outside the scope of governmental services and utilities .
Shanty towns is considered a challenge to the social system in Egypt and a main snag for social and cultural development and a tool to bring out the crime and terrorism , also it contains some phenomenon such as child labor, the spread of drugs, the lack of health and cultural awareness and the lack of social organization . Also it is considered an incubation for all social diseases such as poverty , crimes ,illiteracy , unemployment and the inability to integrate into the city life and the lack of social cohesion or co-operation among these populations who are described as ” Marginalized urban ” .
Shanty towns populations are characterized by a group of negative features such as the abandonment of mates for families , violence , family centralizing around the mother , they have a sense of “fatalism” ,the lack of “self-esteem and frustration , fear , suspect and indifference from the economic ,social and political side as they are from low-wage employees used things and live in inadequate housing and crowded with the lack of development services.
The reasons for the spread of this phenomenon are described as follows :
1- The main causes that led to the spread of this phenomenon in the Egyptian region , is the increase number of population or as it were ” Over -Population “. The increase number of population with the low resources leads to the decrease of job opportunities and living level ,so people resort to these places to live in .
2- The migration from the countryside to the town and the increase of poverty rate inside the society lead to the same problem . The Egyptian society has witnessed a huge migration from country side to the town and the regional capitals to search for work .As far as these masses were a result to capitalize the country , so far they were considered a provisional army for work to cover the needs for cheap labor in the emerged economic sectors .
3- The increase rate of poverty inside the society :
The spread of poverty is a reflection for the lift of State hand over utilities and services and releasing the hand of private sector to control the market . Egypt comes within countries with medium human development and its rank is 120 among 177 countries covered by the Human Development guide and was preceded by such countries like Israel whose rank is 22 and Bahrain in level 40 , Kuwait 44, Qatar 47 and the Emirates 49, while Cuba ranked level No. 52 .
4- Unemployment :
The rates of unemployment are raised unprecedented as the unemployment is one of the main cause of this phenomenon as it reached about 9.1 % of the total of labor force in Egypt ( 17.8 millions idle persons ) according to the Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics . The causes of the problem of unemployment for the most part of it return back to a structural reasons due to the nature of the Egyptian economic growth -as a developing economy- which suffers from an interior or exterior structural imbalance represented in a defect in the balance of payments and imbalance in the state budget , beside the existed gab between savings and investment and thus the production and consumption . The report of human development for Egypt in 2005 issued in Jan 2006 indicated that the chronic unemployment rate is one of the most serious problems facing the Egyptian economy as the official figure became 11% in 2003 .
5- The negligence of governmental bodies for members of society as for providing a safe place for living .
6- The inability of government to set housing policies
This phenomenon led to a group of results as follows :
The prevalence of violence :
shanty towns is considered the main fuel for generating violence inside the society .It creates the key elements for the complete readiness of violence. There is another key element for violence represented in retaliatory nature , the social violence reflects a sense of injustice and oppression .It was a sense of marginalized towards the city which give him the life and neglect him in the same time , so he is controlled by the desire for revenge the matter which makes many thuggery practices similar to the collective punishment regardless of its causes and results . Shanty towns is considered the incubated environment for political violence as the shanty towns with the economic and social circumstances helps to spread the violent political behavior in the presence of economic and political deprivation and negativism and the absence of security for the state the matter which led to the existence of the elementary conditions of ideologies of violence . The social origins of “Jihad organization members” showed the responsibility of these origins as an incubated environment for political violence .During the first half of nineties , there were 14 % of these groups which affiliate to Al Sahel district , 9.1 % for Al Sharabia district , 9.1 % for Al Waili , 7.3 % for Al Mataria , 31 % Imbaba , 24.2 % Bolaque , however the family roots of most of them return to Al Aiat , Nahia ,Saft Al Laban , Kirdasa , Ezbet Shokr , Ezbet dolar , Al Khanka , Abu Zabel , Kafr shokr , . These villages are mainly suffer from economic changes and problems of transition to urban style . The situation repeated itself in the second half of the nineties as the religious violence processes concentrated in upper Egypt villages specially in Malawi , Dirout ,Samalout and Abu Korkas .
In this regard , the relation between the shanty towns and violence on the social and political levels is clear . This relation is expected to aggravate in the light of the following :
First , The rapid withdrawal for the state from the economic and social fields , in the frame work of the structural transformations of the Egyptian state – the program of economic reform and structural adjustment – and the consequent denial of the economic base of the State – the privatization of public enterprise sector –the reduction of social expenditure – the commodity support, public expenditure on education, health and others – the crisis will aggravate due to the decline of employment opportunity and increasing burdens of living the matter which leads to the crash between the margin and center, city and shanty towns .
Second: changes in social structure of the shanty towns , unlike the historic beginnings of shanty towns , these areas are no longer the camps which collect immigrants from rural areas ( idles , poor people , young professionals ) ,in the framework of capitalizing the production relation in the Egyptian countryside .Starting from the mid of seventies and as a result of a growing urban and real estate speculations , these areas began to witness a new pattern of displacement . A growing proportions of urban populations settled in the shanty towns the matter which creates a heterogeneous social and intellectual mix that share in incorporating the conflict between the values of rural area and the city , besides the role of establishing the basic conditions for religious violence .
Third :The state trend to control the urban growth , this includes the re-planning of urban centers ,especially the capital and the big cities which leads to remove and resettle a huge number of shanty towns residents the matter which leads to further clashes between the two sides .
Second: The spread of children employment :
The international society interested in combating the phenomenon of children employment as it is considered one of the most greatest phenomenon in communities history , it attacks the base of the society , besides the moral objections concerning the exploitation of children in the labor market . The international Convention on the rights of the child issued by the united nations in 1989 paid more attention to the protection of children from violation through letting them in the labor market . Article 22 of the convention stipulated that “The involved countries admit the rights of children to protect them from the economic exploitation or from any action that supposed to be danger or represent a snag or interfere with the children education or their mental , physical , spiritual growth .
The phenomenon became clear in Egypt as the number of homeless children is about 2 millions ,including 90 000 in Cairo , the statistics indicated to the magnitude of misdemeanors related to streets children , as most misdemeanors represented by theft by 56 % , expose to homeless with 16.5 % , beggary 13.9 % , violence with 5.2 % , delinquency with 2.9 % .
Third: The environment field
The environmental degradation is represented in a solid waste and the random removal of garbage , besides the existence of accumulated wastes near the residential area , open burning or self-ignition of accumulations , the spread of population groups around dumps to take advantage of garbage through isolating and unsecured exploration by children .
Fourth : The drainage system
Most shanty towns lacks the integrated service for the drainage system , as the removal of drainage is through the usage of exposed ground tanks or by deep drain in ground water tanks which leads to the creation of moors in the shanty towns , besides other negative environmental effects on the drinkable water .
Fifth: the drinkable water
most of shanty towns lacks the service of drinkable water as the inhabitants get their needs through pulling ground water by unhealthy pumps which leads to the appearance of diarrhea cases or any other health problems .
sixth :The industrial activities :
There are industrial activities spread in some cities especially the shanty towns such as foundries – brick factories – crafts workshops – poultry and animal farms . The random removal of the liquid and rigid industrial wastes in the surrounding grounds and water courses leads to a bad effect on the quality of soil and water , besides the high rate of noise .
Section III: Al Dowiqa …… live witnesses
EOHR sent a two fact- finding missions to that area , the first one was sent the day after the event as it faced many snags to get in the location of the event due to the siege laid by the security forces around the whole area . The fact finding mission noticed that there is no equipments to lift the collapsed rocks and debris and residents used a primitive equipments to get out victims . So EOHR sent another fact –finding mission in the fifth day , it monitored the following violations as follows :
1- There were a few number of first – aid men assisted by the people of the area using rudimentary equipments such as drove and hummer .
2- The existence of two dead manual diggers .
3- The absence of the trained dogs that detect the victims .
4- The non – participation of armed forces in the exploration of victims .
5- The existence of two bulldozers belong to the Arab Contractors Company as they eliminate the surrounding buildings to widening the area .
6- The emission of bad smell from the corpses as a result of its putridity .
7- Two members of the ministry of Health sprinkled a purified material in the area .
8- The existence of a large security forces in the area to prevent residents and journalists from entering the are except only journalists from the national newspapers .
The fact finding mission came to the following results :
1- The absence of the monitored role .Although there were a similar collapses in the same area in the past few years , the monitored state agencies didn’t move to help especially that the geographical nature of that area is rocky , also buildings are randomly located on the side of the mountain surfaces , besides the existing houses down to the mountain which suffer from the random drainage system , the matter which required to evacuate all residents from the area . The continuation of these buildings as they are led to the leak of the drainage system to the loam soil and so the pressure on the limestone rocks .
The National Institute for Astrophysics and Geophysics Research has prepared a report in collaboration with the Geological survey concerning the study of the nature of Al Mokatam area . This study recommended the necessary of houses evacuation from the side surfaces or down of the mountain all as the same .These results were submitted to officials in Cairo governorate in 1994 , however the efforts of the governorate are longed in vain , because residents were forced to leave the houses in the morning but they returned back in the night .
2- The lack of attention to the victims under the rocky blocks , besides the strong slowness to get out corpses .
3- The lack of awareness of civil defense forces with their tasks , also they didn’t receive an adequate training to deal with the crisis .
4- The lack of the constructional planning that allow to evacuate the shanty towns in the places where life of residents faces risks and to compensate victims with alternative houses .
5- The failure of the competent agencies to deal with crises .
The live witnesses
Yassin Taha -41 years old – sheep trader .
“We stood with the rescue team till 3 AM , and there were several individuals from residents whose houses are under rocks . These individuals were receiving calls from their relatives who are under wreckage via mobile phones . The victims tried to call for the help to be heard” .
2- Mostafa Tawfik 23 years old :
“The rescue teams are still using the manual equipments to get out victims . Frankly , residents began to fight the rescue team who tried to prevent them to help “
3- Mohamed Rashid 29 years old – worker
” I was sleeping in my house , then I surprised by a loud sound and a shake like earthquake . I found all people in the street and said that the mountain is falling down . I went there to find that a large piece of the mountain fell on the houses and shanties” .
4- Zeinab Mostafa
“At 9 :00 AM, I found my house shaking and we heard a sound of collapse and began to escape from houses despite my house is far from the stricken area” .
5- Mohamed Sobhy -24 years old
“4 months ago a collapse was occurred in the same area without losses and nothing done by the governorate officials or the district council . Also in 2005 there was another collapse which led to the death of a family altogether besides the individual accidents .
6- Wael Abdul Magid 24 years old
” The main reason for the collapse is the existence of drainage tubes above the mountain whose nature is consisting of lime layers . These layers are being crumbled by the drain water accordingly “.
7- Mohamed Magdy – 21 years one of residents who participated in the rescue process
” I was in the location of the event since 11 Am at the beginning of the collapse . I took out many numbers of corpses under the rocks , on 9/9/2008 one corpse called ” Abu Khaled was extracted while on 10/9/2008 4 corpses were extracted . The rescue team is using a manual tools to extract the corpses , also the soldiers of civil defense are standing hand tied and their work is very slow and we are using a hummer and chisel to get out corpses” .
8- Mohamed Salah 24- years
” Since the first day of the collapse , we didn’t see one trained dog that helps to recognize corpses . We asked the rescue team to take the manual digger machine but they refused “.
9- Hasan Khair – 28 years , one of lost victims families under wreckage .
“I have a family relation with Al Gargish family who is under rocks till now due to the slowness process of extracting corpses .
10- Mohamed Anter – worker
“At 9:00 AM we had heard the sound of collapse and a strong shake in the mountain . Immediately we had informed the emergency , the first emergency car came at 10:00 Am and the first rescue team was the armed forces from the neighbor battalion and in the afternoon emergency cars , civil defense troops came to the location of the crisis “.
Conclusion and recommendations
At the end of the report , EOHR confirms the magnitude of the humanitarian catastrophe which many aspects helped to increase it even if it is practical or legislative . However , it was possible to extenuate the impacts of the crises if the government has a limited and clear mechanism to confront the crisis regardless of its nature . It is clear for all that there is a severe failure committed by the competent bodies when dealing with the crisis . Furthermore, EOHR recommends the following :
First : The need for taking a quick steps to manage the crisis of Al Dowiqa
The mechanisms of solving this crisis lack to the required quickness to save lives under the ruins , and the way to deal with the crisis , besides the lack of a watchful leadership to manage the crisis .
So EOHR recommends the following :
– Forming a high committee to search the reasons of the crisis and its impacts and ways to avoid it through addressing the competent ministries to establish a private unit to mange crises .
– Forming a qualified team to survey areas which represent danger for residents and to vacate these areas and to give houses for residents in a safe places .
– Issuing a law to establish an independent council to manage crises , this council includes a group of consultants in all majors related to the humanitarian or natural catastrophes and to specify an independent budget for it . This council may not submit to any ministry .
Second : As for shanty towns :
The problem is not in Al Dowiqa in particular , but in all shanty towns as the same . We have about 1221 shanty towns on the republic level . There is a need to deal with shanty towns in a serious way to avoid its reiteration as Al Dowiqa is not the first case . So EOHR recommends the following :
– Setting an alternative and effective solutions in order to get rid of shanty towns which considered a violation against the right to generous live which includes ( food , clothes , house , education , treatment , and other main needs ) .
– Providing and promoting the housing level and make it available for all citizens especially for low income categories with a reasonable prices with a new strategy to challenge the housing crisis in Egypt .
– Taking a quick steps to develop an integrated urban strategy which puts all state’s efforts in establishing new cities , desert villages and shanty towns development in the framework of public plan .
– Confirming the nationality of population problem , and the necessary of considering it one of the main problems and its responsibility is not confined to a specific ministry or sector , however the responsibility falls upon all ministries and agencies , governmental and non governmental organizations and institutions concerned with the private sector .
– Establishing a committee that works on evaluating the role of new urban communities and cities in solving the problem of population to recognize their failure to achieve their goals , also to recognize the methods of encouraging inhabitants to the new cities in order to set an effective strategy which leads to limit the high population percentage in the old valley .
– Confirming the necessary of spending for population problem as a main part of Stat’s investments which society shall provide .
– The need for permanent modernization for population policy and strategies .
– Revising laws and legislations which conflict with targets and philosophy of population policies .
– The need for activating laws and legislations that limit building on the agricultural lands .
– Completing the constructional designs preparations to avoid the establishment of new shanty towns and asking for the help of faculty of engineering and constructional planning faculty and consultative offices due to the lack of local agencies that responsible for these designs .
– The need for activating the real state finance law and implementing what stipulated in article 35 related to the establishment of the support fund for real state finance in the field of selling houses for low income people and to provide the necessary funds for supporting social housing .
– Setting a strategy for low income housing in the light of market economy based on encouraging emigration to the new places with the need to strengthen services in these areas .
– The state has to guarantee a high percentage of funding for providing the appropriate housing for citizens who have no adequate or appropriate shelter .
– The state has to take the necessary measures in order to develop a plan for community development on the economic and local level and structural change to ensure the access of citizens to adequate housing .
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