Egypt Cracks Down on Illegal Construction

Egypt Cracks Down on Illegal Construction

Despite ongoing political turmoil, the government of Egypt finally appears to be getting serious about tackling appalling standards of safety with regard to construction which has resulted in several high profile building collapses over recent years.

According to a report on the news web site, the Egyptian government is undertaking a significant effort to curb illegal building practices by conducting more inspections, implementing new regulatory mechanisms to address building violations and giving local authorities more oversight over the construction process.

The announcement follows three deadly building collapses since the start of the year. An eight storey building in Alexandria came down, killing up to 30 people, an old building in Mansoura fell, killing two, and three people died after a third building fell in the old district of Cairo.

There is a widespread perception that unlicensed building, especially on former agricultural land, has become more rampant over the past two years amid the country’s political turmoil and a perceived state of lawlessness within the building environment.

Building contractor Mahmoud Haqqi was quoted in a media report as saying that construction throughout the country “has been in chaos for more than two decades because there has not been firm regulatory control over who practises it, and many contractors are not specialised.”

“All this emboldens the contractor to commit more violations because this increases the profit margin he would gain by adding an illegal floor, for example,” he said.

Hassan Allam, head of the Ministry of Housing’s technical inspection division, agrees.

Egypt building collapse

“The phenomenon of unlicensed building construction has been exacerbated in the last two years due to the absence of security stability in the country after the revolution, emboldening many to encroach and build on agricultural land,” he said.

A division survey indicates that in the four years to December 2012, more than 317,000 buildings across 27 provinces were constructed without a license, and about 25,000 licensed buildings were issued with violations.

In those four years, local authorities issued 356,000 violations – two thirds of which concerned structures built after the January 1974 revolution.

Allam says the government wants to amend Law No. 119 of 2208 so as to give local authorities more oversight over the construction process.

Engineer Mustafa Khalil says there are three main reasons for building collapses in Egypt: lack of maintenance, building owners ignoring removal or repair orders and, in some cases, addition of multiple floors in excess of load bearing capacity.

Khalil says inspectors typically visit sites only after housing units have been built, allowing contractors an opportunity to use non-conforming and sometimes expired materials.

In addition to illegal construction, the Al-Shorfa report says local authority governance has been an issue in building standards.

It says a 2008 Housing and Building Research Centre study finding that around 52,000 engineers working at local government agencies had been referred for investigation in corruption cases.

By Ahn Jae Wook
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