Egypt’s capital–Cairo–has been facing the problem of overpopulation since 1960s, the most recent data from the Central Agency for Public Mobilisation and Statistics in Egypt stated that within the Cairo governate, the overall urban population density is 117,000 per square mile—1.5 times more than the population density of Manhattan and the ville de Paris.
Within Cairo, there are four different governates, and one that had the most significant gain is the one located in urban Cairo—Giza. It is located at the west bank of Nile river, and is considered the core of the urban area in Egypt. As a comparison, Kalyoubia is located to the north of Cairo and the majority of its population live in rural areas. Overall, from 1937-2012, the growth of the urban area is significantly bigger than that of rural areas. Many people choose to move to Cairo because it symbolizes concentration of control, resources and countless opportunities in the minds of most people in Cairo, which established a centralized social order by which the whole population aspires the citizenship in Cairo. Therefore, this ambition to acquire citizenship of the metropolitan city generated a huge immigration from rural regions to urban areas.
As a result of Egypt’s rapid urbanization process, an increasing number of buildings and factories were built. Since the 1970s, the brick buildings were built on the farmland with Nile silt that provide rich topsoil for the foundation of agriculture in Egypt. There is a distinctive line between these 12-story, unpainted, brick buildings and the farmland near the capital. Due to the limited amount of lands available, the buildings and farmland are in direct competition. The Greater Cairo hosts about twenty percent of the country’s total population, over 18 million people. In doing so, a growing trend of informal and unsafe ares is generated by this huge presence of urban population. About 1,171 areas in Egypt are considered informal, and 60 percent of these areas are located in Cairo.
The Egyptian government banned building on agricultural land in order to push the expansion of big cities into desert, and gain the massive new investment. Regardless of the ban on construction on agricultural land, most new construction in Egypt are located on farmland, which is a big problem for the country since only 2.75 percent of its land is suitable for farming. Each year, 16,000 acres of agricultural land are diminishing as a result of new construction projects. A growing trend of informal and unsafe ares is also generated by the huge presence of urban population. About 1,171 areas in Egypt are considered informal, and 60 percent of these areas are located in Cairo. A contractor could pay a bribe of £230 for an illegal apartment to get power, and £900 for a building to be connected to the grid. The reason that more people are willing to live in these illegal apartments than government supported buildings is that there’s no “soft infrastructure”. Although the government has build roads, pipes, and power lines, there are not enough schools, hospitals, and cultural activities.
Due to the unprecedented rapid urban growth over the past four decades, the infrastructure and service delivery system have troubles keeping up with cities’ population burden. Impoverished people have to settle in unplanned or unsafe areas because there is no public land or workable housing policies. After a while, problems like infrastructure deterioration, insufficient public transportation, high air and noise pollution, and traffic congestion surfaced as the result of improper planning. Urbanization in Egypt affects not only the capital, but also regional capitals, such as the Alexandria, by increasing their population exponentially caused by both the rural population shift and the demographic explosion. Currently, the biggest threat to the natural resources in Egypt is urban expansion and population growth. Water pollution and poor sewage treatment is partly responsible for the high infant mortality throughout Egypt.