Morocco rethinking 'zero slums' anti-terrorism plan

In 14 years, only 58 cities out of 85 at risk

22 May, 12:46

    (ANSAmed) - RABAT, MAY 22 - The Moroccan government's plan to rid the cities of its slums, called 'Villes sans bidonvilles' and launched in 2004 following the terrorist attacks in Casablanca, was slated to end in 2012.

    Instead, 14 years later, only 58 cities out of 85 have been targeted by the clean-up programme that provides for demolishing the most broken-down neighbourhoods and trasferring residents to newly built public housing, as part of a wider programme in the fight against terrorism.

    The series of suicide bombings that took place in Casablanca on May 16, 2003 alerted the country that it had homegrown terrorists, and the resulting shock was widely felt.

    The bombings killed 41 people and wounded about a hundred others.

    The five suicide bombers came from Sidi Moumen, one of Casablanca's most run-down shanty towns, built around a landfill outside of the city of eight million residents.

    Morocco started the project following the attacks, in order to improve housing conditions and avoid another May 16.

    Since then, there have been numerous hitches in the plan, in which the 251,000 completed transfers make up less than 66% of the families needing to be transferred.

    The number of needy families has increased over the last decade, with an additional 120,000, but construction has been unable to keep pace.

    Social services to accompany the families, which can help with reintegration, haven't been provided either.

    In addition, the newly built apartments are often located in isolated areas without needed services.

    This results in a paradox in which the homes are improved, but the area can be even worse than a slum.

    That is due to its location being too far from the city centre and from hubs of industrial, farming or business activity - conditions which normally lead to the development of shanty towns.

    The total cost of the operation is 32 billion dirhams (about three billion euros). Moroccan Urban Planning Minister Abdelahad Fassi-Fehri has promised to review the programme, at least on the operational side.

    Even in the cities where the building plan is currently underway, progress is only at 50% to 75% completion.(ANSAmed).

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