Egypt’s population began a period of rapid expansion during the 50’s , leading to environmental degradation in urban locations and substantial encroachment onto arable land. At that time the Government’s institutional structures and physical planning capabilities were not able to prevent this explosion of undesirable land use. In 1973 the government established the General Organization for Physical Planning (GOPP) as a division of the Ministry of Housing, Utilities and Urban Development (MHUUD) in order to attain the well-planned land use that makes optimal use of resources for social and environmental well-being and can attract investment to areas where employment is needed. GOPP is mandated to oversee regional and settlement planning, with responsibilities that include policy and methodological development, preparing strategic plans, training local authority staff and monitoring their planning and implementation activities. GOPP should provide the overall framework for expansion within which the local authorities should be able to successfully manage and implement their urban and governorate plans. GOPP creates these frameworks to be compatible with long-term national plans .
According to Presidential Decree no. 475 of 1977 Egypt was divided into seven economic regions containing 26 governorates, which became 28 in 2008 according to Presidential Decrees 114 and 124 of 2008:
1. Cairo Region: Governorates of Cairo, Giza, Qalubiya, Helwan and 6th October.
2. Alexandria Region: Governorates of Alexandria, Beheira, and Matruh.
3. Suez Canal Region: Governorates of South Sinai, North Sinai, Port Said, Ismailia, Sharkiya and Suez.
4. Delta Region: Governorates of Monufiya, Gharbiya, Kafr El-Sheikh, Damietta and Dakahliya.
5. North Upper Egypt Region: Governorates of Beni Suef, Menia, and Fayoum.
6. Assiut Region: Governorates of Assiut and the New Valley.
7. South Upper Egypt Region: Governorates of Sohag, Qena, Aswan and the Red Sea Governorate.
In accordance with this trend towards decentralization of spatial planning, GOPP began establishing Regional Centers in 1986 in order to be closer to the beneficiaries of the spatial planning, as well as improving the way that physical plans are prepared, implemented and followed up. Decentralization of planning is an essential component of the GoEs ongoing efforts to develop the country in a harmonious and sustainable way.
UNDP began assisting GOPP in 1986 when it was establishing the GOPP Regional Center in Ismailia for the Suez Canal Economic Region (GOPP RPPC 3) through project EGY/86/016. Based on the success of this first RPPC, GOPP established Regional Planning Centers in each of Egypt’s six other Economic Regions, and was supported by UNDP throughout this decentralization process.
In 1995 the GOPP/UNDP project EGY/95/009; 1995–1998 developed a vision and plan of action to create and build up the seven regional planning centers of GOPP through establishing a network of Geographical Information Systems for spatial planning on a national scale (See Annex 1: Informatics Vision). That project covered the studies to establish the needed volume and types of data, software, hardware and training needed for GOPP and RPPC's to carry out their activities. That project is the ‘Mother Project’ for all the transformational activities that have taken place since in GOPP. It envisaged that implementation would occur in three phases.
SIDA: The bulk of technical expertise for the first and second implementation phases was provided through parallel financing by SIDA.
The First Implementation Phase (1999-2002: EGY/98/005) explored the technological advances in mapping and physical planning and matched these with Egyptian requirements and capabilities, and introduced new technologies to three of GOPP’s Regional Centers – Ismailia, Tanta and Greater Cairo. Parallel activities were upgrading \GOPP HQ. ESRI's Arc GIS was installed in these offices, accompanied by the necessary upgrades to the premises, and the staff capacity building to enable the day-to-day use of GIS.
The Second Implementation Phase (2004-2008; EGY/03/023) consisted of (a) developing a participatory urban planning methodology and (b) extending GIS capabilities to the other four Regional Centers. During the course of project implementation, the legal adjustments pertaining to the changes being introduced were incorporated into a new planning law, Law No 119/2008, approved by Parliament on 20th March 2008.
The Third Implementation Phase (2009-2013) will follow-up on the previous work to consolidate the use of the new SUP methodologies and technologies, adapt participatory and sustainability processes to higher levels of planning (governorates and regions), produce Regional Planning Guidelines, and contribute to national spatial development.
This project (the 3rd implementation phase; 2009-2013) will address the need for supporting GOPP’s new role – based on the new Building Law – in preparing and testing methodologies for multi-level strategic planning, building capacities of technical staff and decision makers in planning the implementation and follow-up, and enhancing participatory mechanisms at the local and national levels.