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INFRA+ Infrastructure for Fragmented Cities: Middle East

INFRA+ Infrastructure for Fragmented Cities: Middle East

Starts on Tue, 13 Jul 2021 14:30 British Summer Time (UTC+1)

Register here.

How can infrastructure improve life in fragmented cities, now and in the future?

About this event


  • Dr Christine Mady, Notre Dame University (bio)
  • Prof Heba Khalil, Cairo University (bio)
  • Dr Rita Nasr, Henley Business School (bio)
  • Dr Heba Shoaib, Takween-ICD & Arab Academy for Science and Technology and Maritime Transport (bio)

Chair: Mr Yahya Gamal, University of Manchester (bio)


Dr Christine Mady

Instability, informal mobility, and differentiated spatial experiences in Beirut

This presentation provides an overview of the establishment of Beirut’s public transportation system, and its transformation following the 1975-1989 Lebanese civil war. This transformation is characterised by the depletion of the publicly provided bus fleet, and the invasion of privately provided buses and vans, which support the mobility of one part of the population in Beirut and its surroundings. Within an unstable context, this transformation resulted in an informal bus system, which is deeply entrenched in the country’s inheritance of a consociational government, weak planning, and strong belonging to politico-sectarian communities. Some consequences include differentiated spatial experiences for this system’s riders as compared to private automobile users, in terms of navigating the city and traversing war-inherited boundaries. Debates on how to support and improve public transport in Beirut are ongoing, despite numerous post-war proposals between 1994 and 2019.

Prof Heba Khalil

Enhancing circularity for better livability in formal/informal areas: Urban metabolism as an approach

Dr Rita Nasr

The institutional role of middlemen in the development of better recycling practices

This talk draws on Lebanon’s major dilemma in solid waste sector, which suffers from lack of adequate infrastructure, absence of well-defined national and local policies, and lack of cost recovery systems for solid waste management. While 8-10% of municipal solid waste is being recycled, no attempts and strategies are set by the government to improve this sector, leading to more pressure for disposal mechanisms in terms of dumping in the sea and burning waste. This is reflected in the presence of approximately 617 unofficial municipal dumpsites and three national sea landfills for Beirut and Mount Lebanon (the most urbanized areas in the country). These mechanisms were heavily opposed by activists and environmentalists who associate such practices with great harm on the environment. However, the solid waste sector in the country seems to hide alternative treatment practices exercised by self-organized recycling businesses. These operators are known as recycling middlemen and owner-operators of collection/sorting points in urban centers and around dumpsites. The research questions the institutional role of recycling middlemen, as soft urban interventions, in the unstable waste system and their formal-informal interfaces in the face of various contexts of uncertainties.

Dr Heba Shoaib

Highway Urban Assemblages and The Right to the City The Case Study of Cairo Ring Road

Highways, a major component of transportation infrastructure networks, are a symbol and tool of modernization; they represent a formal act on the city derived from a pragmatic mobility requirement. The intersection of highways with urban contexts, specifically in contemporary megacities of the Global South, results in a heterogeneous ensemble that is one of the most problematic yet potential urban compositions. In the aforementioned cities with dense communities, scarcity of urban space, and austere socio-economic conditions, the heterogeneous ensemble of urban highways causes physical and social fragmentation, yet, provides opportunities for new uses and interpretations beyond their sole role of mobility. With regards to the rising approach of assemblage urbanism, this heterogeneous ensemble can be perceived as an “urban assemblage”, specifically, a “highway urban assemblage” that has a potential to produce new types of urban transformations and re-assemble urban communities with the city. These assemblages are composed of material components, mainly highways and infrastructural space, and human actors such as urban residents, workers, civic society organizations, private sector and governmental entities. Highway urban assemblages have diverse characteristics, impacts, and potentials in response to their physical and socio-cultural contexts.

This research investigates this phenomenon within the Cairene context. Cairo’s vast urban agglomeration is composed of a variety of urban settlements, mostly with a dense fabric, scarcity of public open space, and austere socio-economic conditions. The construction of Cairo Ring Road in the late 1980s splintered multiple urban contexts within this sprawling city, and reshaped the urban space of several neighbourhoods, resulting in diverse highway urban assemblages. Currently, there is an ongoing wave of new constructions of urban highways in Egypt. Within these conditions, it is necessary to provide decision makers and urban planners with a comprehensive assessment of the physical, social, economic, and environmental impacts of these urban highways on diverse urban contexts. The aim of this assessment is to explore means of eliminating the negative impacts of urban highways and provide insights on their potential to assist urban residents in reclaiming their right to the city. Accordingly, this research provides a comparative study of the highway urban assemblages of Cairo Ring Road within the two informal neighborhoods of Izbit Khayrallah and Izbit al-Nasr.

INFRA+ Rationale

How can infrastructure be chosen, planned, designed, implemented, maintained, enhanced and used to improve human well-being in formal and informal urban areas?

The sustained functioning of infrastructural systems has multiple positive effects on human health and wellbeing. Infrastructure is therefore central to the UN Sustainable Development agenda, featuring in and contributing to most Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs; Goals 1, 3, 5-14 among others). The lack of access to sanitation, water, transport, energy or communication infrastructure can curtail sustainable development and entrench existing or create new social inequality dynamics, for instance in further stigmatising the urban poor.

The INFRA+ webinar series aims to identify links between context-specific infrastructural challenges, approaches to their solution and universal mechanisms towards improved sustainability.

Speakers from across academia and practice with focus on East and Southeast Asia, Latin America, Africa and the Middle East present their unique disciplinary perspectives and propose transdisciplinary directions for future research.

Check out all INFRA+ webinars here.

Image by djedj from Pixabay.

This webinar series is funded through the University of Manchester Global Challenges Research Fund.

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