The demolition of homes in the Afincho Ber area of Arada District is the beginning of officials' plans to tear down more than 150 homesteads in the area to make way for a river rehabilitation project.

Hundreds of homesteads in three districts along Addis Abeba’s Banteyiketu River face demolitions to make way for a beautification project that has yet to be designed.

City authorities have thus far torn down no less than 46 houses in the Afincho Ber area of Arada District. They plan to expand the demolitions to four additional weredas in the District, putting more than 150 households in sight.

Stretching 27.5Km from Mount Entoto to the Akaki-Qality District, Banteyiketu is one of two major rivers that cut through the heart of Addis Abeba, flowing past some of the capital’s most densely populated areas. It has been years since the riverside rehabilitation project, dubbed “Beautifying Sheger” was launched. The project aspires to reinvent the capital’s image by developing public spaces along the Banteyiketu and Kebena rivers.

The rivers have long been used as waste disposal and sewerage outlets, exposing them and the settlements along their banks to severe pollution. According to a study conducted by the UNDP, close to 32,000 households – mostly informal settlements – and 2,500 businesses are along the riversides.

Friendship Park was constructed as part of the project's first phase, resting on a 27hct plot on Taitu St., across the Sheraton Addis. First Highway, a state-owned China Construction Company subsidiary, completed the Park last year for 50 million dollars. The project’s second phase, which kicked off in September 2020, comprises two segments: The construction of a science and technology museum, a children’s amusement park, and a sports centre on 18hct of land on Menelik II Avenue, adjacent to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The Chinese Jiangsu Nantong Sanjian Construction Group carries out the work for 55 million dollars.

The second segment focuses on rehabilitating the Banteyiketu River, which has seen the recent demolitions around Afincho Ber and Eri Bekentu areas.

City officials had pledged minimal expropriation and relocation along the riversides when the Beautifying Sheger project was launched. Nonetheless, the demolitions are taking place even before the design work for the development is approved.

“The design work can be done in parallel with the demolition,” said Menelik Getaneh, a civil engineer at the Urban Beautification & Green Development Bureau.

The Bureau under Tsigereda Worku handles land preparation and hiring contractors and consultants. Tsigereda was appointed to head the Bureau last October when Adanech Abiebie, mayor of Addis Abeba, formed a new cabinet.

Residents along the riverbank say they had not received notification before their homesteads were torn down.

Getachew Belay’s family of five has lived in the area for more than eight years. His two-bedroom home was less than 30m from the riverbank before it was demolished last month.

Yehualashet Tamiru, a legal consultant and researcher, observes failure to notify households before demolition constitutes a procedural irregularity.

“The city should compensate residents who sustain losses for no notification,” he said.

“My house was demolished two days after I received a notice,” said a resident who has since relocated to a condominium unit.

City officials admit the notice period was short. However, residents in private and public housing (commonly referred to as kebele housing) are paid 100,000 Br as compensation for losses during the relocation process, according to Tegegnework Genenaw, head of the Housing Development Office at Wereda 06 of Arada District.

Half of the 46 homesteads demolished have received compensation, as they lived in registered kebele and privately owned houses. Those that lived in informal settlements were not so lucky.

The expert says any expropriation must entail financial compensation.

“If the state fails to compensate, residents can take their cases to court,” said Yehualashet.

Residents were given two options for relocation in the lead-up to the demolitions: moving to condominium housing units, which they are expected to pay for, or to kebele-owned housing elsewhere. Nineteen households, including Getachew’s, chose the former. Getachew and his family have moved into a unit in the Qality area.

Bizunesh Alemayehu and her daughter are among those who have seen their house of half a century torn down. They have been relocated to public housing nearby in Arada District but are unhappy that the new lodging is not up to par.

“The house is dilapidated,” said Bizunesh.

Officials say they will move forward with plans to demolish more than 150 houses in adjacent weredas soon. The demolitions will continue to five weredas in the Gulele and Lideta districts. Tegegnework disclosed the households scheduled for demolition might not receive the 100,000 Br compensation payment.

“The compensation will be made after considering the time they were built,” he said.

A resident in her mid-60s, who requested anonymity, is among those facing the prospect of losing her house. She has lived near the River in a public housing unit for over half a century. Five of her children live with her, covering 120 Br monthly rent. The former civil servant depends on her pension to survive.

“I’m barely able to cover rent, let alone pay for a condominium unit,” she said.

Residents along the Kebena River are faring better. The authorities are awaiting the completion of design work before relocating households along the riverbank, stretching from Entoto to the German Embassy. Tsigereda is expected to select a firm that will be tasked with designing and constructing the Kebena River project by next August. Four companies took part in a bid floated three months ago.

At-Con Engineering & Architectural Consultancy, a local firm incorporated in 2010, was recently awarded a 12 million Br contract for supervision works along the 5.4Km long Kebena Riverside project.

PUBLISHED ON Jul 17,2022 [ VOL 23 , NO 1159]

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