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Avenue Royale Casablanca, Morocco

The Avenue Royale project in the heart of Casablanca illustrates how major urban projects give rise to conflict when they confront the people who live in the areas to be developed. Around 60,000 people from poor backgrounds are affected in this case.


In 1989, the Casablanca Urban Planning agency conducted a socioeconomic and property survey to identify the population that should be relocated in the context of a vast urban renewal program in the city center part of which was the building of the Avenue Royale through a dense, working class district [1]. Most of the families living in Royale Avenue are tenants with low or limited income. In the majority of cases, families of five people or more live together in a floor space of 20 square meters [2]. 12000 households were to be relocated according to their plans, with the first operations taking place in 1995 when 530 families were resettled in an urban residential estate built by private developers. About 2000 other households were moved between 1998 and 2002 to a purpose-built estate in a commune of the Greater Casablanca area called Nassim. The pace of re-housing then slowed considerably as a result of financial difficulties. Sonadac, the company that started the project in 1994, had relocated no more than 3000 households by 2009 out of the 12000 planned by 2004. These difficulties allowed CDG to take control of Sonadac in 2007 and resume the construction and relocation programs by 2008 [1]. But relocating the residents defined in 2008 has decelerated. There are still 8,800 inhabitants out of the original 10,000 who have to be relocated from the medina to Nassim which is now planned to be finished in 2018. In 2009, shortage of dwellings caused just a few families to be relocated [2]. In 2014, the project slowly restarted with the demolition of a few empty houses. But city authorities state that the census made at the beginning of the project is not valuable anymore claiming that a total of 17000 households need to be relocated due to births and migration from the rural areas. The company promised to relocate the families from the initial census while 200,000 DH will be given as compensation to the newcomers to use for housing in Nassim [3]. There were no public surveys or any public meetings during or before the project. Inhabitants of the area were thus very little informed, making them unable to get a clear idea of what the project was about. Moreover, the support provided to families during the rehousing operation was not thought out in advance but rather introduced, later on, to regulate social problems and the change in management of Sonadac led to the transfer to the commercial sectors of agents who were previously assigned to the social support unit. More importantly, there was a big gap between how the program was promoted and how it was experienced by the inhabitants. For them, being relocated to a distant housing estate was considered as uprooting, denial, and loss of urban life. With these roots building up over the duration of people's lives through practices such as local shops, services, customs and attachment to places. The spaced provided them with material and social resources leading to marginalization after uprooting. However, the affected residents were never heard collectively in a public space but rather individually through negotiations with the developer, with only the more powerful residents being able to influence conditions of relocation. In early 2000, a swift and immediate reaction to a protest against the project and the arrest of its leader deterred any further collective action, and reduced the collective capacity to influence this major project [1].

Basic Data
Name of conflict:Avenue Royale Casablanca, Morocco
State or province:Casablanca-Settat
Location of conflict:Casablanca
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Infrastructure and Built Environment
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Urban development conflicts
Specific commodities:Tourism services
Project Details and Actors
Project details

The building of a new road to be known as Avenue Royale, 60 meters wide and 1.5 kilometers in length through a densely populated, working class district. This project will look to relocate 12,000 households, representing an estimated 60,000 residents.

Project area:0.9
Level of Investment:aprox. 53,000,000.00
Type of populationUrban
Affected Population:60,000
Start of the conflict:01/01/1993
Company names or state enterprises:Société nationale d’aménagement communal (Sonadac) from Morocco - Renovate, restructure and rehabilitate of the urban area
Caisse de dépôt et de gestion (CDG) from Morocco - Property and territorial development through CDG Dev (2004).
Relevant government actors:Casablanca Urban Planning Agency
Direction des Domaines de l'état
Ministry of interior
Casablanca Urban Agency
International and Finance InstitutionsHassan II fund for economic and social development from Morocco - Funder
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityLOW (some local organising)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Informal workers
Squatters, City dwellers
Forms of mobilization:Street protest/marches
Refusal of compensation
Environmental ImpactsPotential: Air pollution, Noise pollution
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Displacement, Militarization and increased police presence, Loss of livelihood
Project StatusUnder construction
Conflict outcome / response:Compensation
Criminalization of activists
Violent targeting of activists
Project temporarily suspended
Weakening of participation
Development of alternatives:Residents affected by the Avenue Royale project were not heard collectively, only through individual negotiations in closed sessions with the developer. This meant that only those with the strongest economic, political or social resources were able to influence the conditions of relocation imposed on them. [1]
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:The improvement of stakeholder participation during the 2000s with the institutionalization of the role of civil society in specific Morrocon policies cannot find practical expression in this mega-project. For the residents, memories of the project are still marked by the authorities' strong and immediate reaction to a protest movement in the early 2000s with the arrest of its leader. Most actors like neighborhood associations and elected officials are defending their own interest while taking advantage of their position as intermediaries between institutional actors and residents. The collective capacity to influence the course of major projects is questionable. [1].
Sources & Materials
References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

1 - Major Urban Projects and the People Affected: The Case of Casablanca's Avenue Royale - ISABELLE BERRY-CHIKHAOUI (2010)
[click to view]

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

[click to view]

3 - Le projet d’aménagement de l’Avenue Royale ressucité - May 20, 2014
[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:Christophe Maroun - ICTA
Last update07/08/2017
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