BY AYA IBRAHIM
CAIRO: Minister of Agriculture and Land Reclamation Adel al-Beltagy warned Tuesday that the Nile Delta, the most fertile agricultural region in Egypt, would disappear within 60 years if rampant land encroachment continues.
The minister’s statement came during the launching of a national campaign by the Agriculture Ministry to counter encroachment on fertile land.
“The past three years of political unrest and public turmoil have negatively impacted the agricultural acreage and 150,000 feddans (155,700 acres) have been encroached upon,” Beltagy said.
He added that the total area of agricultural land in Egypt is about 8.6 million feddans, and that “Egypt had lost 150,000 feddans in recent years due to urban encroachment on fertile agriculture land.”
“Losing agricultural lands may cause political and social tension in Egypt,” Beltagy said, stressing that “nearly 42 percent of the population depends on agriculture.”
Head of the Central Administration of Lands Protection Saied Attiah told the Sabah Al-Kheir Ya Masr program on March 9 that violations have targeted over 1 million acres of land in Egypt since the 2011January 25 Revolution.
He added, “Those who build on agricultural land and pollute the Nile are considered more dangerous than terrorists,” and said there are laws that ban these kinds of violations. Violators of these laws are subject to fines between 10,000 EGP ($1 398.11) and 50,000 EGP in addition to the removal of the violations at their expense.
Qena Governor Abdel Hameed el-Hagan announced March 20 that the governorate removed 600 violations on agricultural and state lands between March 1-15, ONA reported.
“Protecting agricultural lands in all governorates is a national obligation that all citizens should cooperate on with the government and local authorities,” Minister of Local Development Adel Labib said in a Friday press release.
The Central Administration to Protect Lands said in an April report that the number of violations that targeted farmland reached 763,685 cases on areas estimated at 32,346 acres, according to Al-Ahram.
The report added that officials managed to remove 78,867 cases on 4,551 acres, and according to the administration, Menoufia has the biggest proportion of violations with 99,728 cases.