CAIRO: A total of 1,044 new encroachments upon farmland over 49 feddans of arable lands occurred in three days; 465 violations on 23 feddans have been removed, according to a Monday report by the Agriculture Ministry.
Sharqia governorate in the Delta recorded the highest number of encroachments with 86 cases, followed by Beheira with 81 incidents; Luxor in Upper Egypt ranked last in the list with only three violations reported Dec. 18-20.
The government is fighting an epidemic of encroachments upon arable lands, including bulldozing, construction, and silos, threatening the shrinking arable land in the country.
Only 18 percent of encroachments on more than 63,747 feddans (87,970 acres) of farmland have been removed since 2011, according to an earlier report by the Ministry of Agriculture. Despite harsher jail and fine penalties, incidents of violating arable land continue at a smaller scope after security tightened in the country.
Former Agriculture Minister Adel al-Beltagy said the Nile Delta, the most fertile region in Egypt, would disappear within 60 years if farmland encroachments continue.
At the reported rate of farmland loss to urbanization, Egyptian scientist Farouk el-Baz warned during a 2014 lecture in Cairo University that Egypt may lose its entire arable land in a span of 183 years.
A 2011 United Nations report on desertification and drought listed Egypt as the most vulnerable country in the world to losing its agricultural area with 3.5 feddans lost every hour.