CAIRO: A total of 197 encroachments upon farmland have been removed across Egypt, according to a Thursday statement by the Agriculture Ministry.
The removed encroachments occupied about eight feddans. Of the removed violations, 69 cases were detected in Qalyubia, 58 in Sharqia, 19 in Giza and one in Luxor.
The government is fighting an epidemic of encroachments upon arable lands; President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi launched on Wednesday the first phase of a national mega project to expand the country’s farmland by 1.5 million feddans.
The first phase includes reclaiming 10,000 feddans located at Farafra’s Amal village where a total of 50 groundwater wells will operate by solar-powered pumping stations for irrigation purposes, Youm7 quoted Irrigation Minister Hossam Moghazy.
Encroachments on farmland include bulldozing, construction, and silos, threatening the shrinking arable land in the country. The infringements have increased after the January upheaval in 2011.
The rate of encroachments surpass efforts to remove and prevent them; 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.
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.