CAIRO: Egypt’s Ministry of Agriculture will refer to the parliament a bill that criminalizes building encroachment on arable lands, Eid Hawash, ministry spokesperson told The Cairo Post Saturday.
The bill stipulates that any violators who commit bulldozing, construction, and silos on arable lands shall be imprisoned up to five years and be fined 300,000 EGP ($33,783) per acre, according to the bill; the violating buildings will be removed immediately
Since the January 25 Revolution, a total of 1.5 million encroachment cases have been reported, violating a total of 66,000 acres nationwide, according to a report issued by the Ministry of Agriculture in March. In the past, there was no law to criminalize encroachments on the agricultural lands.
Egypt’s arable land is estimated at around 8 million acres. In December, President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi launched the first phase of a project to reclaim 1.5 million feddans in the desert in light of presidency’s mega project of reclaiming 4 million feddans nationwide amid Egypt’s increasing population.
The rate of encroachments surpassed efforts to remove and prevent them; Egyptian scientist Farouk el-Baz said during a 2014 lecture in Cairo University warning that Egypt may lose its entire arable land in a span of 183 years.