Egypt has lost about 400,000 feddan of agricultural lands since 1980 due to illegal urban expansion, including 90,000 feddan since 2011, Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly said on Saturday.
The Prime Minister noted that 5,000 housing blocks have been constructed on agricultural lands nationwide over the past five years, with a total of 32,000 housing blocks recorded in 2020 alone.
During a press conference, Madbouly said that only 1 million applications for reconciliation over building violations have been presented so far. He mentioned that the government has issued a directive that the value of the reconciliation fee per 1 metre in rural areas will stand at only EGP 50. The low fee will take into account the social and economic aspects of residents in rural areas.
“Those paying the full amount will receive a deduction of 25% of the value of reconciliation fee,” he added.
Madbouly also said that these violations threaten Egypt’s food security, and have already caused the loss of many job opportunities related to the agricultural field.
He noted that the random or unplanned construction makes up about 50% of the urban mass of all Egyptian cities and villages. From the mid-1980s to 2015, the rate of random growth in some cases reached more than 70% of the volume of construction that takes place.
“It costs the state between EGP 150,000 and EGP 200,000 to reclaim a single feddan in the desert, which means that about EGP 18bn must be spent to compensate the 90,000 feddan lost from fertile agricultural land,” Madbouly said.
He added that land reclamation takes time, effort, and money in terms of extending irrigation networks, electricity lines, and places of residence.
Madbouly also noted that the Egyptian state has issued several decisions to criminalise construction on agricultural land, at the same time as putting in place a set of deterrent measures. These include not connecting up utilities and demolition of construction work, although these measures have yet to bear fruit in ending the situation.
The Prime Minister also pointed out that since 2008, the government has allocated urban settlements for all cities and villages. Alongside the expansion of building in new cities, the government has already retrieved 160,000 feddan of agricultural lands that have been urbanized earlier.
The allocated urban settlements aim to accommodate Egypt’s projected population increase for a period of 20 years, or until 2030, in which the country is expected to accommodate a further 24 million.
Madbouly said that the government is only demolishing those buildings that are empty, rather than those that are occupied by residents.
He pointed out that to facilitate the process of reconciliation, the concerned state bodies accept even incomplete applications. They will then freeze all demolition measures against the building from the time the application is submitted until the process is completed within two months.