CAIRO: Given the fact that agriculture alone constitutes around 50 percent of the country’s economic resources and the fact that soil of land is as valuable as money stashed away in a bank, the government has recently directed its attention towards encroachment on lands, which cuts down areas of cultivated land.
Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif announced this week that any encroachment on land would be handled immediately, calling on governors to closely monitor land activities, especially when these relate to non-agricultural purposes.
“Such a step aims at enhancing the economy because it will increase areas of agricultural land across the country, said Mahmoud El-Rafey, managing director of the Egyptian International Center for Agriculture.
Nazif’s announcement came following the inauguration of the National Planning Center, an organization responsible for coordinating Egyptian governorates and utilizing state-owned land. Nazif added that the center would screen land that is fit for investment either by the government or the private sector.
However, actual implementation of such a decision can be thorny and complicated. “Elimination of encroachment is one thing, and adjusting land for reclamation is another thing, El-Rafey added. “For example, if a brick house is constructed on agricultural land, the government can easily demolish it. But who will clean up all the bricks and cement left lying on the ground afterwards? Nobody. In that case, the land is left unfit for agriculture.
He pointed out that encroachment on land is quite common in Egypt, reaching thousands of cases in some provinces. “Removal of property is hardly a solution. It usually leads to clashes between owners and police forces which sometimes cause injuries or even deaths of these owners. Not only does such a practice inhibit land reclamation, but it is also time and money consuming.
El-Rafy proposed imposing a more practical penalty instead of demolishing property. “The government can obligate violators to cultivate a specific number of feddans of state-owned lands. That is a firm guarantee of expansion of cultivated lands across the country.