By Abdel Razik Al-Shuwekhi
Presidential candidate Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi Tuesday stated that his platform includes the reclamation of 4m acres of lands, adding that the “availability of good soil and the access to water both allow this”.
Al-Sisi’s plan targets offering between 50,000 and 100,000 acres of lands to various Egyptian governorates to help with housing, agriculture and industrial projects, he said. The distribution of these lands would be overseen by the state, he added.
Commenting on Al-Sisi’s statements, former Minister of Water Resources and Irrigation Mahmoud Abu Zeid asserted that there are 4m acres of lands in Egypt available for reclamation.
Echoing that fact, Abdel Aziz Shetta, the former head of the land reclamation department, affiliated with the Ministry of Agriculture, said the lands are located in the Western Desert, North Coast, Sharq Al-Owainat, and South Sinai.
The reclamation cost of a single acre amounts to between EGP 20,000 to EGP 30,000, Shetta said.
Egypt has 8.6m acres of agricultural land, according to the State Information Services. However, according to the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, the area is 7.25m acres.
“Expanding in the agriculture area is governed by the available water resources,” Abu Zeid said, mentioning that the maximum annual agriculture expansion area lies between 150,000 and 200,000 acres.
Egypt’s share of Nile water records 55.5m cubic metres per year, which was seen by the former minister as a “hindrance” facing the agriculture sector. He said the issue could be solved by depending on the groundwater in the reservoir in Aswan located in the western desert.
The Aswan reservoir can be used to reclaim large areas, “however, this is a non-renewable energy that can benefit the country for a short period of time,” he said.
Al-Sisi stated that the projects in his platform include the formation of 22 industrial cities, 26 touristic cities, and 8 airports.
In that regard, Salah Hegab, honourary chairman of the Egyptian Association for Planning and Construction, said that Minister of Housing Mostafa Madbouly has already devised a plan to increase construction projects by 2052, but it “has yet to be endorsed”.