A prominent geologist warned on Sunday there would be no agricultural land left in already overpopulated Egypt in 60 years time if building continues at current rates.
“Recent satellite pictures showed that 32 percent of Egyptian agricultural land has been covered with buildings, factories, roads and streets,” said Farouk al-Baz, director of the Centre for Remote Sensing at Boston University in the United States.
“If this rate of development goes on there won’t be one inch of agricultural land left in 60 years time,” he told reporters. Egyptians live mainly on a thin sliver of arable land around the Nile River, which covers just four percent of the country’s overall territory. The rest of the country is desert.
Egypt imports basic commodities such as wheat and sugar. Its booming population, the largest in the Arab world, rose by more than 1.3 million to 67.9 million in 2001. The rapid growth of a population that numbered 54 million in 1990 is seen as a major strain on Egypt’s development plans. The country hopes to ease pressures by settling Egyptians outside the narrow Nile valley.
“Egypt must move to stop this dangerous encroachment on agricultural land by strengthening laws which do not allow anyone to raise any building on agricultural land and restricting construction to rebuilding in built-up areas and desert areas,” Baz said.
“We also need a parallel plan to increase land reclamation activities and build new cities in desert areas,” he added. Baz is to discuss his findings in Istanbul Tuesday at a conference on changes in world cities as shown by satellites.