Dr. Farouk El-Baz, 81, is a space scientist who worked with NASA to assist in the planning of scientific exploration of the Moon.
Born on January 2, 1938, in Zagazig, Egypt, Dr. El Baz started by teaching at Asyut University, Egypt (1958-1960).
At present, he works as a Research Professor and Director of the Center for Remote Sensing at Boston University in Massachusetts.
Dr. El Baz is known for his ability to simplify complex issues in clear and easily understood words.
In an exclusive Interview with the State-owned newspaper "Al-Ahram", here's what Dr. El Baz said about the issue of encroachments on agricultural lands and unplanned construction, giving magical bespoke solutions to solve this problem.
Here is the full extract of the interview
"Whoever wants to build … Builds on the already existing buildings," Dr. El-Baz started his words with his famous quote.
He said that after the 2011 revolution, a number of corrupt men exploited the turmoil witnessed by the state in the meantime and violated the sanctity of agricultural lands.
They started the selfish possession of lands classified for agriculture, as well as lands belonging to public companies such as "Iron and Steel", turning them into reinforced concrete buildings.
This selfish and hateful act results - at all times – in great personal gain for the inpidual and long-term loss for the homeland.
The tragedy here is doubled as the encroachment on the land, that produced the food of the Egyptians and the whole world since the days of the ancients, makes it unable to be repaired and brought back to agriculture again!
All this came to my mind while listening to the speech of Major -General Sherif Ahmed Saleh, Director of the Military Survey Department, on the modern technological equipment that enables his administration to identify the changes that are taking place anywhere in Egypt by following up the accurate satellite images.
Sharif's word was documented with pictures and maps that clearly show what happened to villages, cities, and urban areas, over a period of 10 years!
I was pleased by Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi's heated speech slamming the widespread illegal construction on agricultural land in the country, stressing that these violations would be met by severe deterrence.
President El-Sisi's firm reaction stems from his strong belief that reducing the area of cultivated land will negatively affect Egypt's food security.
Is "vertical construction" the key?
Building on the arable lands of the Nile Valley and Delta is unacceptable by all means.
We know that the population is constantly increasing; the new generations need shelter, so the only solution lies in the Nile Valley and Delta, through the vertical construction, not the horizontal one; this what I mean by "Whoever wants to build… Builds on the already existing buildings."
This technique is currently adopted by the most densely populated countries such as India and Pakistan, where illegal encroachments on fertile lands are prohibited.
I hope Egypt adopts this method quickly, so it does not have to take harsh decisions, such as China's one-child policy.
At the same time, new horizons can be opened for urban expansion in flat areas on both sides of the Nile Valley, especially in the vast area west of the Nile Valley and Delta.
In this regard, I proposed "The Development Corridor" that clearly shows there are about ten and a half million acres of flat land suitable for development in the western part of Egypt's living space (as the attached space map shows) because the lands in the east of the Nile Valley are not flat, but arid, and there are many high mountains. and rugged canyons.
Are there any alternatives to crowded cities and shrinking agriculture lands in Egypt ?!
The alternatives already exist on condition that the thought improves and people try to create new places to expand without harming the interest of the homeland and the future of upcoming generations.
Could you give us a roadmap out of this crisis?
The state, which currently enjoys a firm and courageous leadership, has to take the following measures:
- Banning illegal buildings on any fertile land in the Nile Valley and Delta for any reason.
- Opening new horizons for urban expansion in the flat desert (which is not suitable for agriculture) ... especially the flat areas west of the Nile Valley and Delta.
- Encouraging young people to open new horizons for development in these new areas by facilitating low-interest debt from the National Bank of Egypt (NBA).
- Encouraging media to launch campaigns that qualify people to accept these trends, explaining their causes and advantages to the public in a way befitting the campaign.
- Extending the basic facilities to the places that are likely to witness urban, industrial, agricultural, and commercial expansion in the new development areas.