A number of MPs have taken it upon themselves to tackle the ever-growing phenomenon of building on agricultural lands, submitting a draft law under the title “the reconciliation in violated buildings”, which is currently being looked into by Parliament’s Housing Committee and will later be presented before the general assembly for a final verdict.

Ayman Abdallah, a parliamentarian at the House of Representative’s Energy and Environment Committee, tells Invest-Gate that during the past three months, over one million lawsuits against people who have built on agricultural lands were presented before judiciary.

So Abdallah, along with some of his fellow MPs, came up with “the reconciliation in violated buildings,” to protect violators from jail-time, property-removal, and land-confiscation punishments as a ‘common grounds solution’.

In a counter-argument, the government denounced this draft, which it deems unconstitutional given the following article:

Agriculture is fundamental for the national economy; thus, the state is committed to protecting farmland, maximising it and criminalizing violations against it. The state is also committed to raising the living standards of its population and rural development, protecting them from environmental dangers. Allocating the percentage of land reclaimed for small farmers and young graduates comes within the framework of the state’s commitment, as well as protecting the farmer and the agricultural laborer from exploitation – all regulated according to the rule of law. (Article 29, Egyptian Constitution)

On February 4, the State Council’s legislative department completed reviewing amendments of agricultural law no. 53 for the year 1966, which implements harsher penalties against violators constructing on agricultural lands. It also grants the Ministry of Agriculture the power to stop any construction work of the kind and remove it at the expense of the violator without the issuance of judicial verdicts concerning that.

While agriculture is fundamental for the national economy, as the constitution puts it, “the economies of individuals are part of the economies of the state,” Abdallah says in defence of his position. Along with Fawy Ismail and Mohamed Abdel-Ghany, the MP is part of the delegation that submitted the draft in January.

“With the current law, the citizen is left between two drastic options, either to pay a fine and have his building demolished or to get jailed and also have his building demolished. However, building expenses have already been spent. Even if it goes against the law, the building process would have already taken place as a result of need and obligation,” he continued.

The law mainly outlines four stages, as explained by Abdallah. First, the municipalities negotiate with the violators, and if the architectural reports prove that the buildings have been correctly built, both parties agree on a specific fine to be paid. There would also be a commitment to develop the quality of the utilities and amend some infrastructural networks.

“Concerning the agricultural lands that have been extracted by the violation, a compensation will be made through reclaiming their equivalents the desert area. That would also be a financial push towards reclaiming desert lands especially that we have vast desert areas, and at the same time we have a great need for financial funding to reclaim them,” the MP concluded.

Therefore, the MPs see that the proposed draft they hasn’t paved the way for violators to benefit, nor has it left them with a situation that would lead the building to collapse.

“We have also removed the reason of congestion between citizens and security or state apparatuses,” Abdallah pointed out, clarifying that leaving it up to a straightforward law without compromise might create congestion between those affected and security forces deployed for law enforcement. Therefore, making the security apparatus part of this wouldn’t be very practical and won’t play in the favor of any of the parties, in the MPs’ viewpoints.

“What shall we do with people who have already built houses and applied utilities? If I demolished all what they have built, I would ignite the spark of another revolution,” Deputy Parliamentarian of the Agricultural Committee ElSayed Hassan told Invest-Gate.

“In the reconciliation, I can’t demolish the entire village built on farmlands–I’ll have to make a cordon, a constructional space for the town, with a harsh punishment imposed if anyone exceeds it,” he went on.

However, Hassan has some objections about the proposed draft law. He said that the law has to be restricted to a timeframe that, if surpassed by any violator, lead to demolishing the building and confiscating the land.