File photo:A taxi moves past blocks of houses that were built illegally and destroyed by the government, behind the Supreme Constitutional Court in Maadi, south of Cairo, REUTERS
Egypt has referred around 6,000 building violations to the military prosecution and removed thousands of unlicensed buildings over the past three months, part of government crackdown on illegal construction across the country, the cabinet said in a statement.
Authorities have removed a total of 14,964 illegal buildings, almost half of which were built on state-owned lands on a total area of 6.4 million square metres, the statement quoted local development minister Mahmoud Shaarawi as saying.
Another 21,449 illegal buildings on farmland have been demolished, over 2,000 of which were constructed on government-owned lands, he added.
The measures were taken during the period from 25 March to 7 July, the minister said.
The cabinet said earlier this year that building violations will be referred to military prosecutors under the current emergency law.
During a cabinet meeting on Thursday, Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly said "no one will be allowed to violate the law through random construction," stressing that the government has spent billions of bounds to develop slums to improve the living standards of Egyptians.
Egypt has seen a significant rise in illegal buildings amid the security vacuum that followed the 2011 uprising. Countless people started constructing multi-storey buildings without acquiring the necessary permits or complying with safety standards.
A portion of Egypt's 100 million citizens live in clusters of red-brick buildings and informal settlements.
In late May, the local development ministry ordered municipal authorities to temporarily suspend issuing licences for constructing new buildings, modifying existent ones or adding new storeys to buildings in the governorates of Cairo, Giza, Qalioubiya, and Alexandria for six months.
The prime minister said earlier this week that the decision is aimed at salvaging cities and ensuring the flow of movement, warning against what he described as "the random urbanisation" the nation has witnessed over the past four decades which would need billions of pounds to be reversed.
He said that future construction at some high-density districts in Cairo and Giza will be completely banned, adding that owners of vacant lands who wish to construct buildings will be offered alternative lands in new cities.
According to a 2018 report by the local development ministry, Egypt registered two million building violations between 2000 and 2017.
Last month, Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi said building violations are more dangerous than terrorism, calling on authorities to toughen penalties against violators.
El-Sisi ratified earlier this year a law allowing settlement with the state over building violations, with the exception of those pertaining to safety standards, authorised height or purpose, historic buildings, and others.
The new law puts an end to court battles over construction violations, helps bring in revenues to overcome problems created by building violations, and preserves arable land.