Egypt has one of the largest and fastest growing populations in the world. However, nearly 96% of the total land area is uninhabited desert and 96% of the population is concentrated around the River Nile valley and the Delta. This unbalanced distribution and dramatically rising population have caused severe socio-economic problems. In this research, 24 land use/land cover (LULC) maps from 1992 to 2015 were used to monitor LULC changes in the Nile Delta and quantify the rates and types of LULC transitions. The results show that 74,600 hectares of fertile agricultural land in the Nile Delta (Old Lands
) was lost to urban expansion over the 24 year period at an average rate of 3108 ha year−1
, whilst 206,100 hectares of bare land was converted to agricultural land (New Lands
) at an average rate of 8588 ha year−1
. A Cellular Automata-Markov (CA-Markov) integrated model was used to simulate future alternative LULC change scenarios. Under a Business as Usual scenario, 87,000 hectares of land transitioned from agricultural land to urban areas by 2030, posing a threat to the agricultural sector sustainability and food security in Egypt. Three alternative future scenarios were developed to promote urban development elsewhere, hence, with potential to preserve the fertile soils of the Nile Delta. A scenario which permitted urban expansion into the desert only preserved the largest amount of agricultural land in the Nile Delta. However, a scenario that encouraged urban expansion into the desert and adjacent to areas of existing high population density resulted in almost the same area of agricultural land being preserved. The alternative future scenarios are valuable for supporting policy development and planning decisions in Egypt and demonstrating that continued urban development is possible while minimising the threats to environmental sustainability and national food security.
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