The government has, of late, approved a draft law that proposes official clearance mandatory for building houses in rural areas as well as use of land across the country. The proposed law aims at bringing discipline in land management and prevent misuse of land.
The country loses one per cent of agricultural land every year. With the passage of the law, the loss of land is likely to be minimised. The new law will resolve many problems related to development activities. Special plans can be implemented regionally, like the setting up of economic zones.
The new law will facilitate framing up of strategic plans for forest land, hill areas and coastal belts. Nobody will be able to develop land at his or her whim. The country will have a national land use policy where there will be pragmatic policies for both urban and rural areas.
Bangladesh is one of the most land-scarce countries in the world. Though the National Land Utilisation Policy has focused on family-based land ceiling for rural housing and rural model house building, there is virtually no land-use plan for the rural areas that comprises about 85 per cent of the total land area.
The present facilities in respect of physical infrastructure, housing, water supply, sanitation, etc., are very inadequate in rural areas. A study suggests that housing shortage in the country is estimated to be 3.1 million units, out of which 2.15 million units are in the rural areas.
Even though space availability for horizontal expansion is limited, people are forced to go for it considering high cost associated with vertical expansion. On the contrary, it is observed that people in urban areas usually expand their house vertically because the cost of vertical expansion is cheaper compared to land required for horizontal expansion.
In Bangladesh, unplanned housing is a major problem for the people living in rural areas. Although the government has implemented a few sporadic rural housing projects namely cluster and ideal village projects etc. in the rural areas, those are very small in numbers compared to the needs of the vast majority of people.
The fact remains that when the number of family members goes up, people need to expand their houses. Since space is not available, they expand their houses horizontally in rural areas on agricultural land. In such a way, cultivable land is gradually being decreased. Numerous socio-economic problems are being created as a consequence.
High growth rate of population in Bangladesh has, indeed, created enormous pressure on land. In addition to that, land use patterns are radically changing and adversely impacting the country's agricultural land, forest, water bodies and wildlife habitat. Making new homes on cultivable land is limiting the use of land for farm production.
Besides, corruption remains a major problem on its way to streamlining the country's land management. A World Bank survey reveals that most crimes and corruption in Bangladesh take place in land-related services. There are almost 3.5 million land-related cases pending.
With the passage of the new law, the country's land administration system is expected to be stronger and transparent. The government expects that discipline will be restored to land management and misuse of land otherwise prevented.