Rampant misuse of farm lands

Dhaka,  Fri,  28 July 2017
Published : 15 Jul 2017, 18:54:46
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Opinion

Rampant misuse of farm lands

It is really mysterious why a crucial law, drafted to stop gross misuse of fertile agricultural lands, has not yet seen the light of the day, writes Rahman Jahangir
Rampant misuse of arable farm lands is reportedly going on in different parts of the country as vested quarters fear a new law, endorsed by the cabinet about 4 months ago on March 20, might go into effect. Much to their delight, it didn't.  And it is really mysterious why the crucial law, enacted at the initiative of the prime minister, has not yet seen the light of the day. Is it again caught in bureaucratic tangle? This is a big question in the minds of those who are concerned over fast decreasing agricultural lands due to gross misuse. 

Believe it or not, a total of 186 industries and other projects were officially allocated on about ten kilometre lands around the Sundarbans-- the Unesco heritage site. Once these go into operation, huge fertile lands as well as ecology of the mangrove forest will be destroyed.   

Viewed against this backdrop, the proposed law titled "Nogor and Anchal Parikolpana Ain-2017" (City and Area Planning Act, 2017) has been a welcome move of the government to bring discipline in the land management system and ensure planned use of land. The law has proposed five years of rigorous imprisonment and a fine of maximum Tk 5 million for those who would be found to have violated any rules, plan or order under the law.

Once the law is passed, necessary clearance would be required for use of all public and private lands directly or indirectly related to urban and city development and land use management systems, officials said. The law stipulates constitution of a high-level advisory council to give such clearances for land use while it would also be empowered to delegate the power to any specific authority for the purpose.

The advisory council would be headed by the housing and public works minister while it would primarily give policy support to the Urban Development Directorate and other regulatory bodies. Besides the advisory council, the proposed law seeks to form an executive council with housing and public works secretary as chairman for conducting day-to-day functions related to issuance of such clearance.

It is to be recalled here that a survey led by Abul Barakat, economics professor at Dhaka University, found that some 2,096 bighas of farmland and water bodies were lost to non-agricultural uses per day in the decade since 2003. Almost 80 per cent of the lost lands were converted into homesteads. The second largest chunk, 17.4 per cent, was eaten up for the construction of schools, clinics, mosques and roads, taking the vital resource away from food production. The survey titled "Increasing commercialisation of agricultural land and contract farming in Bangladesh: an alternative appraisal" covered 990 households in 11 districts. The level of agricultural commercialisation was found to be high in Cox's Bazar, Kushtia and Manikganj districts followed by Rajshahi, Natore, Rangamati and Habiganj. The average loss of farmland was 2,000 bighas a day or 7,30,000 bighas a year while for water bodies it was 96 bighas daily or 35,040 bighas a year.

The prime minister had made it clear that her government will not allow anyone to set up industries indiscriminately destroying farmlands and forests. Indiscriminate setting up of industries destroying cultivable lands and forests won't be allowed anymore. Industries could be set up on 100 special economic zones being established across the country by the government, she said while addressing a discussion meeting of Bangladesh Krishak League. She said the country will surely go for industrialisation, but not at the cost of agriculture. It is time that the draft law is put into effect immediately to stop reckless destruction of alluvial farm lands in the country.

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