The cabinet yesterday approved a draft law aiming to bring discipline in land management and prevent misuse of land in the country.
According to the “The Urban and Regional Planning Act-2017”, one must obtain a clearance from the authority, to be formed under this law, before one can, for instance, build a structure on a piece of arable land.
Everyone, government, non-government, private organisations and individuals, would have to obtain clearance before going for development activities on a piece of land.
The approval of the law was made at the weekly cabinet meeting held at the Secretariat with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in the chair.
Experts hailed the decision and said it would foster economical development through proper use of land in a coordinated manner.
Briefing reporters after the meeting, Cabinet Secretary Mohammad Shafiul Alam said, “It was a long expected law. It has been drafted for discipline in land management and so that land can be used in a planned way.”
He said the law proposed five years' rigorous imprisonment and a maximum fine of Tk 50 lakh for people who would violate the law.
"Once the law is passed, necessary clearance will be required for the use of all public and private land directly or indirectly related to urban and city development … ."
Alam said the law proposed constitution of a 27-member advisory council, led by the minister of housing, for issuing the clearances. The advisory council would also be able to delegate its powers to any specific authority.
The advisory council would primarily provide policy support to the Urban Development Directorate and other regulatory bodies, he added.
There would be a 25-member executive council, led by the housing secretary, for running day-to-day functions related to the issuance of such clearances. Relevant experts would also be in this body.
"The executive council will place proposal to the advisory council for approval and implement the advisory council's decisions," the cabinet secretary said.
Alam said there were many issues which had not been mentioned in the draft law and that those would be elaborated in the rules that would follow.
He said people would require permission to set up houses in rural areas too. Every year the country loses one percent of agricultural land, which must be stopped, he said.
Replying to a query, the cabinet secretary said the law would bring coordination among the bodies dealing with land.
Ishrat Islam, professor and head of the Urban and Regional Planning Department of Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (Buet), and AKM Abul Kalam, founding chairman of Urban and Regional Planning Department of Jahangirnagar University, said the law would be good for the country.
“We hail the cabinet decision. We have long been trying to have this law. The government, non-government organisations and
people will be benefited from
the law,” Prof Kalam told The Daily Star.
He said this law would resolve many problems related to development activities. “Once the law is enacted, special plans can be implemented regionally, like the setting up of economic zones. It will also boost coordination among the ministries and division over the use of land, which is very complex,” he said.
“Strategic plans can be chalked out for forest land, hill areas and coastal belts. Nobody would be able to develop land at his or her whim,” said Prof Kalam.
Echoing Kalam, Prof Ishrat said major policies and plans should be considered in formulating rules of the law. All the major plans, like seven- and five-year plans, vision-2021, and environment and disaster management-related laws and policies, among others, should be considered.
“With this law, we will have a national land use policy where there will be plans for both urban and rural areas,” she told The Daily Star.