One would have thought that in such a densely populated country like Bangladesh, steps would have been taken by now to protect arable land so as to ensure food security. Sadly, that has not been the case and the country has been experiencing the loss of approximately one percent of total arable land annually, i.e. 68,700 hectares of land, that is converted for other uses, according to Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS) data from 2015. A recent seminar held in Jatiya Press Club brought together land activists and experts to discuss the issue.
We have seen the steady conversion of arable lands for industry and real estate over the years. To make matters worse, farmlands have now to contend with a new menace which comes in the form of removal of topsoil that is used by the thousands of brick kilns that dot the rural and urban countryside. It is mystifying that we have the National Land Use Policy (NLUP) that was formulated in 2001 but which never saw the light of day as it was never implemented. In it, there were various modalities for land zoning for integrated planning and management of land resources in the country. The NLUP also placed emphasis on formulating a zoning law, but for reasons beyond our comprehension, the policy was never implemented by any of the successive governments that have held office since 2001.
Today, Bangladesh is in the midst of unprecedented urbanisation and industrialisation. Yet, in the absence of implementation of the land usage law, the country continues to lose its precious arable lands. We will not be able to maintain sustainable growth if the country does not have enough food to feed the population and in that light, the NLUP must be updated and implemented without delay.