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10 February, 2019 00:00 00 AM
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Farmland protection law yet to be finalised

ANISUR RAHMAN KHAN, Dhaka
Farmland protection law yet to be finalised

Despite initiatives taken eight years ago, the “Agricultural Land Protection and Land Zoning Act 2010” is yet to see the light of day due to unknown reasons. The law has been aimed at thwarting the fast depletion of farmland under the bulldozers of developers. Ministry officials have several times promised to place the draft law before the cabinet for approval for its passage in parliament. But land ministry sources told this correspondent that it would take more time to send it before the cabinet for approval. Green activists have urged the government for immediate passage of the law.

A quarter with vested interests involved in grabbing waterbodies and agricultural land is trying to delay the process to formulate the law, the ministry sources said.

According to the sources, agriculture, fisheries, livestock, residential, rivers, irrigation, sewerage, ponds, water bodies, forest, tea, rubber, horticulture, coastal areas, tourism areas, char areas, roads and highways, railways, commercial and industrial areas and environmentally critical areas will be identified under the proposed law.

Thousands of acres of multi-crop farmland are being filled up by a section of developers for housing and industrial units indiscriminately due to absence of a law. As a result, the country is losing valuable multi-crop fertile farmland, putting the nation on the brink of food scarcity.

However, most of the multi-crop farmland adjacent to different cities and district towns like Dhaka, Tangail, Narayanganj, Munshiganj, Gazipur, Narsingdi, Mymensingh, Chittagong, Sylhet, Rajshahi, Bogra, Barisal, Comilla, Khulna and Manikganj is being filled up with sand to make room for housing projects and industrial units by a section of unscrupulous people.

Such unplanned projects are not only leading to loss of valuable cropland, but also destroying the environment and eco-system, according to green activists.

Agriculture ministry sources said the country was losing 0.66 per cent of its valuable farmland every year owing to construction of houses and industrial units.

According to the Bureau of Statistics (2007–2008), the country has only 77.65 crore hectares of farmland.

Although eight years have gone by after taking the initiative, the land ministry is yet to finalise the draft of the act, which is to be submitted to the cabinet.

Many provisions have been proposed in the draft act, Md Maksudur Rahman Patwary, secretary-in-charge of the land ministry, told The Independent.  

“Housing and industrial units would not be allowed at all on arable land yielding three crops. Violators would

 

face both imprisonment and fine,” he said. The land secretary also said they were still working on the draft law and it will be finalised soon.

“Many ministries are involved in the process. So, it will take some more time to formulate rules and other penalties for those who will violate the law. But we are trying to complete the draft as soon as possible,” Patwary told this correspondent in reply to a query.

The main objective of the law would be to protect agricultural land, he said. “The law will define the uses of land by the owners. The purposes of land use will be defined in several classes as per the law. Water bodies, agricultural land, hilly and forest land will be under the classes,” he added,

No one will be able to destroy valuable agricultural land once the law is passed in Parliament, he asserted. The land secretary denied that any quarter is involved in delaying drafting of the law. As per the draft law, if anybody wants to raise structures outside the zoning, he/she will have to take permission from the appropriate authorities at the local level.

A committee will be formed, headed by the upazila nirbahi officer (UNO), who would be responsible for giving permission to use the land as per the draft law.

The government has taken the initiative to formulate the “Agricultural Land Protection and Land Zoning Act 2010” in a bid to control a section of greedy developers. As per the draft law, the assistant commissioner of land can conduct mobile courts or file cases or impose fine or jail violators.

“We heard eight years ago that the government will enact a law to protect agricultural land. Thousands acres of valuable farmland have already been destroyed by developers and industrialists. If it takes more time to enact the law, more arable land will be destroyed, putting the nation under threat of food scarcity,” Abdus Sobhan, former additional director of the Department of Environment (DoE), told this correspondent. He also urged the government to pass the law immediately.

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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