Land unilisaton policy must for safety of arable land
Zahid Hossain Biplob: Cultivable land is gradually narrowing in the country due to rapid industrialisation and meeting the demand of housing for growing people.
According to Global Economist Forum (GEF), Bangladesh needs higher food grain production until 2030 to graduate as mid-income status country. At the same time the GEF demands a land unilisation policy as soon as possible for the safety of arable land.
Both industrialisation and bumper food production are needed to achieve such status.
As the cultivable land is declining gradually which would hamper the bumper food production. Considering this, experts have expressed their concern and recommended to utililse the remaining cultivable land accordingly to get best output.
Experts also fear that the country will face a severe food crisis within a couple of decades due to over exploitation and rapid decline of cultivable land.
One fourth arable land of the country is now under threat of erosion, rapid industrialisation and population growth, according to sources.
Experts said with increased economic activities, industrialisation, new road construction, building of hospital, educational institutions, etc., arable land is decreasing day by day.
Every day, the country is losing around 225 hectares of land due to urban sprawl. But the government seems indifferent to the disturbing developments. For over 16 million people of the country, the cultivable land is only 8.30 million hectares.
On an average 2 thousand 96 bighas of farm land per day is being lost due to unplanned industrialisation.
Besides 96 bighas of farm land is being lost by filling water bodies in the country every year. Experts said if the trends continue and no punitive actions are taken, livelihood of 68 percent people of the country will face the extreme threat by 2050.
According to the land ministry website, the country is losing nearly 82,000 hectares of land annually on an average, of which 55 percent is used for housing followed by industrial and other commercial use.
According to a statistics of the Soil Resource Development Institute (SRDI), in the last 11 years, a total of 2.6 million 55 thousand 731 acres of agricultural land went into non-agricultural sector. However, the total land area of the country is 3 crore 57 lakh 63 thousand acres.
Besides, according to Planning Commission data, cropland is decreasing by one percent every year.
In recent years, per capita agricultural land has come down to only .05 hectare in 2009. It was 0.17 hectares in 1961, researchers said.
In the neighbouring India, per capita cropland is 0.13 hectares while it is 11 hectares in developed countries. Researchers also predict the cropland in Bangladesh would go down below 6 decimals by 2050 if the trend continues.
According to SRDI report, Chattrogram division is top of the list of loosing farm land in the country.
Every year, 17 thousand 968 hectares of land are going to the non-agricultural sector here. 15 thousand 945 hectares in Rajshahi division, 15 thousand 131 hectares in Dhaka, 11 thousand 96 hectares in Khulna, 8 thousand 781 hectares in Rangpur, 6 thousand 661 hectares of land in Barisal division are turned into non-agricultural land every year.
Besides, one thousand hectares of land is being lost due to river erosion every year. More than 60 thousand people are being rendered homeless. If the trend continues over 3,575 square kilometer of land will be eroded by the year 2025, the report apprehended.
According to the Center for Environmental and Geographic Information Service (CEGIS) report, riverbank erosion, one of the major natural disasters in Bangladesh, causes untold miseries every year to thousands of people living along the banks of the rivers
Bangladesh is projected to lose around 2,270 hectares of land this year due to riverbank erosion, the study report said.
In 2010 it was 1,655 hectares, in 2009 and 2007 it were 2,17,8 and 2,766 hectares respectively.
Research organization Association for Land Development said in its latest research report, the total agricultural land in the country is about 14.4 million hectares. Of them 66.6 percent of the land is used for agricultural purpose. In the last one year, 26 lakh 55 thousand 731 acres of agricultural land went into the non-agricultural sector.
According to a recent study, around 2,666,856 acres of agricultural land had gone to other sectors including housing and construction over the last four decades. The study revealed that the country is losing about 72,077 acres of cultivable land each year, at 197 acres per day. This statistics is really a matter of deep concern for the whole nation.
The study also showed that, the average of around 64,489 acres of cultivable land has gone to the housing sector per year over the last four decades while 6,262 acres in constructing shopping malls, 222 acres to industrial sector and 2,827 acres in building educational institutions and 1,996 acres in constructing mosques.
Recently, the government has taken some steps of framing a land use policy. But such a policy is not yet ready for implementation. Thus, when such a policy will start to be implemented is still unknown although it has become an imperative to protect squeezing of arable land.
For a lack of zoning policies and their enforcement, arable lands are being gobbled up by industries and other enterprises. Accreted lands where the poor or the landless could be settled in large number are also being grabbed by the locally powerful ones.
That the country’s arable lands are squeezing is a matter of deep concern for the whole nation.
The Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina also on different occasions spoke for the judicious use of arable land so that the country can cope with the increasing demand of foods for the ever increasing population.
But until now, this very important issue remains to be in discussion only. No appropriate step has been taken so far to protect the remaining arable lands.
An appropriate land use policy must be put in place immediately in order to protect the country from an imminent danger said Dr Maminul Haque Sarker, deputy executive director of CegisCentre for Environmental and Geographic Information Services (Cegis).