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Digital Land Management in Bangladesh Essay

Bangladesh has a very high population density. Scarce land and the rapid increase of population of the country are creating high pressure over land-man ratio. Land ownership record system is insufficient and incomplete in Bangladesh. As a result, it spills out jumbled and spontaneous land development throughout the country, especially in the major cities. In this situation, it is important to establish a compatible land administration and management system for establishing a systematic approach for planned land development. Land Information System (LIS) is the most accountable and feasible systematic approach for developing an up-to-date land administration and management.

LIS is related to various quantitative and qualitative aspects of land resource. Holding different cartographic information, LIS facilitates capturing, retrieval, and querying of information and provides tools to perform different analyses. Based on the secondary information by literature review, this paper is aimed at studying the existing land administration system, and recommending feasible interventions and strategy of LIS for creating an efficient land administration and management policy for Bangladesh. This paper also focuses on the challenges of LIS that are needed to be resolved for framing the existing land administration and management policy for planned and controlled growth of Bangladesh.


Bangladesh, a South-Asian developing country is characterized by very high population growth and scare land. It spills out jumbled and spontaneous land development within urban areas as well as other areas within the country. The rapid increase of population is continuously reducing the land-man ratio of the country. The rate of land transfer and land conversion is also very high in Bangladesh. Rapid population growth combined with fast rate of land transformation urges for an effective land administration and management system.

However, the conventional land administration system cannot keep pace with the growing demand and changing situation of the land market. Inappropriate land administration and management system is the cause for unplanned growth, and this eventually generates problems in community life.

Inadequate and improper land records increase difficulties in the security of land tenure and land transfer. For this, it becomes an obligation to establish a compatible land administration and management system by setting up a holistic approach. Land Information System (LIS) is the most feasible systematic approach for developing an efficient land administration and management system in Bangladesh. This paper focuses on the issues that are needed to be addressed in formulating a viable land administration and management policy for the planned and controlled growth in Bangladesh. An Overview of Present Land Administration and Management in Bangladesh

Land record system in Bangladesh forms an integral part of land administration, encompassing preparation of Record-of-Rights (ROR) through surveying and mapping of land plots, registration of deeds during transfer of land and updating ownership records. At present, two different Ministries namely Ministry of Land (MoL); Ministry of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs (MLJPA) practice land administration and management in Bangladesh.

Directorate of Land Record and Survey (DLRS) under the MoL prepares ROR and updating of ROR (mutation) is done by upazila land office which is under the jurisdiction of MoL. Furthermore, registration of transfer deed is under obligation of Registration Department that is under the MLJPA.

The DLRS is entrusted with the responsibility of carrying out cadastral surveys and preparation of ROR. A revised mauza map showing location, area and characteristics and a khatian indicating ownership, area and character of land are the two parts of ROR. The DLRS conducts surveys and settlement operations through Zonal Settlement offices and Upazila Settlement offices. A survey team consisting of two Surveyors and one Chainman conduct the survey operation.

The steps of hearing objections and appeal are done by Sub-Assistant Settlement Officer (SASO) and Assistant Settlement Officer (ASO) respectively (Aziz, 2003). Survey operation consists of the following phases: traverse survey, Kistwar (Plot to Plot) survey, preliminary record writing (Khanapuri), demarcation of boundary, local explanation (Bujharat), attestation (Tasdik), draft publication, disposal of objection, appeals, final Junk (checking), printing and publication of Khatian (Ahmed, 1994).

Furthermore, revisional settlement for upgrading land record is undertaken by the settlement offices. Land records that have been prepared through revisional settlement operation are reliable (Siddiqui, 1997).

Land registration is a deed of maintenance of a public register, which is a record of an isolated transactions. Sub-Register (SR) registers transfer of any parcel of land through a deed with stamp on the property value as Immovable Property Transfer Tax (IPTT). When any deed is registered in Registration office, Land Transfer (LT) notice is to be sent to the Office of Assistant Commissioner’s (AC, Land) Office (Aziz, 2003). Mutation is the process of revising and updating the ROR on transfer of land ownership and on subdivision and amalgamation of landholdings. The AC (Land) working under Deputy Commissioner (DC) updates or revises partially these land records through mutation process. There are two ways of mutation (Siddiqui, 1997):

i) Mutation according to LT; and

ii) Mutation in response to application to the Upazila Land office.

After the finalization of land records in survey operation the DLRS sends khatians, mauza maps to the DC office that preserves them in the District Record Room. At present, a Record Room is also maintained in the AC (Land) Office and Union Land Office. These Land Records provide the base to conduct further survey and preparation of master plan, structure plan, infrastructure development plan, valuation of property tax, etc. Furthermore, these records are used as the base for functioning of public and private development and by the companies providing utility services.

Problems of Present Land Administration and Management in Bangladesh Lack of coordination: Land record preparation, upgrading of ROR and land transfer registration are the integral parts of land administration and these should be coordinated well enough. However, these offices work separately with little coordination among them (Aziz, 2003). At present the responsible ministries and agencies involved for land management and administration work independently with little coordination among them. Manual and Labour intensive Process: The whole process is manual, laborious and time intensive.

Conventional methods of land survey, preparation and upgradation of land records, maintenance of all related data for each parcel of land makes land administration and management incomplete and inefficient. Widespread Fake Documenting: Moreover, distortion of land records at various stages (i.e. plot-to-plot survey, preparation of records and drawing of maps through conventional methods, objections, junk / checking works, printing, etc.) hinders land development control and property tax collection.

Isolated maintenance of registration deeds and delay for sending LT notices to the AC (Land) office by the Registration office makes mutation and eventually the upgrading of ROR a lengthy procedure. As a result, it requires revisional settlement for updating land record that is more complex and time consuming. All the current stages of conventional preparation of ROR are vulnerable to tampering and distortion.

No Single Ownership Document: Khatians are not conclusive evidence of ownership, merely provide basis for possession at the recording time. Under the prevailing legal system, khatians along with deeds and mutated documents together are relevant for ownership decision by a Civil court (Mia, 1996). The lengthy and complex process of ownership determination enhances conflicts. The present system of registered transfer deed of land does not prove ownership or transferable rights of the seller rather put risk of false transfer (Aziz, 2003). Deeds are full of unnecessary, irrelevant and meaningless words that make them difficult to understand.

Fraud and forgery: Inadequate and improper land registrations increase difficulties in land security tenure and land transfer in Bangladesh, as deed system does not provide the final proof of the proprietary right (Alam, 1992; Hossain, 1995). There is no provision of compensation if any loses occur to some person due to mistakes or errors in the deed.

These results large-scale fraud and forgery related to land sale registration (Alam, 1992). There is notable corruption in Registration Office. If certain rate is not paid to the officers and staffs of the office, the deed is not placed before the Sub-Registrar for registration. There is also a tendency of reporting lower price of land during the time of registration for avoiding IPTT or overpricing for getting the favour for finding bank loan for land

It is an open secret that applicants are compelled to pay an extra amount of money than government settled charge in Tehshil office in the time of mutation. The mutation records can be distorted either during survey and settlement operations or due to false report of the Tehsildars.

Inefficiency og Settlement Press: Inadequate capacity of the Settlement Press for printing land records and poor quality of record maintenance also aggravate the inefficiency of the existing system. Many valuable records in Record Room have become worn out due to continuous use over a long period of time.

Lack of the systematic and updated source of information has made the existing land record system more complicated and ambiguous that results innumerable land disputes and malpractice. Even government is continuously being deprived of her own (khas) land as grabbers manipulate ownership through forged documents (Barakat, 2001).

Overwhelming land disputes: Over 3.2 million land-related cases are pending before the judiciary in Bangladesh. This huge figure does not take into account the large number of the aggrieved who do not feel empowered enough to approach the courts for litigation. Land disputes often lead to violence and criminal offenses. It is said that 80 percent of criminal offenses today stem from land disputes.

Corruption: Manul process, lack of transparent documents  Given the absence of a transparent system, bribery and other irregularities are common. People in the administration who are responsible for creating and maintaining land records often prepare incorrect records intentionally, and land owners are forced to pay bribes to officials to get the records approved. Officials and surveyors are often in cahoots with touts and land sharks; cases abound where people have paid bribes to officials and/or surveyors and gotten land ownership transferred/recorded illegally in their names, leaving the real owner(s) running pillar to post to get justice.

In 2006 alone, bribes worth about 83 billion Bangladeshi Taka were paid for land related services such as registration and altering of records.

Rationality of LIS based Land Administration and Management in Bangladesh

Land administration and management system is too much complicated in Bangladesh. For efficient and appropriate land management program, maintenance of updated land ROR is very much important. It is easy to facilitate quick capturing, retrieval, and querying by holding different cartographic information by LIS. This provides different tools to perform different analyses. As a result, LIS could suit with the spontaneous land conversion and title change in the country.

Land Information System (LIS) for Land Administration and Management in Bangladesh

Once an accurate geodetic framework and cadastral system has been developed, many analysis of land-tenure change could be preformed with the assurance of high degree of measurement accuracy.

This attempts to arrive at compatible multiple land uses within selected parcel of land (Demers, 1999). Land administration and management, land use control, provision of utility services and other services can be pursued by computerized LIS. This system would serve unified services related to land management by marginal labor, time and money. Use of LIS for recording and maintaining the original volume of land records could minimize the chances of tampering of records.

LIS could introduce Unified cadastre that is a broader concept to incorporate information related to positioning of land, land size and orientation, land ownership, land use etc. This is a large scale, community oriented land information system to serve both public and private organizations concerned to land administration and management, land development and service provision.

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