Samriddhi Foundation, with an attempt to evaluate the Land Use Act and analyze whether the mentioned policies act as restrictions to right to private property and economic development of the country, prepared a policy brief on Land Use Act, 2019. Given that skepticism with regards to private property rights followed after the legislation was passed a few months back, a discussion with relevant stakeholders particularly Ministry of Land and Department of Agriculture was felt necessary. Discussion was based on the policy brief prepared by Samriddhi Foundation which outlined the following four key issues of concern:
- Long run costs of land use restrictions
- Cumbersome procedures
- Disincentivising agriculture
- The question of arability
The discussion that followed was essentially conducted to receive feedback and additional inputs from various experts concerned with the enforcement of Land Use Act as well as representatives from business organizations. The meeting was moderated by Mr Deependra Chaulagain and attended by various stakeholders including, representatives from Ministry of Land Management Cooperatives and Poverty alleviation, Department of Agriculture, National Planning Commision, Law firms working in the sector of Constitutional rights, Centre for Economic Development and Administration.
The consultative meeting was a huge success as the valued counsel provided great input on the identified issues. Representatives from Department of Agriculture stated how the potential for agriculture had not been fully utilized owing to lack of infrastructure. It was further pointed out that while categorizing land particular attention must be paid to the existence of infrastructure and resources that can help in the use of land as per the class in which it falls in.
On a different note, the question of food sovereignty as enshrined in the constitution was also raised by the representative of the National Planning Commission. It was extensively discussed whether the categorization of land can result in greater agricultural productivity by discouraging unplanned urbanisation. Furthermore, it was discussed whether or not Land Use Act can essentially help in attaining food sovereignty as enshrined in the constitution.
The economic aspects of the act were also talked about. Representatives from Law firms pointed out, how housing bubbles in the past were created as a result of land use restrictions. In addition to this, the question of affordability of housing vis-à-vis right to housing was also pointed out. In the long run housing prices could sharply increase owing to limited supply of residential land; therefore suggestions made to consider the availability of residential land in relation to the population was duly noted by representatives of the Ministry of Land Management Cooperatives and Poverty Alleviation.
Given that the law will come into force after categorization of land has been completely done by the Ministry of Land Management Cooperatives and Poverty Alleviation, the status of works being done and the process of categorization was discussed by representative form MoLCPA. They informed that nearly 26 percent of the work had been completed and plans to complete the work by the end of the fiscal year were underway. In addition to this the approach taken was to make standards for categorization of land which were to be handed over to local governments along with training local governments to implement the act. The local and provincial governments were also given certain authority to change category of land based on their own needs. In addition to this it was also informed that a policy related to Land Bank was being formulated which would allow people seeking to pursue commercial agriculture who have no ownership of land to lease agricultural land from owners of agricultural land. In addition to this the burden of cultivating agricultural land as per the act would be mitigated if they had deposited their land in the Land Bank.
It was also argued whether the procedure for changing land category was too extensive and whether or not delegation to local governments was needed. While doing so it was largely agreed that the procedures set out in the act were indeed cumbersome and necessary changes need to be made.
MoLCPA representative acknowledged the challenges of categorizing land on the basis of it use. Although a land may be fertile and arable, lack of infrastructure could not help in achieving the maximum amount of benefit from use of land in agriculture. Industries were also the need of the hour, and the road to economic development was industrial productivity. While categorizing land these factors were to be considered, and it was further assured that these factors would be considered by MoLCPA.