The draft urban plan act, if passed into a law, will prevent land owners across Bangladesh from building structures as they please; they will require approval from the government authorities concerned before using their lands for any construction.
The Cabinet approved the draft in its regular meeting at Bangladesh Secretariat on Monday, chaired by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Cabinet Secretary Mohammad Shafiul Alam said land owners, especially in the rural areas, currently do not require government approval before building permanent structures on their lands.
“But under this law, anyone who tries to procure agricultural land or wetland for construction, or any land owner who tries to do so by changing the category of the land, will be subject to punishment.”
He said the new law recommended minimum one year to maximum five years of imprisonment and up to Tk50 lakh for fine as punishment for violating urban plan regulations.
He also said a high-powered advisory council will be formed to implement the law around the country.
The council will consist of 27 members, headed by Housing and Public Works Minister Engr Mosharraf Hossain, and will be in charge of policy-making, he added.
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The Cabinet approved the draft of Urban and Regional Plan Act 2017 in its regular meeting, chaired by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, on March 20, 2017 PID
“The draft also recommends forming an executive body, led by the housing and public works secretary, to aid the advisory council,” he added.
If the law is passed and executed, it may reduce misuse of land, Shafiul told reporters.
“It will also establish a coordination mechanism among the city corporations, development authorities like Rajuk, municipalities, upazila and district councils,” he added.
“The goal of the act is to prevent unplanned urbanisation. A new council and an executive body as well as a department on urban and regional development will be formed under the new act,” Housing and Public Works Secretary Md Shahid Ullah Khandaker told the Dhaka Tribune on Monday.
Urban experts have applauded the draft urban plan act.
Iqbal Habib, a prominent architect and joint secretary of pro-environment organisation Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon, said: “Every year, we lose around 50,000 hectares of agricultural land or wetlands because of unplanned urbanisation. This act will help to prevent that.”
However, he said the proposed model for the advisory council as well as the executive body was not appropriately formulated.
“Both the bodies will consist of more bureaucrats and not enough experts, as per the clauses in the draft. But the bureaucrats cannot make decisions without expert input,” he told the Dhaka Tribune.
But he appreciated the fact that the new law would ensure coordination among different government agencies.
“The government is working on urbanisation plans at upazila level. But currently there is no coordination among upazila administrations, Urban Development Directorate and Local Government Department. That is causing delay in the planning process,” he said.