Government preparing to set up land bank

Kathmandu, January 7

With an aim to maximise the use of land and increase productivity, the government is gearing up to set up a ‘land bank’.

The Ministry of Land Management, Cooperatives and Poverty Alleviation (MoLMCPA) has informed that such a bank will soon be established as the government has nearly completed formulating the required laws and policies.

“We have come up with the concept of a land bank to cultivate arable land that has largely been left fallow. So, the maximum utilisation of land has been accorded priority in the land-related act,” informed Janak Raj Joshi, joint secretary at MoLMCPA.

“After the establishment of the land bank, if a land owner has not be cultivating their land, they will be able to deposit it in the land bank. Meanwhile, other interested parties can take such land on lease and use it for agricultural purpose,” he said.

The move is aimed at making country self-reliant in agriculture, also by providing agricultural loans at low interest rates. Joshi also said that once land bank is established, it would rid farmers of the risks of taking loans from the banks, and ensure easier market access.

According to Joshi, international practices would be adopted to operate the land bank with the help of satellites, while the government is also exploring other technologies that could help determine the status of the land.

“The ministry is in the process of developing Geographic Information System (GIS)-based software to systematically archive information about all types of land.”

In August, the government had enforced new Land Use Act, 2019. The act had introduced concept of land bank for the first time, classified land into various categories and given permission to authorities to impose fines if land was not being used for specific purpose.

The new legislation has also classified land into 10 categories — agricultural; residential; commercial; industrial; mining and minerals; forests; rivers, streams, ponds and wetlands; public use; cultural and archaeological; and others.

The new act allows the government to slap a fine of up to Rs 100,000 if the agricultural land is left barren for a period of up to three years without informing the local government; a fine of up to Rs 200,000 if anyone does not follow land use survey drawing and land use plan; and a fine of up to Rs 300,000 if the land is not used for designated purpose.

As per Joshi, ministry is going to formulate new guidelines for various land use including the concept of land bank. “The concept of the land bank is currently under discussion and the ministry will soon introduce related policies.”

At present, various local governments are trying to introduce land bank programmes but have not had any success yet. Although 27 per cent of Nepal’s land is agricultural, lack of regulations has hindered establishing a land bank in the country.

According to the census of 2011, 74 per cent of the country’s population is self-reliant in agriculture, but 53 per cent of the population own less than half a hectare of land. At present, most of the land is sterile. This effort of the government is also believed to ramp up the use of land.