With a population of 163 million people and an area of only 147,570 square kilometers, Bangladesh is one of the most densely populated countries in the world. Land scarcity, insecure tenure, and other factors have contributed to a high volume of land conflicts. Such problems are compounded by Bangladesh’s weak land governance systems, extensive informal settlements in urban areas and widespread landlessness in rural areas.

Land administration laws and regulations in Bangladesh stem from British colonialism, which reigned from 1765 until 1947. Bangladesh later gained independence from Pakistan in 1971 after a tumultuous war for independence. The country enacted a number of land reforms in the 1980s, and, since then, the government has made several legislative efforts to protect the property rights of the Hindu religious minority and other landholders.

The level of conflict and inefficiency associated with the land administration system in Bangladesh is striking. Property registration costs an estimated 6.7% of the property value, while 80-90% of land transfers occur informally. 1.4 million pending land-related cases represent over 75% of the total pending court cases in Bangladesh. Clogging the justice system, these land cases cost an estimated 10% of the entire gross domestic product (GDP).

Conversion of agricultural land is a major concern for many in Bangladesh. Approximately 80 thousand hectares of agricultural land are being converted to non-agricultural uses each year, representing a 1% annual loss. This trend has led to the loss of nearly a third of agricultural land in some areas over the last thirty years. Moreover, state-owned land is commonly subject to occupation and illegal acquisition by local elites; an astonishing 24.9% of state land given in settlement has been acquired through forged documentation. 

Conservative estimates indicate that women own less than 5% of land in Bangladesh, a problem that likely results from a number of factors, including weak legal protection, patriarchal cultural norms and customary practices that discriminate against women.

In an effort to bring attention to the historical development and current situation regarding land governance in Bangladesh, the Land Portal Foundation and Uttaran, a local NGO that follows a rights based approach to empower poor communities and reduce poverty, are launching a Country Portfolio on Bangladesh.

The country portfolio features a narrative, authored by Uttaran, that provides a breakdown of land laws and regulations, land tenure classification, land use trends, land distribution, land investments and the situation concerning women's land rights in Bangladesh.

The portfolio includes a table, map and visualizations of hundreds of indicators from dozens of datasets. The portfolio also includes the latest news, blogs and events relating to land issues in Bangladesh, and also presents profiles of key stakeholder organizations working on land issues in the country. Moreover, the Portfolio grants direct access to more than 707 library resource related to land issues in Bangladesh, from key sources such as the CGIAR, FAO, World Bank and many local organizations working in the country.

Laura Meggiolaro, Coordinator of the Land Portal Foundation, states “Bangladesh is a priority country of the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID), with an aim of helping the 37 million people who still live in poverty there. This is an effort to work with a local development organization to shine a light on land governance in Bangladesh and to encourage greater transparency in hopes that this will contribute to better land governance for its people.”

For more information, please visit https://landportal.info/book/countries/BGD

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