Bangladesh Railway’s efforts to recover its grabbed and use unused lands across the country have been insignificant in the absence of a land use master plan.
Twelve years ago, an initiative was taken to conduct a survey of all railway lands, and prepare a land use plan and web-based land information system but it is yet to be completed.
Currently, out of Bangladesh Railway’s 61,860.28 acres of land, 3,841.53 acres are under occupation of different government and private organisations and persons.
The highest 2,828.36 acres have been grabbed by private organisations and persons, 922.34 acres by government, quasi-government and autonomous organisations and 90.83 acres by educational and religious organisations.
Among the railway’s four divisions, the highest around 64 per cent of the total occupied land are under Paksey division.
Railway is now not using its 10,843.15 acres of land while again the major portion of unused land – more than 61 per cent – is under Paksey division.
Under railway’s regular routine drive, in east zone, about 40 acres of land was recovered and 5,558 persons were evicted from 3,556 structures between July 2018 and January 2019.
During the same period, in west zone, 51.18 acres of land was recovered while 101 persons were evicted from 101 structures.
Railways minister Nurul Islam Sujon told New Age that currently their priority was to make railway active by improving passenger services and then they would go for recovering the grabbed lands.
‘Right at this moment, we will strictly see that no new lands are grabbed,’ he added.
BR and Sheltech signed a contract for ‘Consulting Services for Land Survey and Preparation of Land Use Plan for Railway Land in Bangladesh’ in June 2007 to prepare the plan for the next 30 years and a land information system for digitised copies of land records and other information.
As per Sheltech, the land use plan was for assessment of future land requirements of railway, development of policies and procedures to lease out the railway land for considerable revenue generation.
Sheltech was originally scheduled to submit the report in June 2009. After missing nine extended deadlines, the consultants are yet to submit the final report.
In the meantime, railway signed a contract with CNS Bangladesh in June 2015 to collect necessary GIS server software to develop the web-based LIS system.
The authorities can no longer use the software as they failed to pay the yearly registration fee for lack of budget allocation, officials have said.
The railway is now trying to complete the project by integrating the software under its reform project, they say.
Afsana M Kamal, a project consultant, told New Age that within this year they would try to give a final presentation on the report.
The original cost of the project was Tk 3.85 crore in 2007 which later rose to Tk 4.40 crore.
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