Friday, 10 July 2009

Bhutan : Potential for conflict with Land Act

9 July, 2009 - The local government (LG) bill 2009 will be discussed in the Assembly today, as landowners and agencies say a lot of problems are foreseen if the bill is endorsed.

This, they say, is because certain sections in the bill are in conflict with the Land Act 2007, especially with regard to urban land, whether private or government owned.

A section of the LG bill states that the thromde tshogdu will approve the purchase, lease, or otherwise acquire land and property, or dispose of it in the interest of the thromde, in accordance with the policies of the government.

However, according to the Land Act 2007, all land-related issues, had to be sorted out with the approval of the land commission. Urban land records, which were handled by municipal authorities (city corporation) earlier, also came under the commission.

At present, the land commission handles all land-related issues like approval, purchase and lease of government and private land. However, the LG bill allows the municipal to carry out the same functions.

To implement the Land Act of 2007, the commission, since its inception, worked on clearing all land transactions done in accordance with the Land Act of 1979. They are still to clear this issue, according to the secretary, Sangay Khandu.

“We are yet to complete the process as there was no systematic thram or plot records and proper data,” said Sangay Khandu.

The secretary said that, if the bill was endorsed, it would be unacceptable, since the municipal bodies would approve purchase and lease of government and private land, while the land commission maintain the records. “Land is a central government subject, not of local government. With the changed provisions, the situation would be same as in the past. Before, there had been no check and balance when it was under the thromde,” he said.

The chairman of the assembly’s legislative committee, Ugyen Wangdi, said, “NA will have some changes, which may come in conflict with certain provisions in the Land Act related to land in the thromde.”

“The new government is planning to propose certain authorities to municipal bodies with regard to urban land. It’s not necessary that the approval should come from the commission,” he said.

Meanwhile, observers point out that, with numerous changes in land rules, landowners would be affected the most. “Land shouldn’t be politicised but handled by a neutral agency, which is not under any ministry,” said an observer.

By Kinga Dema

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