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Summary of the study on Sustainable Land Management in Bangladesh: Issues, Constraints and Potentials

Zulfiqar Ali, M Asaduzzaman, Bimal Kumar Saha

Mansur Ahmed, Nehrazahmud

April 2012


Land is an extremely scarce natural resource in Bangladesh. The issue of land, its management and access to it is very important. It has several dimensions. Firstly, the problem of diversion of land (nearly 1% on an average in a year) from agriculture, which raises the question of land use policy. Secondly, human practice of land use which is more often than not driven by various policies including economic ones such as pricing, taxation and subsidies some time leads to land degradation. The unbalanced application of modern agricultural technologies has seriously degraded our soil quality, fertility and bio-diversity, for example. Environmental degradation that takes place as part of the natural process some time indirectly exacerbated due to human interventions tends to deplete the productive capacity of land. This is the third process of land degradation. Fourthly, the nature and changes in (average) farm-size, (unequal) distribution pattern of landownership and (exploitative) tenural relations of land may have direct influences, sometimes adverse, on the growth and poverty conditions of the country through their deleterious effects on land management. Fifthly, , the access to public land is particularly important as a sizeable portion of such land (khas, char and vested land) is under the control of influential private individuals. For addressing the question of productive efficiency and distributive justice, the public lands or at least their use rights may be transferred to the poorer sections of the society.

Given the above, the present study has been carried out to provide certain services in order to mainstream SLM in related policies, institutions and legislation; develop capacity and strengthen institution for implementation of the National Land Use Policy; enhance SLM knowledge; and develop human resources for local level institutional coordination and SLM advocacy. The overall objective of the study is to provide an understanding of cost-effectiveness of SLM practices and identify the main economic reasons and/or constraints for adoption of SLM measures and provide policy suggestion in choosing investment alternatives by the farmers.

Land degradation in different forms is occurring all over the country.  In terms of seasonal dryness and drought conditions, about 43.0 percent of the country is being affected because of declining soil quality, seasonal dryness, and drought conditions. Agricultural intensification and the increase in irrigated area have led to a number of environmental problems, including loss of bio-diversity through the conversion of forest land to agriculture and abandonment of indigenous crop varieties in favor of high yielding varieties leading to irreversible loss of the country's genetic resources.  River erosion is having tremendous impacts on agriculture and human habitation.  The reduction of flow in the Ganges during the dry season has changed the hydrological regime with salinity intrusion in the entire Khulna-Jessore region. Salinity intrusion has degraded the soil and the ecosystem, leading to decreased agricultural production. A total of 1.65 million hectares of land is affected by different degrees of salinity within Barisal and Khulna divisions.

Land degradation in Bangladesh is principally the result of increasing population, intensification of agriculture, weak governance, inappropriate agricultural practices, accumulation of pollutants in the land and water systems, unplanned industrial and infrastructural growth as well as urbanization, trans-boundary reasons including upstream water withdrawal, climate change, sand deposition, insecure tenancy and overexploitation of resources, salinity intrusion, and natural environmental changes. In the face of climate change, there is growing evidence that temperature, rainfall patterns, plus sea level rise will worsen the land productivity for agriculture.

The direct impacts of land degradation at the local level are increased poverty specifically the extreme poverty, food insecurity, deterioration of natural resources which adversely affect socio-economic conditions and livelihood support systems, scarcity of drinking water, deteriorating health and nutrition of the population and reduced availability of biomass for fuel. Land is the most important economic and social asset for most people in Bangladesh, particularly for the poor.  Over two-thirds of Bangladeshis live in rural areas and most live at subsistence levels.

In addition to above, key findings of the study also include the following:

•    Use pattern of the resources is changing – various forms of tenural system is now taking place in an increasing proportion;

•    Land fertility is declining – One of the important reasons for this is unbalanced use of fertilizer, irrigation and pesticides;

•    There are variations in input prices and its use across seasons and regions;

•    Productivity varies significantly depending on the use of inputs;

•    Input demand is elastic with respect to both input and output prices;

•    There are variations in soil quality, fertility, input use and productivity across regions.

The policy priorities for sustainable land management may, therefore, include the following:

   Need to Identity the “hotspots” of land degradation;

   Need to have an understanding of optimal mix of inputs for production of different crops in different agro-ecological zones;

   Then, appropriate economic instruments (such as, prices, subsidies, taxes, etc.) can be used to promote optimal use of various inputs for crop cultivation and other agricultural practices;

   Economic instruments can also be used to promote efficient tenural systems ; and

   Finally, raising awareness about SLM and spatially focused approach to the entire issue is necessary.

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