Land Utilisation in India – Recent Trends


Ajit Kumar AJIT KUMARWISDOM IAS, New Delhi.

Land includes benefits to arise out of land, and things attached to the earth or permanently fastened to anything attached to the earth. Land is the most important component of the life support system. It is the most important natural resource which embodies soil and water, and associated flora and fauna involving the ecosystem on which all man’s activities are based.
Land is a finite resource. Land availability is only about 20% of the earth’s surface. Land is crucial for all developmental activities, for natural resources, ecosystem services and for agriculture. Growing population, growing needs and demands for economic development, clean water, food and other products from natural resources, as well as degradation of land and negative environmental impacts are posing increasing pressures to the land resources in many countries of the world.
For India, though the seventh largest country in the world, land resource management is becoming very important. India has over 17% of world’s population living on 2.4% of the world’s geographical area.
Proper planning of land and its resources allows for rational and sustainable use of land catering to various needs, including social, economic, developmental and environmental needs. Proper land use planning based on sound scientific, and technical procedures, and land utilisation strategies, supported by participatory approaches empowers people to make decisions on how to appropriately allocate and utilize land and its resources comprehensively and consistently catering to the present and future demands.
There is a need for scientific, aesthetic and orderly disposition of land resources, facilities and services with a view to securing the physical, economic and social efficiency, health and well-being of communities. There is a need for an integrated land use planning which inter-alia includes agriculture, industry, commerce, forests, mining, housing infrastructure and urban area settlements, transportation infrastructure etc. to settle claims/counter-claims of these sectors.
The National Commission on Agriculture (1976) emphasized on scientific land use planning for achieving food security, self reliance and enhanced livelihood security. The National Policy for Farmers (2007) has recommended revival of existing Land Use Boards and their linkage to district-level land-use Committees, so that they can provide quality and proactive advice to farmers on land use. The Committee on “State Agrarian Relations and the Unfinished Task in Land Reforms” (2009) has also emphasized the need for land use planning in the country
Urban Area
The Urban Development Plans Formulation and Implementation (UDPFI) Guidelines15 (1996) recommended urban development planning system, which consists of a set of the following four inter-related plans:
a) Perspective Plan: A long term (20-25 years) policy plan of spatio-economic development of the settlement.
b) Development Plan: Conceived within the framework of the approved Perspective Plan, it is a medium-term (generally five years co-terminus with the term of the local (authority) comprehensive plan of spatio-economic development of the urban centre.
c) Annual Plan: Conceived within the framework of Development Plan, it is a plan containing the physical and fiscal details of new and ongoing projects that the local authority intends to implement during the respective financial year.
d) Plans of Projects/Schemes: Conceived within the framework of approved Development Plan/Annual Plan, these are detailed working layouts for execution by a public or private agency.
Master Plans and Development Plans are prepared for urban areas, metropolitan areas and sometime Regional Plans such as for Delhi National Capital Region. The Master Plans or Development Plans are prepared by the urban local bodies or the Town Planning Departments or the Development Authorities. One of the main issues is, in the absence of Regional Plans, the urban sprawl forces itself into farmlands and rural areas. If all the urban areas in the country are properly planned, this would bring about 2.25% of the country’s land under planned development
Industrial Investment
The National Manufacturing Policy (Nov 2011) of the Government of India, promotes integrated industrial townships, known as the National Investment and Manufacturing Zones (NIMZs) with at least 5,000 Ha area and calls for preparation of environment friendly Development Plans. Major environmental aspects are required to be taken care of in the NIMZ in the beginning itself by having proper zoning during Master Planning.
The state level/local level authorities such as industrial development corporations and infrastructure development boards are identifying locations for industrial estates, special economic zones, investment zones/regions and industrial corridors and preparing development/master plans for such areas. For example, the Gujarat Infrastructure Development Board is preparing an elaborate Development Plan for Dholera Special Investment Region, which is a part of the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor. Such plans guide future land use.
If all the industrial areas in the country are properly planned, this would bring about 1% of the country’s land under planned development.
Eco Sensitive Area
Under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, the Ministry of Environment & Forests, GoI is notifying “Eco Sensitive Zones”, which require preparation of Zonal Master Plans or Zonal Development Plans that guide further development in the area. “Eco Sensitive Zones” may be defined as areas which contain natural features with identified environmental resources having ‘incomparable values’ (water resource, flora & fauna etc.) requiring special attention for their conservation. The Eco Sensitive Areas will include protected areas such as National Parks, Wildlife Sanctuaries, Conservation Reserves and Community Reserves (total number: 659), which cover about 4.79% of the total geographic area of the country. The areas other than protected areas such as landscape areas, areas with historical value also are covered under Eco Sensitive Zones.
The purpose of declaring Eco Sensitive Zones is to create a kind of ‘shock absorber’ for the specialized ecosystem that needs to be protected. The Eco Sensitive Zones would act as transition zone from areas of high protection to areas involving lesser protection. These areas are of regulatory nature rather than prohibitive nature, unless or otherwise so required.
The objectives of declaring Eco Sensitive Zones are:
(i) To maintain the response level of an ecosystem within the permissible limits with respect to environmental parameters.
(ii)  To take care of special protection needs because of its landscape, wildlife, historical value etc. and to ensure that the new activities allowed are within the carrying capacity of that area.
(iii) To ensure protection and conservation of ‘Entities of Incomparable Values’ of these zones and regulate development activities based on a scientific basis and based on adequate
participation in the decision making by the local communities.
(iv) To ensure compliance to the provisions contained in the approved Zonal Development Plan/Master Plan/Management Plan through the constitution of high level monitoring committees.
The State Governments identify these Eco Sensitive Zones and the Ministry of Environment & Forests, GoI finalises the same and notifies under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986. Accordingly, the Zonal Development Plans are prepared and implemented for regulating further development or land uses in the areas.
If all the Eco Sensitive Zones in the country are notified and planned, this would bring about 5% of the country’s land under planned development.
Mining Area
In the case of mining areas, the steps being currently taken include allotment of mineral concession (i.e., mining lease) for extraction of mineral, seeking consent from land owner or the agency having surface right for the area covered under lease, operating the allotted mine with complying all existing applicable laws including implementation of mine closure plan as approved by the competent authority. No mining lease would be granted to any party, private or public, without a proper mining plan including the environmental management plan approved and enforced by statutory authorities.
However, elaborate land use planning is not undertaken. If this process is initiated, about 0.17% of the country’s land will come under planned development.
Watershed Management
The Government of India initiated a number of centrally sponsored schemes like Integrated Wasteland Development Programme, Drought-Prone Area Programme and Desert Development Programme for assisting states to increase productivity of marginalised land.
Later in 2009, all these programmes were merged under single integrated scheme called Integrated Watershed Management Programme, covering not only the marginal lands but also the area under rain-fed agriculture. This was based on the realisation that irrigated area under Green Revolution has already reached its productivity limits and the increase in productivity of vast extent of rain-fed area is the main plank to address the looming food security issues of the country.  The watershed areas, if associated with land use planning could serve planned development.
Coastal –zones
Coastal environment plays a vital role in nation’s economy by virtue of the resources, productive habitats and rich biodiversity. India has a coastline of about 7,500 km of which the mainland accounts for 5,400 km, Lakshadweep coasts extend to 132 km and Andaman & Nicobar Islands have a coastline of about 1,900 km. Nearly 250 million people live within a distance of 50 km from the coast.
The coastal zone is also endowed with a very wide range of coastal ecosystems like mangroves, coral reefs, sea grasses, salt marshes, sand dunes, estuaries, lagoons, etc., which are characterized by distinct biotic and abiotic processes and ecosystem services. The coastal areas are assuming greater importance in recent years, owing to increasing human population, urbanization and accelerated developmental activities. These anthropogenic activities have put tremendous pressure on the fragile coastal environment. There has been significant degradation of coastal resources and ecosystem services in recent years due to poorly planned developmental activities and overexploitation of natural resources.
For the purpose of protecting and conserving the coastal environment, the Ministry of Environment & Forests, GoI issued the Coastal Regulation Zone Notification dated 19.2.1991 under Environment (Protection) Act, 1986. This notification regulates all developmental activities in the Coastal Regulation Zone area. This notification imposed formidable restrictions on the land use in the coastal region.
The Government of India has initiated, with the support of the World Bank, the Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM) Project for building national capacity for implementation of comprehensive coastal management approach in the country, and piloting the integrated coastal zone management approach in states of Gujarat, Orissa and West Bengal. The project has an important element of preparation of an Integrated Coastal Zone Management Plan
Land Administration
During late 1980’s, the Government of India launched centrally sponsored programme Computerisation of Land Records (CLR) and Strengthening of Revenue Administration & Updating of Land Records (SRA&ULR) to improve revenue administration and the sordid state of land records in the country. Various States achieved differently in these programmes.
The Government of India again took initiative to revitalize the land administration agenda by merging the earlier two programmes into a single integrated programme called the ‘National Land Records Modernization Programme (NLRMP)’ which aims at ushering in a system of updated land records, automated and automatic mutation of land transactions, integration between textual and spatial land records, inter-connectivity between revenue and registration systems, and finally replacing the present deeds registration and presumptive title system with that of conclusive titling with title guarantee.
Land use Board
During 1970’s, all the States established ‘State Land Use Boards’ under the Chairmanship of respective Chief Minister of the State. These Boards were meant to provide policy directions and coordinate the activities of different departments dealing with soil and land resources. These Boards never functioned the way they were meant to be, and they felt in disuse overtime and nearly all of them have been abolished.
At present, the States do not have any mechanism at their disposal to deal with land policy issues in a coherent manner. Hence, the responses of the States to land issues are impulsive and ad hoc without consistency. No rationale and scientific considerations appear to be guiding the decisions on land use.
Existing Policies
There are several existing policies relating to land use. These include the National Water Policy 2013, the National Land Use Policy Outlines 1988, the National Forest Policy 1988, the Policy Statement of Abatement of Pollution 1992, the National Livestock Policy Perspective, 1996, the National Agricultural Policy 2000, the National Population Policy 2000, the National Policy and Macro-level Strategy and Action Plan on Biodiversity 2000 and the National Environmental Policy 2006 etc.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Thursday, 03rd Apr 2014, 07:46:50 PM

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