Focus on SEZs-IV

Zone development heats up rural land market

Jashim Uddin Haroon and Jubair Hasan | Wednesday, 9 May 2018

Economic zones have driven up the value of land property in villages, helping the rural people reap windfall gains.
In some areas, where such zones are being built, the land value rocketed more than 10 times, locals say.
The development activities around the under-construction industrial clusters have also generated economic vibrancy in otherwise backwater villages where such opportunities are not that abundant.
Besides, the promise of giving locals priority over others while recruiting workers in the zones by Bangladesh Economic Zones Authority (BEZA) has raised new hope among the villagers.
During recent visits to several developing zones like Mirsarai and Anwara in Chattagram, Sreehatta in Moulavibazar, Sabrung in Teknaf of Cox's Bazar, some villagers were found building or repairing their tin-shed or concrete houses in the prospect of renting those out as the demand for accommodating people engaged in construction has grown.
Locals and officials said the areas selected for building economic zones (EZs) were underdeveloped and low-lying, used only for cultivation or grazing for years.
But the zones are helping these villages get connected with the mainstream economy, leading to the socio-economic boost.
Yunus Ali, who drives a CNG-run three wheeler, said the place where EZ is being developed was under the sea just 20 years ago and after reclamation it was largely used as grazing for the cattle population including buffalos.
"Even villagers were fearful about visiting the area during daytime," he recalled.
But the ongoing development work changed the scenario more quickly than thought, making it a lucrative place, he added.
The CNG driver has 50 decimal of agricultural land at Paschim Ichakhali mouza where the actual value is Tk 32,000 per decimal but buyers were offering him over Tk 0.2 million (Tk 200,000).
"I didn't want to sell those as I want to use the land properly. I think it may change our fortune," he added.
BEZA engineer Nazrul Islam, who supervises development work of the zone, said he along with some of his colleagues rented a house at RC Chattar (intersection).
"Besides local engineers and officials, there are 500 foreigners working here and some of them reside in the localities. So, lodging service is growing very fast here," he added.
Contacted, sub-register of Mirsarai Land Registration Office Lutfar Rahman Khan said that the roads and bridges always push up the demand and value of land.
"That is the case happening now in several mouzas around the zone in Mirsarai," he said.
Asked about the land value hike, Mr. Khan said that the government revises property value every two years and the current market rate was fixed in 2016, which will be readjusted later this year.
"So, the increased rate will be reflected in the upcoming revision. But the actual value cannot be understood seeing the official and minimum rate because most people sell or buy land showing the minimum rate only to dodge registration and other fees," he added.
About the rural land market, Dr Khurshid Alam, operations director at the local think-tank Policy Research Institute of Bangladesh, said that infrastructure like roads and bridges always enhances the rate of landed property, which is natural.
"Economic zones will definitely have a positive impact on the livelihood of the people in the localities." he said.
He noted that many land speculators invest in purchasing land around the zones to gain short or long-term benefits, which will create new opportunities for the villagers by providing alternative options.
"This is natural but the opportunity cost is higher there," he added.
Meanwhile, some people have set up shops of various types while others bought motorised vehicles like CNG or battery-driven three wheelers benefiting from the newly-built roads around the economic zones.
Member of Sherpur Union Parishad of Moulavibazar Sadar Upazila Nazmul Islam said the BEZA made a commitment to employing locals first to the Sreehatta economic zone if qualification matched with the requirements.
"Villagers need jobs for changing their fate and the promise of employment means a lot to them," he added.
Employment generation is one of the main objectives of developing industrial clusters like economic zones.
The BEZA is moving ahead with developing 100 economic zones countrywide by 2030, creating 10 million jobs.
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