Sri Lanka to relax paddy lands law for housing

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s government has decided to relax regulations that ban development of paddy fields used for growing rice in response to rising demand for housing in the rapidly urbanising society.

Under-utilised lots, especially abandoned and uncultivated paddy lands, could be made available for housing, under a proposal by Sajith Premadasa, Minister of Housing and Construction, approved by the Cabinet of Ministers this week.

The Cabinet approved a decision -making process proposed by Premadasa under which the National Housing Development Authority will convene a team of government officials who will vet and approve applications to use disused paddy lands for housing.

The government in recent years had introduced several safeguards to prevent constant threats to agricultural land and forest .reserves from development needs, according to the proposal.

One such safeguard, implemented by the Commissioner-General of Agrarian Services of the Ministry of Agriculture, is a complete ban on the development of paddy lands.

Premadasa has said this safeguard needs to be enforced while taking into account rising demand for housing, including measures to promote use of underutilized lots.

Premadasa said the current safeguards prohibiting use of paddy lots are “too rigidly enforced” with filling up of some lands whose names are associated with rice cultivation being rejected outright, although they cannot be cultivated now.

“Such rejections have adversely affected the development of human settlements especially in the western province and in other rapidly urbanizing areas,” Premadasa said.
(COLOMBO, June 14, 2017)

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