Land ceiling

The draft national land policy, particularly the proposal to remove the 25 acre landholding ceiling, has already become controversial. That’s why Thinlay demanded “to hear OL’s views on this very important issue.” When I didn’t respond, Thinlay sent this reminder: “do you … have opinion on this, because this issue is to important to be ignored?”

Yes, the issue is important. And yes, I do have an opinion on this matter.

Removing the existing maximum landholding restriction of 25 acres will be the quickest way of stripping our farmers of their property.

But the policy has caught me by surprise. I never dreamt that the land ceiling would be lifted in the foreseeable future. So I’m scrambling to gather information and consult people before presenting our views to the public and to the Government.

Meanwhile, I request Thinlay to grant me a little more time.


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  1. The land ceiling when implemented brought about many changes in the past – most were positive (such as empowering small farmers, landless receiving land and more importantly removing class system) but then it was not so good for the families who lost thier ancestral land. Now when question to remove the ceiling is brought about, another question arises which is would the people/ families who originally lost thier land given thier land again? And another one, what is the basis behind the removal of land ceiling? And another, who is behind it – is it few wealthy individual who feels restricted in thier quest to become past Ted Turner of Bhutan?

  2. This is exactly what will happen. When land holding ceiling is removed only rich will be able to hold more, thus skewing the land ownership leading to skewing of wealth distribution. And the vast majority will have to earn living at the mercy of land lords. This is what had happened in many parts of the world especially in latin america and africa and also in some asian countries. Capitalists or land lords love this condition because they can exploit and enslave the masses. We do not want this condition to develope in Bhutan; Thus Government must retain the present land distribution system and retain the upper land holding ceiling at 25 Acres.


  3. Thinley Penjore says

    I have not seen the draft copy of land act. It would be nice if the NLC put the draft copy of land act in their website or somewhere accessbile by the interested readers. Without going through the draft Act, it is difficult to blindly criticize the proposal. We would want to know the rationale behind removing the land ceiling first.

    My few personal opionion:
    1.0 Land ceiling has to be there and 25 acres for the rural areas is appropriate if not bigger. Removing the land ceiling will increase the gaps between rich and poor which is not what our development principle GNH advocates for.
    2.0 Land ceiling in the urban areas should be even low and not 25 acres. If some one ask me what should be the land ceiling for urban areas, I will say 1 acre. The government should come up with some suitable land taxing system like how BPC charges the power consumption fees. The land tax should be progressive meaning certain tax rate for people owning land up to 50 decimal in the urban areas and then increase progressively above 50 decimal land. If land ceiling in the urban area is 1 acre, then anybody owning more than a acre should be taxed double or even tripple to discourage large land holdings for speculative purpose and to increase the land stocks in the market.
    3.0 The other point I want to make here is on the minimum plot size in urban areas. I fully support the idea of NLC of looking into reducing the present minimum plot size in urban areas. For example, in Thimphu (urban areas), there are 2 different plot sizes – 371.60 Sqm (after land pooling) for residential areas & 1000 Sqm. (after land pooling) for commercial areas in the new local area plans. I have very strong reservation for having such figures made as the rule by our planning authorities. Why can’t we have a minimum plot size of 250 Sqm. which is 5 times more than the minimum plot size of 50 Sqm in many cities of the developing world. We can easily built 100 Sqm house (which is big enough) by using only 40 percent of the land area which is the present rule of planning in Bhutan. By doing this, we are saving a cost for 1308 sft. land which at the present market rate in the new local plan areas comes to Nu. 6 lakhs. This amount difference can be used for construction and many more people can afford to buy land which at the moment only rich people can afford to buy land in the urban areas. Since, the plot size requirements are too big and the price of plots skyrocketting, people land up buying cars for transportation and live in the cheaper rental houses far away from town centre. This is one reason why the populaton of car is increasing in Bhutan. Now that NLC has come up with the idea of reducing the minimum plot sizes in urban areas, if implemented would highly benefit the lower and middle income people to have better access to owning a land and subsequently to have an independent roof over their heads. In the present scenario, if a person owns say for example 900 sqm in simtokha local area plan, he can sub-divide it into only two plots of 450 sqm which is too big for one house. He can not even make it three plots of 300 Sqm each because it is less than the minimum requirement of 371 Sqm. Is this not funny? and how does such rule help in making people accessible to land and housing which is one of the important mandate of government. The discussions and examples can go on and on, but I will limit my point here for today.

  4. I heard of the land ceiling but I also how people actually quenched their thirst for wealth. It was even said that someone had even land in his/her dog’s name. I do not know how true it is but I doubt there is some mechanism of that sort otherwise how can many RICH people own so much and buildings. Oh GNH!! where are you? Please xome and save us, don’t just be on paper. Lets see in action.

  5. Your Excellency,
    Allow me to take you away from issues such as the Land Act, FDI etc to another very important and promising development. I am referring to the establishment of the 1000 acre education city. There has not been any comment from you or others about this multi million project. The few reservations concerned the financial modalities and the national counterparts. No one tried to look at it through the lenses of balanced economic development and equity. And this is not an isolated case. The Bhutan Institute of Medical Sciences (BIMS), punatsangchu etc are other examples. Let me stop beating around the bush and arrive at the point; why in Thimphu? Doesn’t it contradict the principles of balanced development and equity? Will this reduce rural urban migration? What about the social, political and economic repercussions of concentrating everything in one region; especially when the Government wants to bolster development in other regions?
    I do not intend to start a discussion on Eastern and Western Bhutan. We are one nation, one people. But there are differences. Except for Mongar, Eastern Bhutan has not changed. Yes! TV, mobiles, rice cookers etc have entered even shabby huts of the poor; but what about the larger picture; capital investments etc. I stand corrected; but except for Sherubtse College, the East has comparatively nothing. Domestic airports, Dungsam, hundreds of farm roads, safe drinking water etc are in the pipeline. But don’t you think that these are peanuts compared to projects like the Medical College, ICT Park and the latest; education city. Development projects planned for Eastern Bhutan are eyewashes.
    There are reasons; the most important being security problems. The argument now might be feasibility, infrastructure etc. But I don’t see how Eastern Bhutan will not be feasible for projects like the education city when thousands (including yourself) boast of being an alumni of Sherubtse College. Did our decision makers ever consider this when the proposal for the electronic city was put up?
    Five Ministers (including the Speaker and the PM) are from the East. I should be asking them this question, which I did. None could give an answer that was satisfactory. Eminent MPs and NCs know very well that one of the best ways to realize Balanced Development is to identify the potentials of regions and focus development accordingly. As mentioned above, you think of Sherubtse when you talk about the East. Thus, Education has always been associated with Eastern Bhutan. By all calculations, if the Government is serious about balanced development; if we are serious about decreasing the wedge between the East and the West; recognizing Eastern Bhutan as a regional and international hub for education is the best way. The education /knowledge city offers the best opportunity.
    I would appreciate if Your Excellency could throw some light on this and take it further so that the region from where the sun shines will receive a little warmth of the intense heat that Thimphu is subjected to because of the Medical College, ICT Center etc. And please don’t talk about the proposed Kholongchu Project and the farm roads. As I said these are eyewashes.

  6. it is just a draft!!!! we have time to discuss on it- we are not late. why is government planning to remove 25 acrs of landholding ceiling. it is as controversial as that of liberalizing tourism.
    we are looked as a GNH country- we ourselves declare as a GNH country. my question is are we really implementing it?
    if we see current landholding date of la 5 acres ndholding- average landholding will come to around 5 acres.
    why to revoke the current land ceiling. it has benefit all the people.. rich as well as poor.
    our government happened to remove current land holding ceilinig, only rich shall benefited- wealthy group of bhutanese has captured most of the land in the town- this will provide opportunity for them to trespass in rural areas too.
    it will create disparity in the society which is not good for our country.
    don’t make such reckless decision. now i rarely visit this blog because i am destroying my happiness. you see our government is making layman decision… it really hurts me………… rarely read newspaper………. its not good to remain silent, still i can’t talk all the time…i can’t write all the time….coz our government is making so much mistake- unsustainable decision.

  7. I take this opportunity to express my views regarding the Land Ceiling Act of Bhutan. It was reflected that a Bhutanese farmer should not keep more than 25 acres of land. But what i felt was that there are many areas to be taken into consideration when it restrict the people to keep less than 25 acres of land. The number of family members and the standard of that family should be taken into account. The land should be available for them to sustain their living and farmer should be able to earn livelihood from given land. Pertaining to this, farmers should also be given a freedom to change those Chuzhing to kamzhing if the water fed land is deprived of water.After all, a chuzhing without water is of no use….

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