Making land-related laws and policies reflective of the recent developments and the people's needs will make reducing poverty in the char areas and protecting the people's livelihood there possible.
"If a policy regarding the char areas is created, a policy on lands will come with it. As a result, it will be easier to manage the newly formed chars and the people affected by the river erosion," said Dr Atiur Rahman in a dialogue titled "Law and Policy on Lands: The Reality of Char Areas," organised by Unnayan Shamannay and National Char Alliance at the Bishwa Sahitya Kendra in the capital on Saturday.
"According to the latest data of Unnayan Shamannay, about 67 lakh people live in the 8,315 sq km char areas of the country, but most of them do not own any land," said Dr Atiur Rahman, founder chairman of Unnayan Shamannay, in his keynote address delivered at the meeting.
"The main source of income of these marginalised people is the char lands but due to the complexity of the 'Shikasti-Payasti' (Land Reclamation Act), illegal occupants, influence of local ruling group and other reasons, the landless people of char areas are deprived of land ownership," said Dr Atiur Rahman, a former governor of the Bangladesh Bank.
He also called for creating a database of people living in the char areas.
Abdus Salam, executive director of the nongovernment organisation GUK, said the Khas Land Settlement Committee is currently inactive and a list of landless people cannot be found anywhere. It is important to provide incentives to the inhabitants of char areas.
Farmer leader Zayed Iqbal Khan said, "The government policy regarding the matter is sufficient but there is a lack in its implementation. The main problem in char land management is that there is no sketch map."
Siraj Kha, a resident of Char Bangla area in Patuakhali, said, "We have been living in the char for 27 years, but we could produce paddy in the char lands only for the first two or three years. Now all the lands have been taken over by land grabbers."
"There are at least 27 cases against me. They (land grabbers) filed a case as soon as they took possession of a piece of my lands. Around 350 families are facing the same problem. We have got the High Court's verdict in our favour, but we do not have the possession of the land," he added.
Speaking as the chief guest at the programme, Land Minister Saifuzzaman Chowdhury said, "We have started a digital survey of lands using satellite images from Patuakhali. This latest survey will be called the Bangladesh Digital Survey (BDS)."
"We will create an information bank, where all the information on land will be available. Moreover, the Land Crime Act is being formulated. We are advancing on the principle of recognising the owner of documents as the owner of lands," he said.
Noting that a land inheritance policy for transgender people has already been sent to the cabinet, he said men among the transgender people will get their share as men and women will get their share as women. This will be confirmed through medical tests.
State Minister for Religious Affairs Faridul Haque Khan Dulal, Member of Parliament from Kurigram-3 constituency Prof MKA Matin, among others, also spoke at the meeting.