Pros and Cons of Digitalizing Land Record

by M. Wasim

It has been written in these pages that land grabbing is a serious menace, plaguing not only the housing and overall real estate sector but also the environment and public health in the country. The menace direly requires digitalization of land record system to not only eliminate land mafia but also control illegal and haphazard constructions in both urban and rural areas. And, at last we see some silver lining when Prime Minister Imran launched the cadastral map of Islamabad to curb land record tampering, ensure monitoring of construction through imagery and provide information about land ownership.

Cadastral mapping is a land record of overall real estate in a country which contains official, legal documentation concerning the quantity, dimensions, location, value, tenure and ownership of properties. “Digitization and cadastral mapping of lands would ensure transparency in record and transactions, and eliminate the besetting issue of land grabbing,” says Imran Khan while during the launching ceremony of the digitalized land record system and cadastral map of Islamabad.

Curb the Land Grabbing

The Prime Minister Imran Khan opined there are big land-grabbing groups in the country, making huge money through the illegal practice. While the country’s system didn’t have the capacity to retrieve illegally occupied land from encroachers.

There is no denying that poor and powerless are the ultimate sufferers who have always hurt at the hands of land grabbers besides common people have to face great hardships after their lands are occupied by the powerful clique who had no regard for the law of the land. The Premier, therefore, is optimistic that thanks to this technology, state land would be protected. “The powerful elements that used to illegally encroach upon land and amass wealth will now fear this modern technology.” says Imran Khan.

End of Patwari System

The new system ensures the old mode of land record keeping would be digitalized and ends the old Patwari system – the hub of maneuvering land records. As Imran Khan says “The new system will also curb land record tampering, ensure monitoring of construction through imagery and provide information about land ownership.”

The digitalization of lands and cadastral mapping had been completed in Islamabad and it has borne fruits. As Prime Minister reveals “Under the digital data system, lands worth Rs 400 billion were retrieved from the land-grabbing mafia, including Rs300 billion worth of CDA land and the other Rs 100 Billion of forest land.”

The Survey of Pakistan has been assigned the task of cadastral mapping. In the first phase, digitization of revenue records of three major cities — Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad — and state land data of the country will be carried out. The cadastral mapping of three cities would be digitalized by November this year, while the rest of the country would be covered six months after it.

Disapproval and Drawbacks

Digitization of land records is an important step toward greater transparency and efficiency, but it also entails with certain legitimate concerns. There are obviously data privacy issues which makes land records easily accessible for everyone, including criminals and manipulators. Besides, technology has the potential to be empowering, but it is possible that it will empower those who are already well-empowered.

For the government, digitization makes it easier to administer and go to market. But the same cannot be said about poor and low-income communities, as this system can further marginalize and disenfranchise people without digital access.


Editorial, Infocus

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