In Pakistan and Beyond, Land Records Get a Digital Upgrade

Land is an essential resource for sustainable development. Land tenure security is critical for reducing poverty and fragility, increasing food security, addressing climate change, and promoting sustainable urbanization and social inclusion. For Shahnaz Bibi, a woman farmer in the province of Punjab, Pakistan, acquiring and maintaining a small plot of land was not easy. She struggled for two years to obtain a land title from the local land recordkeepers, called “patwaris,” or village officers.    “They would ask for bribes… It was after a great struggle that I bought this [small piece of] land for my children,” said Bibi.   Shafiq Ahmed from Bhamni Wala in the district of Kasur shared a similar frustration, noting that their land records were not well kept and updated. “You could not find the needed record, especially the older listings,” he said. Worldwide, 7 out of 10 people do not have access to land registration systems that give them a clear, legal title to their property. For many smallholders like Bibi and Ahmed, having access to a modern, efficient, and transparent land administration system can help end years of vulnerability and provide a secure source of livelihood. “Land and housing are the most important assets for many people from urban centers to rural areas around the world,” said Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez, World Bank Senior Director for the Social, Urban, Rural and Resilience Global Practice. “The World Bank and its partners are working with countries worldwide to build sustainable communities by helping secure land rights for the poor and vulnerable.” [Read: Why Secure Land Rights Matter] Land titles go digital in rural Punjab In 2012, the government of Pakistan’s Punjab province embarked on a “digital journey” that has transformed the way it manages land records. Supported by the World Bank, the government replaced the error and corruption-prone manual land recordkeeping with a digital “Land Records Management and Information System (LRMIS)” handled by professional staff in 144 modern land record centers across the province’s 36 districts. Within just five years, the project scanned 10 million pages of old records, digitized all land records for over 55 million landowners across the province of Punjab, and made digitalized land title information easily accessible online. As a result, the time needed to complete a transaction dramatically decreased—from 2 months to just 50 minutes. “This new computerized system has saved us from all that hassle. I came here today and am very happy that the staff is so helpful, and this system is transparent and corruption-free,” Bibi said. According to local officials, the project not only helped to increase land value for landowners, but also empowered women and poor farmers, whose land rights had not been adequately protected in the old system. “Here [in the new system] everyone is equal, whether as a landlord or a tenant. There is no room for bribery or favoritism,” said Mirza Afzal Baig, a young resident in rural Punjab. [Download: Recommended readings on land and development]

from World Bank Search – NEWS


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