Land acquisition commonly refers to the purchase of land, while land allocation means the allocation of state-owned land for a certain purpose. Therefore, the process of land allocation entails specific, officially sanctioned steps and procedures that are required to allocate land to purposes like the construction of a Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP).
One thing is certain: land allocation is a highly sensitive issue, especially in areas where land ownership provides an important source of income for its inhabitants. As a consequence, the acquisition of land for a sanitation system requires reasonable compensation. Apart from such compensations, affected communities are often notably - and understandably - sensitive to changes in current agreements concerning land use. For instance, citizens are typically worried about the possibility that a WWTP might generate unpleasant smells and decreasing land prices in the surrounding areas.
Land classification systems usually differentiate between community land, public land and private land. In rural areas, land is often held under community tenure and land rights are administered by traditional authorities, who have the right to allocate land in consultation with community members. Public land is collectively owned by all the country’s citizens and held in trust by the government.
The more owners a potential site for a WWTP has, the more difficult and time-consuming the process of land-acquisition will be. To avoid having to purchase land from private individuals, allocation of state-owned land is typically the option of choice for large-scale investment projects such as WWTPs.
See our practical experiences, lessons learned, and recommendations below.
Why you should care
Acquisition and/or allocation of land for a sanitation project is an extremely sensitive issue with far-reaching (and potentially devastating) implications for the implementation of a proposed WWTP.
What really matters: key lessons learned and recommendations
Important note: What follows is derived from the allocation of publicly owned land (as in the case of the WWTP implemented in Azraq, Jordan) and is not directly transferable to community-owned or privately-owned land.
Understanding the required official procedures to be followed as well as their sequence
The official procedures required for land allocation as well as their sequence can vary from country to country, depending on the local laws and regulations. In addition to official laws and regulations, unwritten rules may be of importance as well. As a mostly tribal society in the Middle East, Jordan is one of the most disputed areas in the world in terms of land ownership. Here, tribal laws of land ownership constitute a whole separate issue that needs to be taken into account.
For the wastewater treatment plant in Azraq, Jordan, the land allocation process entailed the following steps:
- ISSRAR Project Request: We sent a letter to the Ministry of Water and Irrigation (MWI) with the request to allocate the proposed land for the purpose of a WWTP.
- MWI Request: MWI issued official letters to the Ministry of Finance (MoF) as well as to the Land and Surveying Department to obtain approval and start the land allocation process as requested by the project consortium.
- Investigations by Land and Surveying Department: The Land and Surveying Department conducted a site survey to investigate the area. The results of this visit were submitted in an official report.
- Committee for State Properties: Based on the report submitted by the Land and Surveying Department, a Centralized Committee for State Properties led by the Minister of Finance was formed in order to examine and decide on the request by MWI. The Centralized Committee ultimately approved the allocation of the selected land to the MWI.
All steps outlined above require:
- closely coordinated and continuous lobby work as well as follow-up on all (national, regional, and local) levels,
- a strong relationship with the local governmental partner (in our case, MWI),
- proper documentation of all correspondence and official letters and
- TIME: begin allocation procedures early to avoid delays (the process can take months or even years).
Find out how to time the steps required for the land allocation process
Timing is one of the crucial aspects of the official land allocation process: it is important to understand when to take which step, and when to wait.
Key lessons learned from ISSRAR:
- Do not begin the process before you are certain that you have considered all modules, access roads, etc., as well as potential expansions to the system. If additional land is available (as was the case in Azraq), it is advisable to have land allocated for possible expansions in the future.
- Consider the possibility of political changes on the local and national levels (changes of ministers, elections as occasions for politicians to be present in the media, etc.)
- The land allocation process is a prerequisite for the initiation and application of the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) by the Ministry of Environment (MoE). As both processes require time, it is critical that they are accurately accounted for in the planning stage.
Official approval does not protect you from objections to the project’s land use
The official land allocation process is a very important step for a WWTP project. Without it, construction can not start.
Nevertheless, completion of this official procedure does not mean that you are ready to go ahead and directly implement the construction phase. People might still object to the site and block the project. The official land allocation process took place exclusively on the political/governance level in Jordan, and did not involve the affected communities or their leaders.
- Do you thoroughly understand the required official procedures to be followed and there sequence to officially allocate the land for your wastewater treatment plant?
- Do you know when it is time to push things and when it is wiser to wait?
- Have you taken measures to ensure that local communities support implementation of the wastewater treatment plant at the preferred site?