Saturday, May 03, 2008

Land Scavenger Hunt
May 3, 2008

As the land acquisition process moves forward I continue to learn more about real estate in Bangladesh. For instance, I have recently learned that the mauza (plot) maps for many places are hopelessly out of date. The mauza map that I have for my property was made in 1919. (Yes, this is actually the most recent published version!) Consequently, I have to hire a licensed surveyor, called an "amin", to do a current survey of the land to determine where the new plot boundaries are.

Because the land has most likely been subdivided several times in the past 90 years, there are probably many more owners of the property than we originally thought. The good news is that Koli (my agent in Jessore) has spoken with all of the people in the area and they are all eager to sell. The trick now is to a) establish where the boundaries of everyone's land are and b) obtain all of the documents necessary to prove ownership.

The amin will take care of the first step, but the second step might be a bit trickier. The type of paperwork that we need depends on when the land was transferred and how it was transferred (i.e. sold, inherited, etc.) The good news is that we only have to prove title for the past 25 years to establish legal ownership of the land. This is great because Bangladesh has had three different governments over the past 50 or so years (India/Britain, Pakistan, and Bangladesh) and if we had to have a clear chain of title going back through all of those different governments the task would be much more difficult - almost impossible, perhaps.

Not to say that finding the paperwork is a cake walk! Quite the contrary! If the land was inherited we need one type of document; if the land was sold we need another type of document. We need more documents if the land transferred within the past 25 years and less documents if it was last transferred more than 25 years ago. We also need documents that prove that there could not be any other heirs that could come to claim a portion of the property.

So basically Koli is conducting a massive scavenger hunt right now to find all of the paperwork that we need. We are creating a chart that will tie to the new survey. The chart will tell us who owns each plot of land on the survey, how they acquired the land, and what documents we will need to prove ownership. Like most things in Bangladesh, this process is taking more time than I originally anticipated. I am trying to stay optimistic though; I still think that we will be on schedule to start construction after the rainy season in September...

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