Unsustainable Land Use due to ?Catching Up' Investment Pursuits in Ethiopia: The Need for Planning, Zoning and other Regulations

Author:Zbelo Haileslasie
Position:Zbelo Haileslassie Embaye (BA in Sociology, LLB, LLM in Tax and Investment Laws, PhD Candidate); Lecturer at Mekelle University, School of Law. Email: zbelo40@gmail.com
Unsustainable Land Use due to „Catching Up‟
Investment Pursuits in Ethiopia:
The Need for Planning, Zoning and other Regulations
Zbelo Haileslasie
Zoning and land use regulations accommodate and balance various interests which
relate to urbanization, food security, enhanced livelihoods, industrialization and
globalization, in the context of sustainable development. Unlike comparative
practices in other countries, Ethiopia has no comprehensive and codified zoning
law even though the zoning stage affects the subsequent stages. Ethiopia has not yet
issued an integrated national land use policy. There is also a rush toward massive
acquisition of land for investments and proliferation of industrial parks. This is
clearly meant to catch up with the plans and aspirations under Ethiopia‟s Growth
and Transformation Plan (GTP) I and II. This article examines the relevant laws
and the rush toward land acquisitions and the haphazard decisions thereof vis-à-vis
the need for sustainability through a multimodal and integrationist approach. There
are constitutional issues with regard to decentralizing local development plans and
land administration versus centralizing tendencies in land-investment administration
and designation of industrial parks. It is argued that there are gaps in the three-tier
stages of (i) P lanning and Zoning, (ii) Acquisition and (iii) Performance
Requirements, thereby necessitating reform towards the integrated and balanced
implementation of these three stages. The political commitment for „catching up‟
pursuits should not be at the expense of constitutional rights and issues of
sustainability. There is thus the need for an informed decision-making process that
accommodates multitude of interests.
Key terms
Land use · Zoning law · Expropriation · Sustainability · Peri-urbans · Industrial
DOI http://dx.doi.org/10.4314/mlr.v12i1.7
Received: 17 March 2018 Accepted: 7 September 2018
This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-
NoDerivs (CC BY-NC-ND)
Zbelo Haileslassie Embaye (BA in Sociology, LLB, LLM in Tax and Investment Laws,
PhD Candidate); Lecturer at Mekelle University, School of Law.
Email: zbelo40@gmail.com
192 MIZAN LAW REVIEW, Vol. 12, No.1 September 2018
The world is experiencing new human-to-land relations and antecedents. There
is dynamism in the evolution and relationship of each category.1 These
antecedents are the outcomes of globalization, industrialization and urbanization,
and they create different conflicts over land.2 The global actors including
governments pursue various policies and strategies on how to create suitable
environment for human wellbeing and different economic activities. In this
regard, industrialization is an inevitable economic path to all countries.3 This
requires good land administration system and holistic impact assessments.
Land use and land development are elements of land administration systems.4
The land use element includes setting land use control and policies of spatial
and planning issues. The land development activities include regulating and
implementing land use plans, construction and giving of permits.5 These are
made with the interaction of the land tenure and land value parts of the land
administration system aiming to bring an efficient land administration system.6
However, studies, especially in developing countries, show that most
governments strive to catch up with all plans and aspirations without taking
feedback from previous interventions.7 This has negative implication to the
overall goals of sustainable development. These aspirations are attached with
the ideologies and political economy narratives that land acquisitions should be
undertaken for the fulfillment of investment purposes and plans without
considering sustainable land use planning and zoning.
Although the practices may vary globally, the introduction of land use
planning and zoning has longer history.8 The planning and zoning stage
determines land acquisition. There are common experiences of land acquisition
1 P. van der Molen (2002), „The Dynamic Aspect of Land Administration: An Often -
forgotten Component in System Design, Computers‟, Environment and Ur ban Systems26,
pp. 361381.
2 See for example, Yehua De nnis Wei and Xinyue Ye (2014) „Urbanization, urban land
expansion and environmental change in China‟, Stoch Environ Res Risk Assess 28, pp,757
765 China‟s experience on globalization, development and land urbanization is dealt
3 W. W. Rostow (1960), The Stages of Economic Growth: A Non-Communist Manifesto.
Cambridge University Press.
4 Ian P. Williamson (2 000),„Best Practices For Land Administration S ystems In Developing
Countries‟, International Conference On Land Policy Reform, Jakarta, 25-27 July 2000,
Lap-C Project Support For Long Term Development of Land Management P olicies.
5 Ibid.
6 Ibid.
7 Id., p. 7.
8 See for example, Patricia E. Salkin (2004), „Environmental Justice and Land Use Planning
and Zoning‟, Touro Law Center, 32 Real Est. L.J. 429.
Unsustainable Land Use due to „Catching Up‟ Investment Pursuits in Ethiopia… 193
that are made based on a set of comprehensive urban plans and zoning
ordinances. To this end, laws and standards set forth performance requirements.
Like most of the African states, Ethiopia has been using land “… in unplanned
and uncontrolled fashion without due regard to the land‟s best potential use and
without due consideration for conservation of natural resources and
safeguarding the environment”.9 The rate of urbanization and the expansion of
different land uses for various economic activities have been large and very fast.
The change is also occurring without due consideration to the potential land use
and plans where undesirable environmental and social consequences are
exhibited because of the conversion of arable lands, grasslands, and forest areas
to urban centers and industrial sites.10
Ethiopia has a short history in urban planning and its implementation.11
Study reports show that nearly a quarter of the „recognized urban centers do not
have guiding plans of spatial development and those holding the plans are also
found to have difficulty in implementation.12 Beyond the factors of poverty and
underdevelopment, lack of qualified personnel, standards for planning, and
proper legal frameworks for preparing and implementing urban plans are
identified as main factors.13 GTP-II identifies challenges in this regard which
include problems of malpractices in land use, administration and governance.
Ethiopia‟s industrial policies and strategies focus on assuring the transition
from agricultural led economy to industrial led economy. The establishment of
government based industrial development zones or industrial parks are also
sought to be the primary tools of the economy.14 There were two Industrial
zones constructed in GTP-I and eight industrial parks are under construction.15
9 Zemen Haddis et al. (2017), „Ethiopia‟s Move to a National Integrated Land Use P olicy
and Land Use Plan‟, Paper Prepared for Presentation at the 2017 World Bank Conference
on Land and Poverty, The World Bank - Washington DC, p. ii, March 20 -24, 2017.
10 Id., p. 1.
11 SCRIBD, Urban Planning and Implementation Manual, p,3 available at
Manual . Accessed on 15 Dec, 2017. See, for example, Ministry of Urban Development,
Housing and Construction(2010), „Manual for the Preparation and Implementation of
Basic Plans (Structure Plans) of Small Towns of Ethiopia‟, available at
www.mwud.gov.et/c/document_library/ Accessed on 12 Jan, 2018.
12 Ibid
13 Ibid
14 Alebel Bayrau et al. (2017),Study on Industrial P ark Development: Issues, Practices and
Lessons for Ethiopia‟, Ethiopian Development Research Institute, Resear ch Report 29,
available at .
Accessed on 16 December 2017.
15 Federal and Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, Growth and Transformation Plan II (GT P
II) (2015/16-2019/20.

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