Rural land without identified owners a puzzling concern for urban planners

JIJI

Nearly 27 percent of land in rural areas does not have identified owners, according to the Justice Ministry’s first survey on the current state of land ownership.

The survey released Tuesday was conducted after the issue of unclear land ownership emerged as a challenge for reconstruction following the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster.

The lack of clear owners is also beginning to affect urban planning and farmland consolidation throughout the country.

The ownership survey covered a total of nearly 100,000 lots in three urban areas, including the city of Kobe, and seven rural areas, including the town of Otoyo, Kochi Prefecture.

The survey found that there was no change to registered information for 26.6 percent of lots in the rural areas over the last 50 years or more. The ratio was 6.6 percent for the urban areas.

In the rural areas, ownership information remained intact for at least half a century for 32.4 percent of forests, 23.4 percent of farmland and 10.5 percent of housing lots.

“Inheritors of land in rural areas, particularly forests, are increasingly uninterested in their ownership, due to the relatively low value of rural land,” a ministry official said.

The government plans to include ways to utilize such unattended land in a basic economic and fiscal policy to be adopted at a Cabinet meeting in the near future.

The government is considering allowing the conditional use of unattended land for public purposes such as road and park development.