The growth of the Dominican population and its economic activities in recent decades have taken place inside a framework that lacks planning, organization and even an appropriate use of the country’s territory. As a result, land use has developed with complete disregard of our morphological conditions and urban growth, ignoring any potential climate and environmental vulnerabilities.

Creating this framework was already a pending task, assigned by the General Law of Environment and Natural Resources in the year 2000. Finally, on June 30, 2015, the Dominican Lower House approved the Organic Law on Land-Use Planning, which has become one of the first steps towards making progress to meet the goals of the nation. The main objective of this legislation, whose axis is the National Development Strategy 2030 (END, according to its Spanish acronym), lies in promoting comprehensive and balanced development of the Dominican people so they can in turn improve their quality of life. This legislation aims to cover the entire national territory and the country’s sea space.

It has galvanized the National Directorate for Land-Use Planning –a dependency of the Ministry of Economy, Planning and Development– into creating the National Plan for Land Use –PNOT, according to its Spanish acronym–. This plan will become the go-to instrument for the comprehensive management of public policies in the Dominican territory and will also help define the general guidelines for territorial organization at a national level.

In turn, it dictates the creation of the Regional Land Use Plan (PROT, according to its Spanish acronym) and the execution of the Municipal Land Use Plan (PMOT, idem) for land use projects at a regional and municipal level. These plans will also be executed by the Ministry of Economy, Planning and Development, under the responsibility of the Urban Planning department, with the collaboration of sector-based entities within the relevant municipalities.

Moreover, stakeholders are demanding the creation of both the National System for Land Planning (SNOT, according to its Spanish acronym) –in order to define the policies, objectives, goals and priorities of land use and occupation in several municipalities– and the National Information System –in order to register and comprehensively process data, to facilitate the formulation of policies, plans, programs and projects, and provide access to the use of geographic information within the territory–. Both systems would fall under the direction of the Ministry of Economy, Planning and Development.

The aforementioned tools will outline policies and objectives using the categorization of land use created by the legal framework as a reference. Here, the many activities that pertain to a plot of land are classified as follows:

A. Urbanized: residential, commercial, institutional, tourism, recreational and industrial use;
B. Industrial: divided into Class A (dangerous and harmful), Class B (burdensome) and Class C (innocuous);
C. Agriculture: perennials, annual monoculture, annual polyculture, traditional crops, pasture and forage, protected environments, forests;
D. Forest: protected forests, conservation-oriented and sustainable-use forests, production;
E. Mining: metallic, non-metallic;
F. Marine and Coastal: urbanized, tourism, connectivity services, industrial or energy production services, seabed mining, fishing and agriculture production, protection and conservation of fragile ecosystems;
G. Special Services: connectivity services, energy production services, product trade and marketing, water storage and waste management, national security; and
H. Protected areas.

When planning and confirming the category and/or territorial classification, any physical, moral and or/legal entities interested in land development must obtain a document that certifies the ‘No Objection of Land Use on behalf of Municipal Councils’, having taken into account the possibilities and limitations of the lot in question.

And finally, the bill is currently in the hands of the Dominican Senate, where a special commission created specifically for this purpose is studying it. It will later be submitted to the Executive.

Should the project be approved and enacted, it will become the General Framework for executing and developing its Implementation Regulations. That would confirm the responsibility of the Central Government at managing and organizing territories from the primary levels of governance –municipalities and city councils– up to a national level. This will become a milestone in the development of all planning for economic activities in the country.