President John Agyekum Kufuor on Tuesday said the increasing rates in human settlements without adequate infrastructure was disturbing, expensive to manage and unsustainable in the long term.
"Most of the new settlements are just like dormitories where everybody commutes daily to the city centre for business.
"This cannot continue. We must find mechanisms for ensuring that the development of our towns and cities are well coordinated to warrant the efficient functioning of the settlements with businesses and social infrastructure well integrated," he said.
President Kufuor said this in a speech read for him by Madam Esther Obeng Dappah, Minister of Lands, Forestry and Mines at the first national land forum held in Accra.
The three-day meeting, which attracted about 300 participants including land experts, legal specialists, officials of public land sector agencies, traditional authorities as well as representatives of the judiciary and farmers associations among others, is on the theme,
"Securing Land Rights for Accelerated National Development".
It is being organised by the Land Administration Project (LAP of the Ministry of Lands, Forestry and Mines (MLFM) in collaboration with the Millennium Development Authority as the climax of the series of Regional Land Forums organised recently to collate public/stakeholder comments and views as input for the proposed Consolidated Land Act.
President Kufuor said the high rate of population growth and urbanisation was putting considerable pressure on the land resources and it was important that nationals discussed land as a national development issue, "so that, together we can fashion out pragmatic and workable relationships between land ownership, land tenure and land use, which will create the needed balance in our cultural, social, economic and political development."
He said the recent discovery of oil in commercial quantities had started putting pressure on land in the coastal areas of the Western Region.
"Similar pressures are expected to be put on land in the area of the Brong Ahafo Region where the Bui dam is being constructed," President Kufuor said.
He said a good land administration and tenure regime held the key to poverty reduction and economic growth for the country.
"The dynamics of land tenure and land rights, the relationship between population growth and land right evolution, and the competition between different land uses demand that we take bold decisive actions to ensure that our land resources are well managed for optimum returns," he said.
President Kufuor said there was the need for an objective analysis of the current land tenure situation, " assess the continued efficacy of the customary system of land ownership, its dynamism and adaptability to meet the growing demands from the various users of the land.
"When we consider that the customary system of land ownership had been able to support cocoa production over the years for Ghana to be one of the leading exporters of cocoa, then we cannot discount the customary system as outmoded.
He said nevertheless Ghanaians could also not say that the customary system of landownership was without problems.
There were problems associated with boundary demarcation, the clarification of rights and interests in land, who had authority to alienate which right, he said.
President Kufuor said the traditional system of inheritance where land was divided among surviving sons has led to excessive fragmentation in some parts of the country, leading to uneconomic land units.
"We must begin to consider how to turn these traditions around in more beneficial manner, especially as land has assumed more economic value and we can no longer treat it as a non-tradable commodity," he said.
Mr Ahmed Bin Saleh, Chief Director, MLFM, in a welcome address said some of the challenges confronting the government in the land sector were the delicate balance between custom, tradition and modernity.
"While we need not do away with our customary system of land ownership, we have to fashion out how to improve upon it, create certainty within it and modernise it so as to improve security of tenure," he said.
He said the output from the forum would be used to review the national land policy document and also prepare inputs for a new Land Bill.
Odeneho Gyapong Ababio II, President of the National House of Chiefs, who chaired the function said for a long time, land issues had been handled piecemeal and on ad hoc basis and it was important that consensus was reached to move the nation forward.