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KARACHI: Research shows that multiple security risks emerge in places where there is a combination of weak governance unequal development, identity politics and climate change. For Pakistan, climate change is a ‘threat multiplier’, remarks a researcher during her presentation at a programme held here on Tuesday.

Titled ‘Land Acquisitions and Media Reporting in Pakistan’, the programme was organised at the Centre for Excellence in Journalism, Institute of Business Administration (IBA).

It largely focused on the findings of a research project carried out by Dr Nausheen H. Anwar, the director of the Karachi Urban Lab and an associate professor, city and regional planning at the IBA’s department of social sciences & liberal arts, and Dr Amiera Sawas, a researcher associated with the Climate Change and Risk Programme at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

The project investigated mega energy projects — Thar Coal (Sindh) and Quaid-i-Azam Solar Park (Bhawalpur-Punjab) from Dec 2016 to July 2018 with an objective to see how these projects were implemented and assess the impact on land access and livelihoods of ordinary citizens.

The research showed that even in the construction of ‘green climate-friendly mega projects’ such as Quaid-i-Azam Solar Park in Bhawalpur, there was no transparency in environmental assessment and land acquisition. The project led to the violent displacement of poor pastoral communities and deprived them of their livelihoods.

According to Dr Nausheen, the land for these mega projects was acquired through the Land Acquisition Act of 1894, which gives no recognition to communal rights and there was a legal ambiguity concerning acquisition of land for ‘public purpose’, which enables military, government, private/corporate actors to buy/annex land for profit from ordinary citizens.

“There is an urgent need to reform land acquisition laws, something that’s already happening in other parts of South Asia. Why is Pakistan slow in taking up this critical issue?” she asked.

Referring to grievances of Tharis over the coal mining project, she said it had triggered intense anxieties and disagreements about how land was to be measured and valued. These disagreements were between locals, the Sindh government and Engro and were relevant to Thar.

Dr Anwar also spoke about gaps in grievance mechanism and legal recourse and said that no one was willing to take responsibility and address public concerns while the legal system was frustrating and not working for ordinary citizens.

Published in Dawn, September 13th, 2018