The Express Tribune, November 15th, 2017.
ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has withdrawn its request to include the $14-billion Diamer-Bhasha Dam in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) framework after Beijing placed strict conditions including ownership of the project, said Water and Power Development Authority (Wapda) Chairman Muzammil Hussain on Tuesday.
“Chinese conditions for financing the Diamer-Bhasha Dam were not doable and against our interests,” said Hussain while briefing the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on the status of the mega water and power project.
He said the Chinese conditions were about taking ownership of the project, operation and maintenance cost and securitisation of the Diamer-Bhasha project by pledging another operational dam.
These conditions were unacceptable, therefore, Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi approved a summary to finance the dam from the country’s own resources, he said.
The issue of excluding the Diamer-Bhasha Dam from the CPEC framework also featured in the Cabinet Committee on CPEC which met last week.
The Wapda chairman and the water resources secretary informed the premier that the only way out was to fund the much-delayed project from domestic resources.
The sixth meeting of the Joint Cooperation Committee (JCC) – the highest decision-making body of CPEC – had agreed to establish a mechanism to develop hydroelectric power projects along the northern side of the Indus River including the Diamer-Bhasha project, according to minutes of the deliberations.
Pakistan decided to take the dam off the table just days before the seventh JCC meeting, which is scheduled for November 21 in Islamabad. The JCC will review progress on the implementation of already approved projects and decide the fate of new schemes.
Currently, about 15 prioritised energy projects valuing at $22.4 billion and having 11,110-megawatt generation capacity are part of the CPEC framework. Among these, only two are hydroelectric power projects with cumulative capacity of 1,590MW. Most of the CPEC energy projects are based on coal.
Pakistan has been struggling to raise money from international institutions amid Indian opposition to the project. There were hopes that Pakistan may finally complete the project after including it in the CPEC framework whose worth has already swelled to $60 billion.
Ground-breaking of the Diamer-Bhasha Dam has been performed five times in the past 15 years.
Neither the World Bank and Asian Development Bank (ADB) nor China would finance the dam, therefore, the government decided to construct the reservoir from its own resources, said Water Resources Secretary Shumail Khawaja.
The Wapda chairman blamed the ADB for the delay, saying the bank first destroyed the project and later declined to provide loan. The ADB was of the view that the project was located in a disputed territory, he said.
The project will have the capacity to generate 4,500MW of electricity in addition to the storage capacity for six million acre feet of water, which the country desperately needs due to shrinking storages.
The Wapda chairman said the project cost would hover around $14 billion and the prime minister had agreed to split the scheme into dam storage and power generation.
According to the new financing plan, he said, the federal government would provide Rs30 billion per annum over the next nine years from the Public Sector Development Programme, taking total federal contribution to Rs270 billion.
Hussain said Wapda would generate 20% of equity from its own resources whereas financing for constructing power plants would be arranged from commercial sources.
Construction work on the dam site would begin next year and the government would complete it in nine years, he said. Work on the power generation site will begin two and a half years after the start of work on the dam.
The Wapda chairman said 969MW Neelum-Jhelum and 1,410MW Tarbela extension projects would be commissioned in February next year.
International New York Times, Nov. 9, 2017
Opposition from France and Italy doomed a European Union vote on Thursday to reauthorize the world’s most popular weedkiller, glyphosate, a decision that came hours after Arkansas regulators moved to ban an alternative weedkiller for much of 2018.
The decisions are a double blow to the agrochemical industry and particularly to the chemicals giant Monsanto. An appeals committee of European officials will convene this month, though, to weigh again whether to continue to allow glyphosate just weeks before its registration expires. The chemical is the main ingredient in Roundup, one of Monsanto’s flagships, but its patent has ended and it is now made by much of the industry.
The effort to reauthorize the weedkiller failed to receive a majority even though regulators were seeking only a five-year reauthorization instead of the typical 15, amid controversy and disputes about cancer risk that have made glyphosate’s future in Europe uncertain. Its approval in the region expires in mid-December.
The vote on Thursday, which was weighted based on the population of the various European Union member states, was nearly 37 percent in favor of renewing the chemical and a little over 32 percent against, with nearly 31 percent abstaining. France and Italy opposed the renewal; Spain was in favor, along with Britain, which is due to leave the union. Germany and Poland abstained.
In Arkansas, regulators voted on Wednesday to ban the use of another major weedkiller, dicamba, for more than six months of next year, including the summer, amid widespread reports of crop damage. Dicamba has been around for decades, but new versions have been developed by Monsanto, BASF and DuPont as an alternative to Roundup. The regulatory recommendation is now being sent to a state legislative panel.
Taken together, the decisions reflect an increasing political resistance to pesticides in Europe and parts of the United States, as well as the specific shortcomings of dicamba, whose tendency to drift has given pause even to the Trump administration’s Environmental Protection Agency, which has otherwise largely acceded to the wishes of the chemical industry. Dicamba has damaged more than 3.6 million acres of soybean crops in 25 states, roughly 4 percent of all soybeans planted this year in the United States.
In a statement, an industry trade group known as the Glyphosate Task Force, which includes Monsanto and Syngenta, called the European decision “discriminatory and unacceptable,” adding that “delays of this nature which are evident during the final stages of the process simply expose acute politicization of the regulatory procedure.”
But Nicolas Hulot, the French environment minister, tweeted after the vote: “Thanks to our opposition glyphosate is not reauthorized for 10 years, nor 5 years. The effort to get out of pesticides continues!”
Regarding the decision in Arkansas, Scott Partridge, vice president of global strategy for Monsanto, said in a statement on Wednesday that the company was disappointed that state regulators “voted to put Arkansas farmers at a disadvantage, but we’ll continue to follow the process to help those growers have greater choice next season.”
The European Union’s decision followed years of haggling and delay. Policymakers largely brushed aside the opinions of two of the bloc’s science agencies, which had found that glyphosate was not a carcinogen.
But glyphosate, which accounts for about a quarter of the global market, has been plunged into controversy since the International Agency for Research on Cancer, part of the World Health Organization, declared it a probable carcinogen in 2015. The finding, which has been disputed by a number of other government agencies, has made the weedkiller a magnet for controversy.
Glyphosate is also at the center of a federal case in the United States over claims that it causes cancer, and California has declared it a carcinogen, following in the footsteps of the international cancer agency.
Use of glyphosate has soared in the United States and other parts of the world over the last two decades, after Monsanto introduced crops that were genetically engineered to be resistant to the chemical. That meant key crops like corn, soybeans and cotton could be sprayed with the herbicide after they emerged from the ground. During that time, the presence of glyphosate in human urine increased 500 percent, according to a recent study by the University of California San Diego School of Medicine and published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Europe, by contrast, has largely shunned genetically modified crops, but glyphosate is still the Continent’s biggest seller. In Britain and Germany, it is used on as much as 40 percent of agricultural land, according to an industry trade group.
But political sentiment in Europe has been turning against Monsanto, the American company that has become the face of the agrochemical industry, even though it is in the process of being acquired by Bayer, a German chemicals giant. The European Parliament voted last month to ban glyphosate, a step that was nonbinding. And in September, the Parliament made Monsanto the first company to be barred from lobbying the chamber.
The science around glyphosate has become a muddle of allegations and counterallegations. Environmental activists have accused national regulators of hewing too closely to Monsanto’s wishes, while the industry has been exasperated that European politicians are overruling their science agencies. The litigation in the United States has only muddied the waters further, with evidence emerging that Monsanto ghostwrote both journalism and academic work, eroding trust in a company that had long been a lightning rod.
But the latest major study, published Thursday by researchers at the National Institutes of Health, “observed no associations between glyphosate use and overall cancer risk.”
With dicamba, the industry received warnings years ago that the weedkiller was prone to drifting on crops and vegetation it was not intended to treat. Dicamba is supposed to be used with soybeans that are genetically modified to resist its effects.
Steve Smith, a member of an advisory panel set up by Monsanto, warned as far back as 2010 that “widespread use of dicamba is incompatible with Midwestern agriculture,” according to congressional testimony he gave that year. “Even the best, the most conscientious farmers cannot control where this weedkiller will end up.”
Monsanto has argued that drift is occurring when dicamba is sprayed improperly or when unapproved versions are used. Many farmers and weed scientists say it can also turn into a gas and drift in certain weather conditions.
Environmentalists called for federal action by the Environmental Protection Agency on dicamba.
“It’s long past time the agency heed independent science and protect farmers by prohibiting the use of this hazardous weedkiller,” said Bill Freese, a science policy analyst at the Center for Food Safety.
The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World Report 2017 jointly released by FAO and other intergovernmental agencies have highlighted some shocking information: people suffering from hunger and malnourishment have risen from 777 million in 2015 to 815 million in 2016, of which a vast majority (520 million) live in Asia. Globally, it has also been made evident that conflict and climate change has a vastly negative impact on food security especially for rural communities, and is also a major reason for migration. This is the context of FAO ‘celebrating’ the World Food Day under the theme of “Change the future of migration. Invest in food security and rural development.” In short, millions of people from third world countries are fleeing their homes due to various factors including conflict, hunger, poverty, and a variety of climate change impacts such as floods, droughts, among others. Pakistan, in 2017 continues to be ranked as one of the least peaceful countries: among peaceful countries it ranks 152 of 166 counties.
To mark the ever-rising number of hungry in a country which has surplus wheat rotting in state warehouses, millions of Pakistanis are being displaced by state-sponsored militarism and hence losing land, livelihood, livestock – all that are essential for maintaining food and nutrition. Statistics shout the facts: Pakistan ranks 77 in109 countries for food security indicators; of every tenth person, six suffer from food insecurity; almost 44% children suffer from malnutrition where as 50% of women suffer from anemia.
These diabolical figures are a result of extreme oppression and inequity in the country; the most critical being inequitable land distribution. Forty-five percent of land is held by only 11% of big landlords. Millions of small and landless farmers are forced to produce under the exploitative, oppressive conditions of semi-feudalism, and now mounting hegemony of powerful agro-chemical corporations under the capitalist framework of neoliberalism have been allowed to renew colonization of our lands and resources. The multiple impacts of land and resource hegemony, conflict, climate change and destruction of our agricultural lands by intense use of dangerous chemical fertilizers has left the rural communities and urban poor suffering from the vast indignities of hunger and poverty. The concentration of power by the agri-business giants under the auspicious of World Trade Organisation (WTO) and its trade liberalization agreements, especially TRIPs is one of the major structural causes of rising world hunger.
Kissan Mazdoor Tehreek (PKMT) and Roots for Equity held a press conference and a protest at the Islamabad Press Conference, October 16, 2017 to register their protest against the ongoing heinous human rights violations being inflicted through concentrated wealth and control over resources especially land by the feudal and corporate elite in the country. PKMT leaders Altaf Hussain, Tariq Mehmood Pathani, and Azra Talat Sayeed spoke at the occasion.
PKMT calls out to all peoples organizations to increase the struggle for food sovereignty as the way forward to end the joint crippling impacts of semi-feudal and neoliberal policies being employed to plunder the land and productive resources of our people. PKMT demands a food and agriculture policy based on food sovereignty framework with equitable distribution of land, ensuring women’s farmers right to land. There cannot be just and lasting peace, sustainable development and prosperity without a people-led development agenda.
Released by: Pakistan Kissan Mazdoor Tehreek (PKMT)
Urdu Press Release
Dawn, October 10th, 2017
ISLAMABAD: More productive and sustainable farming systems need to be developed to meet growing food demand, United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) report said on Monday.
The report titled ‘State of the Food and Agriculture 2017’ said agricultural transformations in the late twentieth century relied on large-scale intensification using high levels of inputs.
In many countries that approach has resulted in severe environmental impacts, including massive deforestation, depletion of soil and water and high levels of greenhouse gas emissions, it said.
The future transformation faces unprecedented environmental constraints, requiring action to both mitigate and adapt to climate change and natural resource scarcities. Farmers will need to reduce resource use in agriculture without compromising yields and optimally manage livestock residues, a major source of greenhouse gases.
The report makes the case that needed transformations in rural economies can be sparked by leveraging growing demand for food in urban areas to diversify food systems and generate new economic opportunities in off-farm, agriculture-related activities.
This includes enterprises that process or refine, package or transport and store, market or sell food. In addition, it includes businesses that supply production inputs, such as seeds, tools, equipment and fertilisers or provide irrigation, tilling or other services.
Already, growing demand coming from urban food markets currently consumes up to 70 per cent of national food supplies even in countries with large rural populations, the report notes.
It called for overcoming hurdles posed by excessive fragmentation of landholdings, stating that some 85pc of the world’s farms are smaller than two hectares (or about five acres). In most low-income and lower-middle income countries, small farms are becoming smaller, to the point where many are no longer economically viable.
In the long term, the consolidation of farmland by investors may occur alongside the continuing fragmentation of land operated by traditional farming communities. Declining farm size may not necessarily hinder productivity.
Although the labour productivity of small farms is low, they have the highest land productivity, the report notes.
However, smallholders must have either the necessary scale to access markets and adopt new technologies or access to technologies that are specifically adapted to small-scale operations, it said.
The overarching conclusion of the report is that fulfilling the “2030 Agenda” depends crucially on progress in rural areas, which is where most of the poor and hungry live. It presents evidence to show that, since the 1990s, rural transformations in many countries have led to an increase of more than 750 million in the number of rural people living above the poverty line.
Dawn, October 7th, 2017
New Delhi: A top Indian cotton-producing state has ordered an inspection of fields planted with an unapproved variety of genetically modified seeds developed by Monsanto, which is fighting to retain its market in the world’s biggest grower of the fibre.
Farmers in Andhra Pradesh have planted 15 per cent of the cotton area in the state with Bollgard II Roundup Ready Flex (RRF), prompting the local government on Friday to form a panel of officials to “inspect the fields of farmers growing RRF”.
The order, issued by senior Andhra Pradesh official B Rajasekhar, did not say how the farmers accessed the unapproved variety of genetically modified (GM) cotton. Calls to his office went unanswered.
“It’s a matter of grave concern that some seed companies, while suppressing their real intent of profiteering, are attempting to illegally incorporate unauthorised and unapproved herbicide-tolerant technologies into their seeds,” a Monsanto spokesman said.
“Commercial release of GM technologies in India without the requisite regulatory approvals may not only pose tremendous risks for the country’s farmers, it may also be in violation of applicable laws of the land.” The spokesman did not identify the local companies.
Bollgard II RRF is a proprietary technology owned by Monsanto, the world’s biggest seed maker, which last year withdrew its application seeking approval from the regulator, Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC), for this variety.
The withdrawal was seen as a major escalation in a long-running dispute between the Indian government and Monsanto, which is also locked in a bitter battle with Andhra Pradesh-based Nuziveedu Seeds Ltd.
Monsanto applied for GEAC approval of Bollgard II RRF, known for its herbicide-tolerant properties, in 2007. When the US company withdrew the application last year, it was in the final stages of a lengthy process that included years of field trials.
The illegal sale of the seeds violates India’s environmental protection rules, said C D Mayee, president of the South Asia Biotech Centre, a not-for-profit scientific society.
Mayee, a former government scientist, estimated that 3.5 million packets of such seeds were sold this season.
“Over the years, we have kept the regulators and key stakeholders apprised of the illegal usage of unapproved technology,” the Monsanto spokesman said.
“Even as late as August 2017, we have sought their intervention on the gross misuse of patented and regulated technologies which may pose numerous other challenges to Indias cotton ecosystem.”
A spokesman for the federal environment ministry was not immediately available for comment.
New Delhi approved the first GM cotton seed trait in 2003 and an upgraded variety in 2006, helping transform India into the world’s top producer and second-largest exporter of the fibre.
Agenda Item 8
Wali Haider, Roots for Equity, Pakistan
Thank you Mr. Chairman!
I am Wali Haider from Roots for Equity, Pakistan on behalf of the Farmers Constituency of the Asia Pacific Regional CSOs Engagement Mechanism (APRCEM).
While we appreciate the space for interventions given to CSOs, we also would like to stress that we feel excluded to see no civil society being included in any of the today’s panel and the days to come. We believe that genuine inclusive participation of CSOs is necessary for the spirit of partnership that agenda 2030 puts so much emphasis on. We believe our inputs would be critical to the discussions in these meetings.
We emphasize that we need to look at pollution in a broader sense which includes genetic pollution and pollution from the use of pesticides and fertilizers. The neoliberal era has brought this planet beyond the threshold of ecological limits due to the development model based on over dependence on fossil fuel, extraction of mineral resources and concentration of wealth, power with fewer individuals and TNCs. The commodification of natural resources has also intensified, particularly of seeds by agro-chemical and biotechnology corporations through dispossession of local communities’ right to access and control over their local and indigenous seeds.
New emerging phenomena of land grabbing by investors has exacerbated environmental and livelihood crisis. The land is often used for the expansion of export crops that are dependent on chemical inputs as well as the production of agro-fuels which creates unhealthy competition with food production and severely restricts poor people’s access to land and food.
We would like to suggest that governments ensure strong policies for implementation of agroecology as well as support for small and landless farmers’ movements that are advancing the framework of food sovereignty. These farmers and small food producers are contributing to safe and nutritious food, to healthy soils, water, air and the environment as well as contributing to adaptation to climate change.
We demand for development justice so that the inequities particularly for small producers can be removed from our society. For this re-distributive justice, ecological justice and accountability to the people are most crucial. If we really want a pollution free world we must get rid of the structural barrier and hear the voices of marginalized communities which include small and landless farmers, fisherfolk, indigenous communities among others.
The Express Tribune, August 28th, 2017.`
FAISALABAD: A landlord brutally tortured a tenant farmer in Chak No9 Shumali, Teshil Bhalwal of Sargodha, cutting off his ear and inflicting other horrific injuries.
Muhammad Riaz’s buffalo had wandered in landlord Irshad Ashraf’s fields, grazing in his fields. The landlord got infuriated and decided to teach him a lesson. On Saturday, he asked his brothers, Naveed and Asghar and six other men to bring Riaz to his Dera. They allegedly blindfolded him, forced him to swallow some poisonous chemical, pulled out his nails with pliers, chopped off one of his ears and broke his legs.
The victim was admitted to the District Headquarter Hospital, Sargodha where his condition is stated to be critical. SHO Saddar Muhammad Akram told The Express Tribune that Ulfat Hussain, the farmer’s cousin, filed a complaint and police were awaiting for the medico-legal report from the hospital to book the landlord and his accomplices. He added that three of the accused, Naveed, Asghar and Sajjad, had already been taken into custody.
The complainant told the police that no one in the village had dared to come to rescue his cousin when he shouted for. When Riaz fell unconscious, the landlord and his accomplices threw him outside his house and threatened his family that they would kill them if they informed the police about the incident.
The medical officer of the DHQ hospital told The Express Tribune that although the victim’s condition was improving, he was still in critical condition.
Riaz, 52, works as a labourer and is father of two children.
Eric Lipton And Roni Caryn Rabin
International New York Times, August, 18, 2017
WASHINGTON — In the weeks before the Environmental Protection Agency decided to reject its own scientists’ advice to ban a potentially harmful pesticide, Scott Pruitt, the agency’s head, promised farming industry executives who wanted to keep using the pesticide that it is “a new day, and a new future,” and that he was listening to their pleas.
Details on this meeting and dozens of other meetings in the weeks leading up to the late March decision by Mr. Pruitt are contained in more than 700 pages of internal agency documents obtained by The New York Times through a Freedom of Information request.
Though hundreds of pages describing the deliberations were redacted from the documents, the internal memos show how the E.P.A.’s new staff, appointed by President Trump, pushed the agency’s career staff to draft a ruling that would deny the decade-old petition by environmentalists to ban the pesticide, chlorpyrifos.
Chlorpyrifos is still widely used in agriculture — on apples, oranges, strawberries, almonds and many other fruits — though it was barred from residential use in 2000. The E.P.A.’s scientists have recommended it be banned from use on farms and produce because it has been linked to lower I.Q.s and developmental delays among agricultural workers and their children.
At a March 1 meeting at E.P.A. headquarters with members of the American Farm Bureau Federation from Washington State, industry representatives pressed the E.P.A. not to reduce the number of pesticides available. They said there were not enough alternative pesticides to chlorpyrifos. They also said there was a need for “a reasonable approach to regulate this pesticide,” which is widely used in Washington State, and that they wanted “the farming community to be more involved in the process.”
According to the documents, Mr. Pruitt “stressed that this is a new day, a new future, for a common-sense approach to environmental protection.” He said the new administration “is looking forward to working closely with the agricultural community.”
Three days before Donald J. Trump’s inauguration, Dow Chemical had separately submitted a request to the agency to reject the petition to ban chlorpyrifos, calling the scientific link between the childhood health issues and the pesticide unclear, agency records show.
Amy Graham, an E.P.A. spokeswoman, said the denial of the petition to ban chlorpyrifos was justified. “Taking emails out of context doesn’t change the fact that we continue to examine the science surrounding chlorpyrifos,” she said in a written statement. She added that the agency was examining “scientific concerns with the methodology used by the previous administration.”
The emails show that as late as March 7, Wendy Cleland-Hamnett, the acting head of the E.P.A.’s office of chemical safety, was presenting the top political staff with options for how to handle the decade-old petition from an environmental group requesting the ban.
“We would talk about impacts of different options in the briefing,” Ms. Cleland-Hamnett wrote in a March 7 email. The email raised the possibility of a meeting with Mr. Pruitt to discuss the pesticide, a decision that the E.P.A.’s political staff had called a “hot” regulatory item, given a court-ordered deadline of late March to rule on the petition.
The next day, Ryan Jackson, Mr. Pruitt’s chief of staff, wrote to another political appointee that he had “scared” the agency’s career staff, suggesting that he had made clear the direction that the political staff wanted to go — and given the career staff explicit verbal orders to prepare documents explaining why the agency had shifted its position.
“I think I did scare them or surprise them,” Mr. Jackson wrote to Samantha Dravis, Mr. Pruitt’s political appointee to oversee E.P.A. policy. “They are getting us information for Friday but they know where this is headed and they are documenting it well.”
As the draft of the order rejecting the ban of the petition was being written, political staff at the E.P.A. continued to organize meetings with agriculture industry officials. An email on March 10 said: “Basic info for meeting. Purpose is to reset relationship with ag leaders.”
When Ms. Cleland-Hamnett wrote back to the political appointees on March 16 to provide a draft of the order rejecting the ban of the pesticide, she told her bosses that “I think this version will allow you to see how we’re describing the basis for the denial.”
The emails indicate E.P.A. officials closely coordinated their decision on chlorpyrifos with the White House and the Department of Agriculture, which is more closely linked with the agriculture industry and had questioned the justification for the ban.
On March 29, as the E.P.A. was about to publicly announce Mr. Pruitt’s decision to forego the ban, an E.P.A. political employee asked in an email, “Did you run this by Ray Starling at the White House?” referring to the special assistant to the president for agriculture, trade and food assistance.
E.P.A. officials wanted to demonstrate in the news release that they had the support of the Agriculture Department and the White House, writing in one email, “Do you think we could add ‘With Support from USDA, Admin….’ Into the headline, to show it’s a joint release? Or is that too much?”
Environmental groups said the emails demonstrate that the E.P.A. under Mr. Pruitt is doing favors for the industry, even if it means compromising public health.
“What is clear from these documents is that Administrator Pruitt’s abrupt action to vacate the ban on chlorpyrifos was an ideological — not a health-based decision,” said Melanie Benesh, a legislative attorney at the Environmental Working Group. “In fact, the Pruitt E.P.A. has shown time and time again that it seems to only be willing to act quickly when it comes to dismantling health-protective rules like the proposed ban on chlorpyrifos at the behest of industry.”