The Struggle of Rural Communities for Food System Change!

Press Release

October 16, 2020

Roots for Equity and the Pakistan Kissan Mazdoor Tehreek (PKMT) in collaboration with  People’s Coalition for Food Security (PCFS), Pesticide Action Network, Asia and  Pacific (PAN AP) and Asian Peasant Coalition (APC) is marking the World Food Day as World Hunger Day on October 16, 2020. A webinar and protest has been organized in this regard in which small and landless peasants including PKMT members participated from different districts.

This event is part of a campaign, launched on the occasion of World Hunger Day, and titled “Rural People are Hungry for Food System Change”. It aims to promote a strategy for highlighting the toxic impacts of industrial chemical agriculture production systems and the acute need for food sovereignty and agro-ecology based food production systems. This year’s global campaign focuses on the plight of rural populations during the pandemic, and their demands for changes in the food and agricultural systems.

Tariq Mehmood, a member of PKMT, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, spoke on the situation of hunger, poverty and unemployment during the Covid19 pandemic, He said that the transnational mega agro-chemical corporations’ domination in the food and agriculture system around the world, their exploitation and destruction of biodiversity and natural habitats is a catalyst for Corona pandemic.

According to a report by the United Nations FAO (The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World), the epidemic could lead another 83 to 132 million people suffering from hunger by 2020, and if the current situation continues by 2030, 841.4 million people in the world will be hungry.

According to a member of PKMT Mohammad Zaman from Sahiwal, it is reported in the Pakistan Economic Survey 2019-20, the corona virus had a severe negative impact on the Pakistani economy and at least another 10 million people are feared to be pushed to living below the poverty line in Pakistan. The number could increase from 50 million presently to 60 million.

In the Global Hunger Index, Pakistan ranks 106th out of 119 countries where consumption of meat, poultry, fish, milk, vegetables and fruits is six to 10 times lower than that of developed countries. The worsening situation of hunger and poverty can be gauged from the statement of Sania Nishtar, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister for Poverty and Social Protection, that “almost half of the country’s population will be covered by the Ehsas Program.” The statement indicates that in Pakistan, where almost half of the population is employed in the agricultural sector, the current epidemic of rising hunger, poverty and unemployment has exacerbated the pervasive exploitation and brutality of this rotten food and agriculture system that is based extracting super-profits from the poorest segments of society.

Speaking on the global food and employment crisis, Wali Haider, of Roots for Equity said that rural populations around the world are already aware of these facts and now the food and employment crisis and growing hunger during the Corona virus pandemic has proved that the current system of food and agriculture, which is dominated by the big capitalist countries and their for profit companies, has failed.

This domination of the imperialist powers over the global food and agriculture system has linked the local rural economy, in third world countries like Pakistan, to the global agricultural market. This has resulted in the most important resources like our agricultural produce, our land and water have become a source of surplus profits for multinational corporations.  A clear example of this is the increasing production of sugarcane and other cash crops for the production and export of agro-fuels like ethanol, while the production of the most important food crops such as wheat is declining.

This is one of the reasons for the rise in food prices and the consequent increase in hunger. There is an urgent need to change the system where farmers are forced to depend on seeds, chemicals and toxic inputs of companies. These chemicals also pollute the entire food and agricultural system and destruction of the ecosystems and biodiversity.

In contrast, a sustainable food production system, agro-ecology, provides farmers with a strategy that protects not only their rights but also of other small food producers. Farmers’ right to land under agro ecology guarantees the establishment of collective and individual seed banks and their exchange. It also protects and promotes safe and natural systems of food and agriculture production ensuring food security of the most marginalized and vulnerable communities as well as safe nutritious food and environment for all.

Speaking on the women farmers’ rights Azra Sayeed of Roots for Equity said that the livestock and dairy sector accounts for 56% of the total agricultural production and the majority of farmers involved in milk and meat production are small scale. It consists of cattle breeders, especially women, who make it possible to produce 60 billion liters of milk annually in the country, but these same rural populations are starving themselves as a result of the monopoly of capitalist companies in the food and agriculture sector.

In the name of achieving so called standardization of milk, meat and other foods, corporations are paving a clear path to monopolizing the dairy and meat sector. This will only lead to further exacerbation of hunger and malnutrition in the country. It is important to note that according to the National Nutrition Survey 2018, 53% of children and 44.3% of women in the country are suffering from anemia.

Raja Mujeeb, a member of PKMT Sindh, referring to the small and landless peasants are most affected by the Covid19 epidemic, said that food producers have been forced to depend on poor quality seeds where the companies have established a monopoly and at the same time land is in the hands of feudal lords and increasing encroachment of capitalist systems of production and marketing.

If the farmers have control over all the productive resources including land and seeds, then our farmers, laborers, fishermen and the rural population can get food even in the face of the current pandemic or any kind of emergency. That is why PKMT believes that food sovereignty and self-sufficiency in food and agriculture based an end to feudalism through just and equitable land distribution among farmers and imperialist food policies is critical for a peaceful democratic sovereign state!

Released by: Roots for Equity & Pakistan Kissan Mazdoor Tehreek (PKMT)

Press Release in Urdu (PDF)

PCFS Statement – To AIIB: Stopbankrolling landgrabs

The Peoples Coalition on Food Sovereignty (PCFS) demands the members of the Asian Infrastructure and Investment Bank (AIIB) to stop funding projects especially of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) that result to landgrabbing and rural peoples’ displacement. On the occasion of the AIIB’s annual meeting this July 12-13 in Luxembourg, we stand with the rural peoples on their call for greater accountability and transparency, as well as justice for the violations of the people’s rights.

While AIIB asserted that it is a multilateral bank for the longest time, recent pronouncements show that it is ultimately a financing institution of the BRI with over 7,000 China-funded projects that focus on transportation, maritime navigation, energy, and trade spanning more than 60 countries in the Global South.

As a multilateral lender, AIIB has been consistently behind most of the BRI projects – as a co-funder or as a key lender. This will surely accelerate as AIIB President Jin Liqun declared to focus more on the bank’s own portfolio and sees the bank as a “twin engine” with BRI.[i] More than 60 out of the 87 member countries of the AIIB are part of the BRI. As it is, AIIB is currently bankrolling China’s expansionist lending strategy that ultimately impacts the most vulnerable in the Global South – the rural peoples.

Last month in Hong Kong, PCFS together with the Asia Pacific Research Network (APRN) conducted a forum on China’s BRI and its impact on the rural peoples.  Discussions and accounts of the participants from Asia, Africa, and Latin America regions paint a dismal picture of the BRI projects’ impacts to rural peoples and the right to food sovereignty. Numerous cases of rights violations such as displacement, landgrabbing, harassment, corrosion of traditions, and aggravation of fragility in regions have been reported.

A threat to the right to land. Without adequate environmental and social assessment in the regions and countries, AIIB has been co-funding multiple BRI projects that are opaque and inaccessible to the public. As mentioned above, these include megadams, large roads, ports, and energy plants that often result in landgrabbing and displacement. Continue reading

Peoples’ Voice at UNEA-4

Statement of the Farmers Major Group at the fourth session of the United Nations Environment Assembly

Delivered by Mr. Wali Haider

FARMER MAJOR GROUP STATEMENT AT UNEA-4

Thank you chair.

Honorable excellences, distinguished delegates and colleagues:

I am Wali Haider from Roots for Equity, Pakistan and I’m speaking on behalf of the Farmers Major Group.

The dominant paradigm of unsustainable consumption and production continue to devastate and worsen the situation of the environment and the people along with promotion of Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights which force GMOs and commodification of seeds and water. This crisis is further compounded by unabted land grabs by the transnational corporations. This is manifest in the crises in food, climate, environmental degradation, reduced biodiversity, depleted natural resources, and increasing violation of people’s rights and exacerbating inequality.

The industrial model of agricultural production and perverse subsidies in the agricultural sector are destroying the sources of livelihoods of small-scale food producers and their communities, resulting in hunger and forced migration.

To tackle the challenges we are facing in nourishing a growing global population and ensuring food sovereignty require innovations. People-centred and community solutions are innovations and appropriate technologies that protect the environment, promote sustainability, community ownership, social solidarity and mutuality and based on development justice. Innovative solutions that make a difference in people’s lives are often not technological but social innovations, linked with traditional practices and based on indigenous and local knowledge systems. Dimensions of environment, economy and society, the three pillars of sustainable development, are all taken into account in people’s solutions and community innovations towards sustainable consumption and production.

It is proven that in food production, agroecology as a practice based on constant innovation of farmers, a science and a social movement, is known to improve soils, protect health and the environment, improve livelihoods, and increase household income. Agroecology also harnesses traditional and indigenous knowledge systems supported by people’s science and builds community unity. Continue reading

Statement on behalf of Farmers Constituency during UNEP Senior Official Meeting

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.

Farmers asked to avoid corporate agriculture

M Haleem Asad

Speakers at a national conference named “Sustaining Lives and Livelihood: Fighting for Food Sovereignty and Climate Justice,” held at the Auditorium Arts Council of Pakistan, Karachi asked farmers across the country to reject corporate agriculture which promotes intensive use of chemicals and pesticides, hybrid and genetic seeds that would damage the very foundations of the nation. The speakers strongly rejected the Amended Seed Act 2015 passed by the national assembly of Pakistan terming it a conspiracy against farmers. The conference was jointly organized by Pakistan Kissan Mazdoor Tehrek (PKMT) and Roots for Equity. The PKMT core group members from the provinces of Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab besides journalists, labour union leaders and social activists attended the conference. Farmer Rights activists Dr Azra Talat Sayeed, Dr Nausheen Ali, environmental expert advocate Rafay Alam, PKMT National Coordinator Altaf Hussain, Secretary Wali Haidar, Amjad Nazeer, Raja Mujeeb former National Coordinator, PKMT, Junaid Awan and others spoke on the occasion. A documentary “Vicious Circles” by ITV on malnutrition amongst infants in Pakistan, misuse of medications and bottle feeding by multinational corporations was also presented.

The speakers said that multinational companies had been exploiting small and landless farmers one way or the other, not only in Pakistan in all third world countries. The speakers said they were not against the use of modern technology and advanced science in the sector of agriculture but the monopoly of multinational companies in the seed sector, and commodification of natural resources, and the control over land by the corporate and the feudal landlords. Some of the speakers expressed a fear that land grabbing would increase the chaos in food production, intensifying malnutrition and hunger, leaving farmers destitute, without a livelihood not to mention further intensifying climate crisis and poverty.

They said the corporate agriculture would intensify speculative agricultural commodity resulting in food shortage and price hikes. Paying tributes to peasants, workers and women the experts maintained they were responsible for producing grains but they were paid pittance. They said farmers and peasants worked for 10 to 12 hours daily but they got only on the average Rs 3000 per month. Women agricultural workers earned even less than men. In a panel on people’s resistance, speakers highlighted and condemned the role of NGOs and aid agencies, especially the USAID for depoliticizing communities. The speakers asked peasants, women and minorities to stand united for their rights and raise awareness against the corporate agriculture.

The conference ended in a mela celebrating PKMTs 10 years of struggle for Food Sovereignty. At the inaugural ceremony, PKMT leaders strongly advocated for independent mass-based political platforms for the small and landless farmers. The uniqueness of the mela was the display of indigenous and local seeds produced through sustainable methods by PKMT farmers, as well as nutritious traditional food served by the farmers from all corners of the country. Various district chapters of PKMT also played traditional musical instruments, performed folk dances, songs and theater.

http://epaper.thefrontierpost.com/e-paper/2017-02-22/Business-28934/

            http://epaper.thefrontierpost.com/e-paper/2017-02-22/Business-28934/

Decent Wages for Agricultural Laborers!

Press Release: World Hunger Day

The Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) of the United Nation holds 16th October as “World Hunger Day” every year for the past 70 years. The United Nations slogan for World Hunger Day is “Climate is changing. Food and Agriculture Must Too.” However, Pakistan Kissan Mazdoor Tehreek (PKMT) and Roots for Equity in collaboration with Asian Peasant Coalition (APC) and Pesticide Action Network (PAN AP) has marked the day as “World Huger Day”; A public rally participated by the large number of small and landless farmers was in Haripur, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) protested the abysmal condition of food security faced by a majority in the country, especially the women across the working class and small producers.

Speaking to the rally the PKMT provincial coordinator Tariq Mehmood stated that Pakistan is one of the largest producers of wheat, rice and milk. Despite this fact, the advent of free marketing, corporate farming and land grabbing in the name of agricultural progress has deeply aggravated hunger and has further impoverished the marginalized sectors, especially women. It is shameful that Pakistan is 147th out of 188 countries on the Human Development Index, 121st in 155 countries on the Gender Inequality Index, and the Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) shows that 45.6% of Pakistani are multi-dimensionally poor. The aggressive corporate agriculture policies implemented in the country coupled with lack of equitable distribution of land are responsible for the relentless poverty in the country.

img-20161016-wa0008

District coordinator PKMT Fayaz Ahmad was scathing of the UN’s slogan “Climate is changing. Food and Agriculture Must Too.” It is the disastrous fossil fuel economy that has created chaos in Hattar, as well the climate catastrophe world over. Now these corporations are providing ‘climate smart’ technologies, which will earn them more profits and the landless, small famers more hunger and misery.

Several leaders of PKMT from KPK stated that poverty and hunger can only be corrected if farmers are allowed to be the key decision makers for agriculture and rural development policies. The Government has initiated programs such as China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) that have adverse impacts on farmers, especially along the CPEC route including in Haripur and Hazara; this will surely increase poverty and hunger in KPK and the rest of Pakistan.

PKMT demand’s an equitable distribution of land with the elimination of the role of international corporations from rural and agriculture development. Only self-sufficiency in agriculture production can ensure food sovereignty for the country. In addition, agricultural laborers, especially rural women be recognized as a formal sector a must of decent wages.

dsc_0914

PKMT and Roots for Equity also hold a press conference in Multan Press Club on the eve of World Hunger Day on 16th October, 2016. According to Dr. Azra Talat Sayeed, Executive Director, Roots for Equity, an almost criminal impact of unjustlabor practicesin agricultural sector is the impact on agricultural work force, especially women who comprise a huge percentage of the agriculture labor force. They form the bulk of labor force in sowing, harvestingof important crops such as cotton, wheat, sugarcane and rice, including vegetables. According to Mr M. Sadiq, a landless farmer from the riverine belt, “our misery is based on inequitable distribution of land and lack of decent wages for agricultural workers.” According to an ongoing research of Roots for Equity, in Sindh and Punjab women cotton pickers earn Rs 200 to 300/maund of cotton; sugarcane harvesting earns them nothing but measly amounts of fodder. Wheat harvested in extreme weather conditions earns them no more then 5-8 kg of wheat per day (Rs 150-250/day).Agriculture women workers, working 8-10 hours/day, face acute gender discrimination and human and women rights violations. It needs to be emphasized that the role of these women in agricultural production is responsible for vast amount of foreign exchange earnings.

Released by: Pakistan Kissan Mazdoor Tehreek (PKMT) and Roots for Equity

 

Plants Breeders Right Bill: Farmer Shackling Law

Press Release

IMG-20160812-WA0008

During the press conference PKMT national coordinator Raja Mujeeb, provincial coordinator sindh Ali Nawaz Jalbani, national core group member Hakim Gul and district coordinator ghotki Ali Gohar speaking to the media.

August 12, 2016

The Standing Committee on National Food Security and Research (NFS&R) on August 9, 2016 approved the ‘Plant Breeders Bill 2016’ which had earlier in the year already been approved by the Senate Standing Committee on Cabinet Division; the draft bill will be now be presented before the National Assembly for approval.

Implementation of the Plant Breeders Rights Bill, like the Amended Seed Act, 2015 is dictated by the World Trade Organization (WTO) under the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual property rights (TRIPS) Agreement.  The TRIPs agreement makes it mandatory for the government to provide intellectual property rights (IPRs) on new varieties of plants and seeds. In essence, the Plant Breeders Right’s Act provides monopolistic control to IPR holders of the new varieties of plants or seed prohibiting their use and sale to all others without permission.

The Plant Breeders Act’s is delivered through an ‘effective’ sui generis system or through patents or a combination of both and thus provides mechanisms for plant variety owner to seek IPRs over their plant varieties in each country where they want commercial use of the variety.

The Plant Breeder Right Act basically takes away a centuries old right of farmers to saving and exchanging seed. With gigantic seed corporations such as Monsanto and Syngenta holding intellectual property rights over seeds, the country will on one hand, face serious food insecurity and on the other, loose its sovereignty allowing transnational corporations to dictate food and agricultural production in the country. The royalties paid for IPRs will result in massive seed prices, and farmers already reeling under the steeply rising production costs will face further impoverishment. There is no doubt that the approval of this Bill is equivalent to pushing farmers out of the agricultural sector, reducing them to the status of beggars, a life of misery and humiliation.

Genetically modified seeds (GMOs) are based on genetic engineering (GE) of living organisms including seed and animals and is against evolution of life in nature; the commodification of nature, environmental pollution and further destruction of biodiversity through GMOs is a threat to the entire humanity and goes far beyond ethical dictates of society. It is due to the above reasons and potential health risks associated to GMOs that many countries across the globe have banned GM seed and crops.

Some members of the Standing Committee on NFS&R have shown strong reservations against the bill. According to them, the while the Bio Safety Committee under the Ministry of Climate Change has been given the responsibility for issuing certification on GMOs but lacks expertise on this matter. Pakistan has not undertaken any research and analysis on GE crops and their impacts, which is absolutely against international law on this issue.

Based on the above, Pakistan Kissan Mazdoor Tehreek, an alliance of small and landless farmers and Roots for Equity strongly reject the Plant Breeders Rights Bill demanding first, a complete elimination of the role of foreign seed companies in agricultural production and second, any further decision making in this context to be based on inclusion and decision making role of farmers’ organizations.

Released by Pakistan Kissan Mazdoor Tehreek (PKMT)

Urdu Press Release

Plant Breeder Right Act 12 aug 16 copy

GENETICALLY MODIFIED: GM CROPS – BOON OR BANE?

The Express Tribune, August 12th, 2016.

Peer Muhammad

ISLAMABADExperts are currently debating whether introduction of genetically modified crops (GMCs) would help fulfil nutritional requirements and improve agricultural productivity – or carry with it unwarranted adverse consequences if GMCs are introduced without following standard safety measures.

The views were expressed during a brainstorming session on commercialisation of GMCs in Pakistan, organised by the Ministry of National Food Security and Research at the Pakistan Agriculture Research Centre (Parc).

Dr Muhammad Fahim, a biotechnology expert and professor of Peshawar, warned that among many health implications, there would be adverse effects of GMCs on agriculture exports to European countries if these are adopted without required capacity and safety measures.

“These countries are concerned in the matter and you may lose a good export market,” he maintained. He added that the adaptation of GMCs was not harmful per se, but the lack of expertise on Pakistan’s part to deal with GM technology was a cause for concern.

Meanwhile, former Parc chairman and pro-genetically modified organisms (GMOs) scientist Kauser Abdullah said that the GMO can increase the productivity of famers and it could build tolerance to biotic stress. He added that GMOs will help reduce cost of production and increase productivity. He further said that it will also increase nutritional content in addition to increase the productivity of meat and milk.

The ministry of climate change has given the green light to two multinational companies – Monsanto and DuPont/Pioneer – for commercialisation of the GM corns, which triggered widespread criticism and concerns from the farmer community and experts.

http://tribune.com.pk/story/1160532/genetically-modified-gm-crops-boon-bane/

 

Environment: The aftershocks of global warming

HAMID AHMAD MIR

579d33787d493

For the past three decades climatologists have been raising alarms about global warming and its consequences, and now geologists have also got involved in the issue. World’s renowned geologists are of the opinion that rapidly melting glaciers will result in increasing number of earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and tsunamis.

This is based on the premise that ice is extremely heavy — one cubic metre of ice weighs almost one ton and glacier being a colossal sheet of ice exerts tremendous pressure on the surface of the earth beneath their cover. When glaciers start to melt, as we are experiencing today, pressure on the earth’s surface on which the glaciers are located is reduced significantly. The lightening of load on the earth’s surface allows its mantle to rebound causing the tectonic plates beneath to become unstuck.

According to Patrick Wu, a geologist at the University of Alberta in Canada, the weight of thick ice puts a lot of pressure. This weight suppresses earthquakes, but when the ice melts earthquakes are triggered. Wu goes on to say that many earthquakes that occur in Canada today are related to this ongoing rebound effect that started with the end of the last Ice Age some 10,000 years ago.

The melting of glaciers can lead to more earthquakes in Pakistan and around the world

In the face of present global warming, rapidly changing climatic factors and speedy deglaciation the foreseeable rebound is expected to be much severe and faster. Experts term this rebound ‘Isostatic Rebound’. This process reactivates the fault, increases the seismic activity and lifts pressure on magma chambers that feed volcanoes.

Experts are also of the view that there are implications for parts of the world where glaciers and active faults coincide, including the Hindukush, Himalayas, Alps, Andes, etc. In Pakistan, in the Hindukush and Himalayan regions glacier melt due to climate change coincides with active faults.

Andrew Hynes, tectonics expert at McGill University, puts forward another theory to illustrate an additional relationship between glacier melt and earthquakes when he says that increased glacier melt increases the concentration of fluid in the fault that lubricates the rock, allowing the plates to slide.

An added phenomenon that needs to be kept in mind is that if glacier melt is reducing the stress on earth’s surface in glaciated areas, it is also increasing the stress on seafloors due to rapid influx of water.

The massive melting of ice might trigger earthquakes that are strong enough to lead to the seafloor collapsing or and underwater landslide that in turn could generate a tsunami. Melting of glaciers and the subsequent rise in sea level also means that previously exposed continental margins become inundated with water.

Melting of ice in Antarctica is already triggering earthquakes and underwater seafloor slides, says Wu. Although, at present, these events are not getting much attention, these are early warnings of the more serious events that scientists believe will be experienced in near future.

The glaciated areas in northern parts of Pakistan are quite vulnerable to such events as they are not only heavily glaciated but are also located on tectonic fault lines. For the last three decades the area is also experiencing rapid ice melt due to climate change. Climate change induced disasters, like Glacial Lake Outburst Floods (Glofs) and riverine floods, have become common features in the northern parts of the country. Call it a mere coincidence or reality that for the same period earthquake events are also showing an upward trend vis-a-vis the Glofs/floods.

The recent floods and earthquake events in Hindukush and Himalayan regions of Pakistan are clear evidences of this correlation. Over a period of three decades the frequency and intensity of both glacier-melt and occurrence of earthquakes in the northern regions of Pakistan have increased. Apparently both seem to be directly proportional to each other. During August 2013 alone, Chitral district and adjacent areas experienced over a dozen earthquakes of above five magnitude. During December 2015 and first week of January 2016, District Chitral and adjoining glaciated areas experienced over five devastating earthquakes.

In Chitral it has now become a common belief among the local communities that the frequency and devastation of earthquakes in winter is directly proportional to the severity and intensity of floods during the preceding summer. However, this myth of the local communities needs to be evaluated and studied in detail.

Chitral is home to some 542 glaciers with an estimated volume of nearly 269 cubic kilometres and alone counts for nine per cent of the total glacial or ice reserves of Pakistan. According to experts from the field of environment, glaciology and hydrology all glaciers of Pakistan will melt away completely by the year 2035.

As has been mentioned earlier, one cubic metre of glacial ice weighs almost one tonne. If by 2035 all glaciers in Pakistan melt away, as has been predicted by experts keeping in view the present melting rate, then it means removal of 269 billion tonnes of load from the surface of the earth’s crust in Chitral alone.

The melting of glaciers in the district is quite evident from increased number of Glofs and the ever increasing water flow in River Chitral (also known as River Kabul in the lower course) for the last two decades. However, the phenomenon needs to be studied in detail.

The writer is a field officer at the Pakistan Glof Project in Chitral

Published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine, July 31st, 2016

http://www.dawn.com/news/1274426

Climate Change: a saga of disasters for riverine farmers in Pakistan!

The endless suffering of the riverine area farmers in Pakistan depicts the disaster that climate change is bringing to the most vulnerable marginalized communities. In March 2015, sudden rains and low floods had washed away the almost ready to harvest wheat crops of various villages along the Chenab River in the area called Ghanta Ghar, Mozan Nawabpur, Multan district; than later in July 2015 floods had forced communities to evacuate or live cut off from the rest of the city among the swirling waters. Daily coming and going became dependent on small row-boats which charged the villagers either per journey or even yearly payment of fixed amount of wheat grains. We have reported on their hardships earlier.

IMG_20160605_111548

Now once again there are flood warnings being issued by the government. In early Ramazan (early June), government had raised to the ground some homes but then stopped, supposedly because of Ramazan. Now they are back. Bulldozers are smashing the small mud-houses to the ground. According to the government officials who are with the eviction team these people were given notices earlier and they have to be evacuated as this land adjacent to the river bank and the government has to reinforce the embankment (bund) called the Sipar Nawabpur Bund. According to the officials there they will be abolishing 700 housed within this week. The police has barricaded the area not even allowing people to remove their belongings or go near the site.

No doubt, there are expected flood but that is nothing new. If this land was not safe why were people allowed to sit here in the first place. Second, many people had purchsed land here after the 2010 Super Floods – why was land sold to these farmers if indeed this area was not safe?

Untitled-2 copy

July 26, 2016

No doubt, there is a flood warning but where do the people go? Our shameless government officials are forcing people to evacuate without giving them an alternate abode.  Nobody allows them to put down their belongings and makeshift abode.

IMG_20160605_113623786_HDR

It is criminal that on one hand these people suffer from climate change calamities – dumped on their heads by the profit-driven capitalist growth – and on the other hand they are given no support from their own government. In a matter of 16 months, this is the third eviction that these communities are facing!

A farmer saving what he can of the destroyed wheat harvest. He will use the wasted crops as fodder for his livestock.

A farmer saving what he can of the destroyed wheat harvest. He will use the wasted crops as fodder for his livestock. March 2015

11727796_1098853550144762_1288291207_o

July 2015

IMG_20160605_103946536_HDR

May 2016

The Miserable Life of the Kacha Area Farmers: Facing Evacuation Once Again!

In the Jaws of Climate Change