Climate Change Impacts: From the Farmlands to Squatter Settlements.

Azra Talat Sayeed, Roots for Equity

July 13, 2016

In Pakistan, the word climate change-related disasters are generally related to upheaval of rural communities, especially riverine communities. However, what has happened today in a squatter settlement of Guslhan-e-Iqbal, Karachi belies this belief. National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) on July 10, issued a warning about the “weather in Karachi and Coastal Areas of Sindh.” Though the warning did not state what kind of ‘weather’ the citizens of Karachi were to expect, the result was that officers from District Commissioner offices were demanding squatter settlement communities living along sewerage flows/water canals to evacuate the area. Today (July 13, 2016) a number of senior official with police escort came to this particular squatter settlement (generally known as kacchi abadi) living under bridge that is passing under the Northern Bypass Bridge on Rashid Minhas Road in District East, Karachi, near Moti Mahal and just a stone’s throwaway from the very recently opened Imtiaz Super Store.


The police destroyed a temporary abode of a family that was in front of a major sewerage pipeline and other squatters (after much pleading) were given three hours to evacuate – they were threatened that the police and District East officials would return at 6:30 pm and at that time if the squatters were still there, their belongings would be bulldozed and they would be forcefully evacuated. The families were forced to pack their very meager belongings – the women, a majority of whom were domestic servants in the homes around the abadi running in every which direction searching for a shelter for their children at least for the night; a woman among them worried about keeping her children’s school books in a safe place; another on her way to storing her sewing machine and her daughter’s trousseau in her malikan’s (employer) home if she would allow her to do!

No doubt, the evacuation being demanded was fair and in preparation of possible flooding of the sewerage canals and the small stream highly polluted with very toxic-looking effluent flowing through it. However, the abusive behavior and show of force was not at all needed. But the hallmark of authority in Pakistan is of course first verbal abuse, and if need be, physical abuse.

However, our focus is not only on the atrocious behavior of our so called government servants, who are paid to serve us, the people of this city; The question is that why are so many people living in kachi abaids. Why have these families living in such inhuman, abysmal conditions? Where did the y come?

Almost every family in this abadi is a rural migrant from the Rahimyar Khan District in Punjab having migrated to Karachi in search of work. Most of them are landless agriculture workers who due to very poor enumeration of their work end up in Karachi. According to the women in the abadi, hardly anybody has any land. Of the 20 families, 2 families have just one or two canals (1 acre has 8 canals). Ghafurra, a domestic worker explained that even when families work as agricultural workers, they get paid seasonally. So, no doubt there is wheat stored at home but there is nothing else to eat apart from roti. According to her “there is no money to buy vegetables or any other stuff for food till the next season.”

 After wheat harvest, the next crop would be cotton picking which would be six months away. Sugar cane stands for 12 months so this crop only provides mazdoori (labor) once a year. One family has just come to this settlement– about 15-20 days ago, they had sown moong dal (lentils), which got washed away with the current floods. This family is suffering from hunger.  We asked the families if they have such shortage of cash how do they find the money to travel from Rahimyar Khan to Karachi? One family had sold their donkey to pay for the travel expenses.

Others sell stored wheat that they have earned during the wheat harvest. It was also explained that daily expenses are also met by selling small quantities of wheat during the ‘no work’ season.  This is the basic reason that these families come to Karachi in search of whatever work they can find. One woman who has recently come to Karachi has been telling the families here that they are lucky to have cooked meals every day. According to her “we only subsist on roti – even vegetables are hard to access as they cost money.”

Even in the extremely abysmal conditions of this community, it is important to point out that the patriarchy is rife and the burden of providing for the families, particularly the children is with the women. Almost all of them are working as domestic servants, therefore basically living a life of toil and abuse hour by hour. It was clear that the food in this abadi of which a recent rural migrant was so envious of, is dumped food from the homes where these women spend their day cooking, cleaning and washing.

A woman told us that even when the police was in their area threatening to throw away their things, her husband was on his way to Rahimyar Khan, for some family business; she had entreated him not to go at least till this issue was settled but to no avail. She has seven children whom she is putting through schooling by working almost 10 hours a day – backbreaking work of sweeping and mopping at least 4-5 homes daily. She told us “a small room which would include a kitchen and the washroom would have to paid Rs 6,000 in rent per month. Where would I pay for the rent?” For two hours of work daily she gets paid Rs 3,500 in one home – and in the whole month is only able to earn no more than Rs 14,000. If she pays Rs 6,000 for rent how would she pay for the family’s food, schooling, other expenses? Another woman is living with her daughters. Her husband has divorced her because she had given birth to only to daughters. So each woman has a story to tell. Each story has its root in the oppressive systems of feudalism, capitalism and patriarchy.


The living conditions of the kachi abadi are beyond belief. The Karachi municipality has not been recycling garbage for the past months and a huge garbage dump is just next to the unkempt ‘homes’ under the bridge. The closed in space was causing the place to stink even more so as the air was dank and stale with no sunlight reaching the area even during the day. The small ‘stream’ is a black colored flow of effluent most probably carrying waste from factories and homes – the area was invaded by an awful smell – from the garbage, sewerage lines and of course the evil looking flow of water. Flies were like small pellets covering nearly every surface, swirling up and about like small whirlpools. And against this backdrop of extreme poverty – next door was the massive Imtiaz Super Store – thank you Globalization – just opened a month ago.

The area was full of private security – there to make sure that their customers had no trouble in accessing parking. There was a good stretch of area just in front of the abadi which would have a been a much better place for the abadi inhabitants to avail themselves of – but of course they knew very well that if they tried to sit there – they would be immediately removed. Such is the stinking class system of the ‘civilized’ society we live in. It is okay to live in rabid holes – for which these families pay bhata (bribe) to certain groups but not okay to live where they would get away from the stinking stream, the garbage, their children partially safe from falling into the polluted water. One woman mentioned that they were able get water from the nearby apartments but after Imtiaz Store has been operational – the store authorities have are not allowing them to carry water across.

In short, the working class of this country is constantly thrown from one end to another – all this because our feudal landlords have control over land and are living like the nawabs of the Mughal Dynasty – of course all thanks to the British Colonizers – our government in cahoots with the feudal landlords unwilling to carry out equitable land distribution; under the atrocious arm-twisting by the IMF and World Bank policies, our government is unwilling to stand with its people and provide them with decent, regular job security, social welfare and social security.

This short case study showcases how in Pakistan, climate change impacts come ‘searching’ for the people and communities so far away from flood areas; as has been constantly detailed by peoples groups and organizations: climate change is the manifestation of the exploitation of our resources by capitalist systems of production and results in the poor being the frontline victims.

This case study highlights the sick manifestations of all the oppressive production and reproduction system: feudalism, capitalism and patriarchy. It portrays not only the living conditions of this kachi abadi; it is the story of thousands of squatter settlements in Karachi as well as all mega cities of the third world. All over the world, the worsening conditions of the people, the living misery of our people is due to the life-draining clamp of the rich and the powerful class of feudal landlords and capitalist who are extracting every cent of profit that they can by taking control of land and other resources leaving the people to scrounge for each meal that they are lucky to access for the day.

There is no doubt that the answer lies in politicized, organized communities willing to fight for their rights to life, living and dignity!

Statement of the Farmer’s Major Group at UNEA 2 during COW (Committee of Whole)


May 24, 2016

Respected Chair, Excellences, Delegates. Colleagues from the UN Agencies, Major Groups and the CSOs

I am Wali Haider from Roots for Equity, Pakistan representing farmer major group

Unstainable practice of over extraction and overproduction is at the heart of unsustainable consumption and production. Agriculture and food production being marked as a lucrative sector has resulted in a tsunami of land grabs. At the same time, the pursuance of mega development projects for economic development and climate change mitigations such as mega dams, mining, oil exploration, creation of national parks, high voltage transmission and distribution lines and pursuance of extractive industries and special economic zones in indigenous territories and other rural communities with subsequent militarization process has led to land alienation and destruction of survival sources, cultures and identity of indigenous peoples, small scale farmers, fishing communities.

These patterns of production and consumption are not just wasteful but also increases inequalities. The world consumes more than half the world’s resources, but half the world’s wealth is in the hands of only 2% of the population. Despite millions of tons of food produced each day, with 1.3 billion tons going to waste each year, around 1 billion people worldwide suffer from acute hunger.

We can only speak of sustainable production when natural resource extraction is not defined by the profits earned by corporations, but by the needs of our communities and our peoples to survive, develop, and with a view to ensure their availability for generations to come.

We call upon states to support right to land, promotion and development of traditional occupation that conserves and sustains biological diversity and also brings in livelihoods to communities.  Traditional knowledge systems and practices of indigenous peoples and local communities on agro-ecological farming and diverse production systems that have minimal dependence on chemical and technologies like GMOs, will address reduction in GHG emissions from agriculture. This contributes to attaining sustainable land use, healthy people and healthy environment.  Today these sustainable resource management faces challenges of the unregulated globalized market systems and the invasion of extractive industries.

To minimize adverse impacts of hazardous chemicals on the environment and human health, governments must take measures to achieve by 2020 the sound management of chemicals and all wastes throughout their life cycle as envisioned in the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM).  The phase out of marketing and use of highly hazardous pesticides (HHPs) and the promotion of and support to sustainable ecological agriculture would greatly contribute to secure a healthy environment and promote good health in both rural and urban communities.

Thank you Madam!

UNEP-Women’s Major Group on COP21

Based on the Document: ‘Proposed resolution for UNEA on Paris Agreement’ & ‘A Reality Check on the Paris Agreement from the Women and Gender Constituency (WGC)’

While the others might want us to move forward with the process, the Women and Gender Constituency provided a reality check.

So, what does it really mean to promote an effective implementation of a weak agreement? We are talking about a binding legal document that doesn’t recognize historical responsibilities and continues to undermine the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities; hence, it lets countries decide how much longer and how they still want to continue to pollute, leaving all commitments to weak voluntary Intended National Determined Contributions (INDCs).

It is true that Parties to the UNFCCC committed to maintain a global average temperature below 1.5ºC but they failed to recognize and understand that in some areas such as Islands States, this ‘limit’ has been exceeded already by far and that it is already too late. The latest IPCC report says that doubling of greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere compared to what they were in 1750 will likely result in warming between 1.5°C to 4.5°C. Scientists haven’t managed to narrow this down since the IPCC was first set up. So, if the low figure is true, really radical action could limit warming to less than 1.5°C but if it’s the medium or higher figure then there’s no chance at all. For the Women and Gender Constituency, seeing this goal on paper is not enough. We demand it in actions as the proof of full commitment to that goal, not vague aspirations.

Thus, ‘making finance flows consistent with a pathway towards low greenhouse gas emissions and climate resilient development’ will result highly difficult especially in light of the corporate take over of the climate negotiations; the quality of and a goal for scaling up adequate and predictable, largely public finance which is highly needed, lost a lot of political strength while business interests that have lobbied hard in our home countries will be the first to benefit from the agreement as it fundamentally does not address the needs of the most vulnerable countries, communities and people of the world. It fails to address the structures of injustice and inequality which have caused the climate crisis and hold the historical polluters sufficiently to account. What happened in Paris was that governments maintained their commitment to corporations over people and signaled opportunities for profit to be made from crisis. The Green Climate Fund – for instance – is increasingly being captured by multilateral development banks and international private entities with poor track records. The lack of transparency and preponderance of big banks and international entities over national and sub-national entities blatantly defies the GCF mandate of being more responsive to the needs of vulnerable developing countries and communities.

What is left unclear in the Paris Agreement is how soon will the international community and specifically the world’s rich countries succeed in raising the estimated 100 billion dollars per year needed by 2020? Paragraph 54 on the agreement means no money on the table prior to 2020, just intention of mobilisation. In Cancun, Parties had agreed to developed countries mobilising USD 100 billion per year by 2020. With the Paris Agreement, a five-year extension has been granted in order to reach this target and a new quantified goal will be set for the period after 2025.

The Women and Gender Constituency has long argued that climate finance should come from taxing the highest 1% of emitters. A tax on high emitters of between 5-10% would provide at least USD 150 billion per year. Funds can also be derived from harmful industries. 80% of GHG emissions are caused by the burning of fossil fuels and the subsidies to this sector accounts for USD 5.3 trillion a year. Redirecting these subsidies prioritizing women and the poor could anchor a transformative shift.

Besides, a common understanding on what entails truly ‘sustainable energy’ is urgently needed. Currently, ‘clean’ energy sources allow dirty energies like large-scale wood-based bioenergy to be recognized as a ‘renewable’ energy source, and even harmful hydropower also enters the category. But what does an innovative’ large hydropower dam means for an entire ecosystem? What does the establishment of a single 500,000voltt tower in a rural area means to people, plants, animals, soil organisms and water sources? We are sure that there are real solutions out there such as solar and wind-power, and that genuine transformation to a low carbon society requires further analysis of what is that will actually take us on that path and what would drive us apart.

Critical issues like clear emission reductions without offsetting and misleading market approaches; ensuring the quality of technologies which should be safe and socially and environmentally sound; the responsibilities of developed countries to take the lead, the responsibility to protect people’s rights and our ecosystems including indigenous peoples and women’s rights, have been either surgically removed throughout the text or lack specificity; that we are not protecting food security but instead are protecting food production, all of them, are issues that jeopardize the whole 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development Agenda and its SDGs, such as Goal 12 on Sustainable Consumption and Production, to name but one example. Unsustainable food systems are not given enough attention and most rhetoric, fails to recognize the importance of this issue, not just on the context of climate change but also in the context of poverty eradication. A clear example is the increased deforestation in Paraguay – also undermining Goal 15 – and associated social problematic (Goal 1) due to GM soy and cattle ranch expansion. Exclusionary methods such as increased carbon trading which are now expanded to the agricultural sector, and land use change (LULUCF); the flawed ‘Net zero emissions’ principle and unproved technologies such as BECCs, gained further support while the human rights language was weakened.

The ‘loss and damage’ mechanism mentioned in Article 8, that would have meant compensation to those most affected from climate change, lost all significance on paragraph 52 Presented by Isis Alvarez at the Open Ended Committee of Permanent Representatives to the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) when is states “that Article 8 of the Agreement does not involve or provide a basis for any liability or compensation”. At the same time, climate refugees continue to be ignored and the agreement failed to be transformative and legally recognize them.

Perverse initiatives endorsed by the Paris agreement such as Climate Smart Agriculture surrender too much power to already powerful multinational corporations monopolizing the food industry setting the stage for the further demise of small peasant farmers especially women and their related traditional knowledge. Already a report from FAO (2014) demonstrated how agroecology could feed the world without the need for harmful and misleading technologies while empowering small scale farmers.

We know that climate change is the greatest threat to rights in our time, and we know that women often bear the brunt of these impacts. We believe that operational language on gender equality, alongside other fundamental rights, in Article 2, defining the purpose of the agreement, would have gone far to ensure that all forthcoming climate actions take into account the rights, needs and perspectives of women and men and encourage women’s full and equal participation in decision-making. This was the moment to set the right path, the just path for climate action. But it just didnt happen. SDG 13 needs to go beyond the Paris agreement.

To call this an ‘ambitious agreement’ is totally misleading. Civil society organizations and social movements openly protested the outcome of the negotiations. Women of the world have been calling for climate justice, and we know that calls for climate justice are empty without acknowledging that ‘justice’ requires a remedy, justice is delivered when reparations are provided, and justice is essentially for accountability.

Presented by Isis Alvarez at the Open Ended Committee of Permanent Representatives to the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP)

Capitalist Agriculture caused Hunger

October 16, 2015

World Hunger Day (Press Release)

The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has been celebrating 16 October as World Food Day from the past 70 years. This year it’s slogan for the World Food Day is “Agriculture and Social Security.”

Pakistan Kissan Mazdoor Tehreek (PKMT) and Roots for Equity along with other farmer movements and organizations like the Asian Peasant Collision (APC) and Pesticides Action Network (PAN AP) observers the World Food Day as World Hunger day. Even today, 60% of Pakistani population does not have food security, whereas 50% women suffer from anemia. In Pakistan 35% of small children die from malnutrition, and 50% of children less than 5 years suffer from stunting.

For the World Hunger Day, PKMT had organized a protest in front of the TMA Hall, Haripur, Khyber Pakhtunkwa. Various PKMT leaders including Raja Mujeeb, Tariq Mahmood, Fayaz Ahmed, Altaf Hussain and Wali Haider spoke against the prevailing hunger in the country. It is a bitter truth that in an agricultural country like Pakistan, farmers are facing hunger because more than 70 percent of them are landless. Landlessness and exploitation of farmers is entrenched in the semi-feudal structure of the economy and encroaching capitalist policies.  Land grabbing through government support for corporate agriculture is increasing across the country.

Climate change is also a critical reason behind increasing hunger and food insecurity. The carbon emissions from industrial production in capitalist economies are a prime reason for Pakistan being one of the most vulnerable countries impacted from climate change. In the previous years, farmers have been facing debilitating economic loss due to yearly floods causing destruction of crops and loss of livestock. Tharparkar is facing acute drought that has killed thousands of children and livestock. Almost 40 percent of the population has had to move in search of food and livelihood.


The elitist Pakistani government in collusion with International organizations, first world governments and the hegemonic international corporate sector are promoting trade liberalization. An example is the approval of the Seed Amendment Act 2015 that protects the interests of the agro-chemical corporations and allows the spread of genetically modified seeds in the country. The approval of this draconian law will take away the right of farmers to save and develop seeds: in this scenario how can they ensure food security in the country? Neoliberal policies have already pushed small and landless farmers into debt making them dependent on agro-chemical corporations.  The increased production prices have pushed many farmers to migrate in search of other livelihood.



Pakistan is being forced to accept alternate fuel technologies. These include agro fuel crops such as sugar cane and maize; large tracts of land are being used for installation of solar and wind energy projects. All of this will lead to further shortage of land and food and can only exacerbate hunger!

Pakistan Kissan Mazdoor Tehreek and Roots for Equity demand an end to Feudalism and Corporate Farming. In order to attain food sovereignty and sustainable agriculture it is critically important that equitable distribution of land amongst small and landless farmers is carried out. In addition, all decision making and implementation of agriculture policies must be in the hands of small and landless farmers!

PKMT and Roots also hold a protest in front of Sukkur Press club, Sindh on the eve of World Hunger Day on 16th October, 2015. PKMT leaders Ali Gohar, Ali Nawaz, Hakim Gul, Mohammd Azim, Gul Hassan spoken to the protest and highlighted the issue of small and landless farmers in Sindh. They demanded Genuine Agrarian Reforms and also rejected the recently passed Seed Amended Bill 2015.


Released by: Pakistan Kissan Mazdoor Tehreek and Roots for Equity

Arabian Sea eating up 100 acres of Sindh land daily

Two cities almost vanish from the planet; fishermen leaders stress adoption of preventive measures

Usman Manzoor

KETI BANDER: Such is the effect of climate change on Pakistan that the Arabian Sea has eaten up the country’s two cities along the coastal belt and is eating up almost 100 acres of land on a daily basis. The two tehsils of District Thatta, i.e. Kharo Chan and Keti Bander, have almost been eliminated from the planet in the past three decades and now only a few thousand fishermen reside along the coastal belt of Keti Bander and Kharo Chan, who too have been badly hit by food insecurity.

The sea erosion has not only submerged the two cities but has also destroyed fertile lands measuring approximately 1.5 million acres in Districts Thatta and Badin. The sea has eaten up about 3.5 million acres of land since the 1980s and is eating up about 100 acres on a daily basis, said Muhammad Ali Shah, chairman of the Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum, while explaining the issues regarding sea erosion and the ever-depleting marine life.

Shah, who has been jailed many a times fighting for the cause of the fishermen, is highly respected among the community of the fishermen.

Muhammad Ali Shah, in a meeting at the headquarters of the Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum, explained that Thatta faces sea erosion issues, Badin faces both, sea intrusion and issues arising out of the Left Bank Out-fall Drain (LBOD) which instead of falling into Lake Shakur has been linked with the Tidal canal (the canal which allows seawater to flow upstream during high tides). Shah explained that when the water from LBOD collides with the Tidal canal, the corresponding fertile lands get inundated because of breaches thus resulting in mass destruction. He added that in Karachi, the massive cutting of mangroves is also causing a similar situation, and the marine life has depleted, thus causing issues of food security as well.

Mustafa Gurgaiz, a water expert and the President of Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum, told The News at Keti Bander that the city of Keti Bander has been eaten up by the sea twice before, and on both occasions people shifted to the coastline and inhabited a new Keti Bander, and it is the third time that the city has been submerged in the sea.

He explained that because of less or no downstream water in the Indus River to go into the sea has caused sea erosion on a massive scale. “The minimum requirement is 35 Million Acre Feet (MAF) per annum to go through the Indus River into the sea to avoid any further sea erosion,” said the expert adding: “But more than 3.5 million MAF water goes into the sea during the flood season i.e. in one week, and what happens during the rest of the year is that the Indus remains dry and sea encroaches the coastal line.”

He maintained that 3.5 MAF water should be released on average basis round the year to save the cities of Sindh from being eaten up by the sea. Gurgaiz held that more than 50 percent land of Keti Bander and Kharo Chan has been submerged while the rest destroyed by salinity.

This correspondent has met many farmers and people who have documents of ownership of hundreds of acres of land but on site there is only sea. Many such people, who were rich two decades ago, have been literally in rags now.

About the solution to the ever worsening situation, Mustafa Gurgaiz said that at least 3.5 MAF water should be left in the Indus River to go into the sea so that more sea erosion does not happen. Secondly, the faulty structure of LBOD should also be mended and it should be either linked with Shakur Lake or somewhere else but not with the Tidal canal. He explained that Shakur Lake is co-owned by India and Pakistan as India owns about 90 percent of it and Pakistan owns the rest 10 percent and because of Indian diplomacy, the lake was declared an environmentally protected place which made the basis of change in design of the LBOD. He held that if the drain has to go through the Tidal canal then the water discharged in it should be treated first instead of releasing toxic and agriculture waste in the LBOD which harms the marine life and also destroys fertile lands when it inundates agriculture lands after colliding with tidal water from the sea.

Abdul Qadir Chandio, a representative of the Sindh government’s Social Welfare Department who also deals with the organizations dealing with the issues of climate change, while explaining the issues said that the faulty design of the LBOD has caused a major problem, and efforts are on to overcome this problem.