‘Dispossession, displacement, disempowerment in Thar’

Civil society calls for people-centered policy for land acquisition for coal mining projects

Our Correspondent November 25, 2020


Civil society raised concerns on Tuesday over reportedly increasing irregularities and human rights violations in ongoing land acquisition and resettlement processes related to coal mining, power plants and associated projects in Thar.

At an online press conference under the banner of Alliance for Climate Justice and Clean Energy (ACJCE) civil society representatives called for a 'people centered' policy to address concerns of the local communities and their land entitlements. "The policy must be developed through a broader consultative process, involving local communities as a primary stakeholder," read a statement issued by ACJCE on the day.

Jan Muhammad Halepoto, a community representative from Thar, said depriving the locals of their ancestral homes, native villages, farmlands and pastures was causing poverty and destitution in Thar. Provision of no alternative land or any compensation against the pastures (gowchar) acquired for mining and power plants was causing serious livelihood challenges for an overwhelmingly livestock dependent local population, he said.

He said instead of forcefully buying land from the locals and completely alienating them from their land in Thar, the government should acquire their land on a mutually-agreed, time-bound lease which should be paid yearly.

Similarly, Pakistan Fisher-Folk Forum Chairperson Muhammad Ali Shah opined that the promise of progress and prosperity, which the government had made with the local people of Thar, has gone sour in the face of increasing injustices being meted out for land acquisition for coal power projects.

"Dispossession, displacement, deprivation and disempowerment are all that the local people of Thar have gained in wake of land acquisition for coal power projects in their homeland," he said. Shah lamented that the ongoing land acquisition and resettlement processes in Thar was characterised by arbitrariness, exclusionary decision-making, non-transparency and extraordinary delays in payment of compensation amounts. While terming the private companies as the sole beneficiaries of existing state of affairs, he said acquisition of any more land in Thar must be stopped till the adoption of the proposed policy.

Advocate Syed Ghazenfur, a representative of the Alternative Law Collective (ALC), pointed out that laws like the Land Acquisition Act 1894, under which land acquisition was taking place in Thar, were relics of Pakistan's colonial past. The citizens' rights to property under those colonial laws, he said, were subject to state's unscrupulous demands for expropriation.

"Employing the emergency provisions of the colonial law in Thar was meant to bypass the due process for land acquisition, avoid protection of rights enshrined in [the] Constitution of Pakistan and deprive local communities of adequate amount of compensation against their land and other assets," he said. Terming the land acquisition and resettlement processes in Thar as highly lopsided, he lamented that the government was prioritising commercial interests of private companies over basic human rights of its citizens.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 25th, 2020.


Replying to X

Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive.

For more information, please see our Comments FAQ