‘No transparency in terms of environmental assessment and land acquisition in green megaprojects’

Karachi – ‘There is no transparency in terms of environmental assessment and land acquisition in the execution of green climate friendly megaprojects.’

This was said by speakers at a session organised in Institute of Business Administration (IBA) to discuss a research project investigating energy-development nexus in Pakistan in context of climate change. The research project was conducted from December 2016 to April 2018 in Punjab and Sindh. The project findings highlight fundamental connections between energy, climate change and land acquisition.

Citing Quaid-e-Azam Solar Park as an example, the researchers said that the construction of the solar park led to a large scale displacement of people and erasure of longstanding livelihood for pastoral communities.

According to the project findings, mega energy project rely on colonial laws for acquisition and expropriation of vast swathes of land and this leads to displacement of poor communities from the area. The report further states that there is a need to reform colonial land acquisition laws in Pakistan. It mentions that other countries in South Asia are already trying to do away with these colonial laws but Pakistan has not taken up this critical issue yet.

Another finding of the research project is that prolonged court cases do not mete out results swiftly. According to the report, court cases greatly exacerbate uncertainty and anxiety among people affected by mega project related land displacement.

Dr Amiera Sawas, a researcher in climate change and risk programme at Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), gave a detailed presentation discussing the research findings with the gathering. In her presentation, she highlighted some of the key factors from projects about climate change-energy nexus in Pakistan and discussed recommendations for media and policymakers.

According to Sawas, Pakistan is consistently named one of the world’s most vulnerable countries to climate change and water scarcity. “Pakistan is facing water stress and heading towards water scarcity due to a combination of climate change and unsustainable developments,” said Dr Amiera.

According to Dr Sawas, despite a range of climate-related disasters in recent years, from droughts to floods and slow-onset disaster of livelihood destruction across agriculture, fishing and livestock sectors neither the government nor the media did enough to report this crisis and its implications on Pakistan’s future.

Drawing on examples from other regions affected by the climate-energy-security nexus, Dr Sawas said that the media played a critical role in highlighting the effects of crisis on people. She gave the example of Lake Chad Basin and Syria and said that the media’s role in both the cases was crucial.

Karachi Urban Lab Director Dr Nausheed Anwar also described in detail how citizens face varied experiences of development, dispossession and access to legal mechanisms of accountability in situations where large-scale energy projects rely on acquisition of vast tracts of land that support livelihoods of ordinary citizens.

Dr Nausheed Anwar talked about two mechanisms in detail. She said that it was generally expected that climate adaptation corporate developers would obtain informed consent from local citizens. Secondly, she discussed the role of right to information laws which are designed to enable citizens access to official government documents concerning any project, scheme or development.

Advocate Zubair Abro also spoke on the occasion. He said that a petition was filed from Thar against environmentally hazardous effluent discharge in Gurano village. He added that the petition impugned action of Engro Coal Mining Company, Sindh Government’s Thar Coal Authority, Wildlife Department, Sindh Environment Protection Agency and revenue officials by focusing on the pressing issues of illegal occupation of local land, discharge of hazardous effluent contaminating sub-soil water environment degradation and violation of SEPA Act, Sindh Wildlife Protection Ordinance and Forest Act.

Advocate Abro said that the court constituted committee submitted a report in favor of Engro Power and Coal Mining Project. He said that this report was later challenged by the petitioner. “The case has been pending since November, 2017 ,” he informed the gathering.

"Monitoring Desk"

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