For a swift and sustainable development of Karachi, it is a must that its katchi abadies are given a special focus as the key to urban uplift of the mega city is ‘develop slums to develop Karachi’, said speakers at a launching ceremony of a study “profiles of land tenure system in Pakistan”.
Arif Hasan, a senior architect, urban planner and founder chairman of urban resource centre said the statistics indicate that Karachi’s 62 percent population was living in katchi abadis, but this type of land is only 5.5 percent of the total urban land. He said although some katchi abadis had been regularised, they lacked basic facilities.
Hasan said the localities in downtown areas and near Karachi were becoming denser due to shrinking of land holding. “The size of homes has become smaller. People with a plot of 80 yards are now constructing multi-storied buildings on their small plots. Encroachment on the rain nullahs has resulted in flooding of the city streets after even small rain. If this encroachment practice continued without any check Karachi would be drowned in case a heavy rain hits in the future.”
He regretted that big housing societies like Bahria Town and DHA City were posing threats to the cultural and historical sites of Karachi. Lower and middle class people could not afford to buy the plots in Bahria and DHA City. These new housing societies are actually speculative in nature and people invest in the land in a hope for appreciation of the prices. During Zia’s period, KDA had developed around 300,000 new plots but only half of them have been occupied because those were bought by speculators. The unoccupied plots were later illegally encroached upon by land grabbers.
He said only option available to the poor was to construct a house in a katchi abadi or sell his small pieces of the land to developers and become a tenant for the rest of life. He said high-income residential area’s growth in Karachi would destroy ecology of the city and further marginalise the poor people. If corrective measures are not taken, over-crowding would further increase.
Bina Agarwal, Professor of Development Economics and Environment, University of Manchester, said inequality in assets-ownership prevails at the global level. Inequality may further cause increase in social conflicts.
In India, she pointed that due to land reforms in different periods, the land ownership of women had increased to some extent. Women with land ownership could perform much better than male farmers, she added.
She pointed out that climate change would negatively affect the agriculture production globally. She said for agriculture growth, besides providing land to landless peasants, some other factors like irrigation water, technology access to credit, market and storage facilities were also required.
In Gujarat, they have invested on rain-water harvesting, which has resulted in 10 percent growth in agriculture. She said small farmers co-operations could result in positive changes.
Haji Shafi Muhammad Jamot, MPA, regretted that a large area of the land was encroached upon in Karachi by the influential people and the provincial government was not taking any action against them.
People in Karachi are facing many civic problems including shortage of water. In a cosmetic measure, now the provincial government has announced to provide water via tankers, which will further increase sufferings of people because of wide spread corruption among the tankers operators.
Senior economist Dr Kaiser Bengali, the author of the study, gave an overview of the land pattern in different parts of Pakistan. “The land tenure pattern in each province is different, so in case the land reforms are introduced, land reforms should be different in each province.”
He said feudal structure exists in many parts of Pakistan, but it prevails in Sindh province in its worst form. Percentage of the big landlords is more in Sindh as compared to other provinces. He suggested ending the absentee landlordship and giving the surplus land to the landless people.
Mahtab Akbar Rashidi, MPA, said natural environment had been destroyed in Karachi. She said people in rural areas were deprived of basic facilities. People affected by floods of 2010 had still not been rehabilitated.
Karamat Ali, Executive Director of PILER, said due absence of land reforms in Pakistan besides inequality and evils like terrorism were increasing in agriculture areas. He urged the members of Sindh Assembly members to introduce land ceiling act so that big land holding was discouraged. He said Land Reforms Act be introduced in Sindh because after the 18th amendment, it is a provincial subject. The Sindh Tenancy Act should be implemented and all anti-peasants clauses be removed from it, he demanded.