The News | Tuesday, April 27, 2010
By our correspondentKarachi An upcoming World Bank (WB) report aims at giving legitimate cover to agricultural land grabbing in Pakistan. This was alleged by the members of Roots for Equity, a local NGO and GRAIN, an international organisation at a press conference held at the Karachi Press Club (KPC). The Joint Director of Roots for Equity Wali Haider said that 700 acres of land has already been handed over to foreign entrepreneurs and this act has displaced hundreds of poor farmers in Pakistan. In the recent past, he said, 2400 acres of agricultural land has been given to foreign companies in Mirpur Khas, Sindh. He said that Pakistan’s bio-safety laws did not allow the American multinational Monsanto to cultivate Bt Cotton in the country but it was being grown in Sindh and Punjab with impunity. Haider said that he strongly condemned the release of WB generated principles for responsible agro-enterprise investment promoted by the bank. “The WB in essence has given its official stamp to the profit greedy state and private investors to lease or buy millions of acres of farmlands in Asia, Africa and Latin America for food and fuel production,” he said. “Land grabbing is a serious threat for the food sovereignty of our people and the right to food of our rural communities. Instead of prohibiting such anti-people and anti-farmer ventures, the WB is promoting a set of seven principles to guide such investments and make them successful,” he said. Haider said that the WB was clearly promoting expansion of global agribusiness operations. “The band aid approach taken by the WB is to set a certain criteria for the land grabbers is to reduce the risks of social backlash This includes respecting the rights of existing users of land, water and other resources by paying them off; protecting and improving livelihoods at the household and community level (provide jobs and social services); and no harming the environment. These are the core ideas behind the WB’s several principles for socially acceptable land grabbing.” Haider demanded that land grabbing must be immediately stopped and land should be kept in the hands of local communities and genuine agrarian reforms must be implemented immediately. Roots for Equity’s board member Navin G. Haider and director research Sabiha Hasan were also present at the press conference.