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Civil society concerned about urban expansion on agricultural land

Civil society organisations engaged in urban and rural development projects have warned of food insecurity as more and more farmland comes under industrial, commercial and residential use.

At a consultative workshop at the Strengthening Participatory Organisation’s (SPO) office in Hyderabad, the participants emphasised on preparing a holistic urbanisation policy to reduce effects of the process on agriculture.

Organised by the Sindh Community Foundation, the workshop also highlighted the pitfalls of unplanned urbanisation with reference to Hyderabad.

“An effective land use policy [at the government level] to regulate the unplanned conversion of land is required,” said Prof Ismail Kumbhar of Sindh Agriculture University, Tandojam, who has contributed research on water, food sources, disaster risk reduction and impacts of climate change.

He and other participants pointed out that Hyderabad is among the cities in Sindh where rural agricultural land is continuously being converted for other purposes, thereby reducing the city’s agricultural production.

The city is located on the left bank of the Indus river and three canals springing from the Kotri Barrage pass through it. Yet among four talukas in the district, three have become almost non-agricultural.

The participants also underlined the problem of food safety and demanded that the government establish food safety authorities at federal, provincial and district levels. “Up to now there is practically no government regulatory authority to maintain a check on what the people are being given to eat,” observed Prof Kumbar.

SPO’s regional head Mustafa Baloch spoke about a lack of monitoring of high-rises and the housing industry in Hyderabad. “The result may be disastrous,” he warned, referring to the environmental and disaster risk mitigation factors.

“Builders and developers do not include as essentials in housing projects such as the basic facilities of water supply, sanitation, electricity and waste disposal,” remarked Mustafa Meerani of the Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum. He said the economy of Sindh depends on agriculture.

Representatives of the Health and Nutrition Development Society, Sindh Hari Porhyat Council, Fast Rural Development Programme, Indus Rural Development Organisation, Sindh Agricultural and Forestry Workers Coordinating Organisation, Sindh Development Society, Society for Protection of Rights of Child, Management Development Foundation, Institute of Social Change and others took part in the discussion.

Ali, Z. Civil society concerned about urban expansion on agricultural land. The Express Tribune, March 4, 2017.

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