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Thari people facing land acquisition issues in Tharparkar

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MITHI: Various land acquisition related issues being faced by Tharparkar’s communities especially in relation to large scale land acquisition by coal mining companies were discussed in a conference titled ‘Withering Thar: Land, Water and Environment’ in Thar conference.
Thar Citizen Forum organizes ‘Thar Conference’ to highlight environmental issues to highlight the burning environmental, land and water related vows plaguing local communities of Tharparkar in the wake of development and coal mining initiatives.
The conference was inaugurated by Additional Deputy Commissioner-I Mirpur Khas Division Dr. Muhammad Nawaz Bhoot.
The event was attended by a large number of civil society representatives, academicians, local activists and journalists, students and environmental experts from across the country. The panel on land acquisition and management related issues comprised Syed Zain, Haji Mehranpoto and Ex revenue department official Kabir Rajar.
The panelists lamented the discretionary powers of state inherent in Land Acquisition Act, 1894. The Act, they said, refuses to recognize vital categories of land like Yaksala and Gaucher on which Thari people’s livelihoods have depended since centuries.
They sought removal of the draconian clauses of the law repeatedly invoked by the State to deprive Tharis of their historically used land sources.
Haji Mehranpoto and Ameer Hassan from coal affected villages reported on the long list of broken promises of the company, detailed multiple failures on the part of authorities to compensate villagers for confiscated lands, and shared first hand experiences of mass-scale dispossession and displacement in the wake of land acquisition for coal.
Kabir Rajar clarified the historical developments and procedures under the Thar Land Grant Policy and detailed the massive failures in record keeping of the Revenue Department resulting in grave injustices to local land holders who remained uncompensated for lack of adequate records.
He highlighted several weaknesses in the Land Grant Policy which required immediate amendments to rectify.
Syed Zain emphasized that on paper the existing policies such as the Thar Land Grant Policy, TCEB Resettlement Policies, and various court decisions provide protection to communal lands like Gaucher.
The panel concluded that Sindh’s Rehabilitation and re-settlement policies are flawed and need review and revisions to offer specific compensation and protection to the coal affected Thari populations.
The panel including representative of Engro lamented the wayward disposal of mining water which is polluting first aquifer which must be saved from mining and re-injection and all aquifers should be replenished and maintained.
Engro’s Hafiz Tariq clarified that Thar fields constituted three separate water aquifers and suggested that the middle and bottom layers remained undisturbed by dewatering and waste water removal practices of the company.
He further suggested that regular testing and monitoring by independent experts ensured the quality for water remained unaffected by coal.
These claims were contradicted by water test reports presented by Syed Zain which showed clear evidence of heavy metal poisoning of Thar’s aquifers.
ADC Dr. Muhammad Nawaz Bhoot apprised the audience that he is acutely aware of the land related issues being faced by Thari people and said that land survey of Tharparkar district will resolve most deeds-related issues.
In addition, he informed that there is prior need to conduct complete survey in the district to allocate survey numbers. However, the work on survey awaits initiation due to lack of funds. He hoped that the upcoming government after 2024 General Elections will expedite the process.
Member of TCF Advocate Vasand Thari said that land records have been intentionally concealed by state officials most of whom consistently refuse to acknowledge existing land grants policies in their practices.
A stage drama was presented during the conference highlighting how the state and private companies converge to claim lands and other resources of Tharparkar to the detriment of sustainable life patterns of Tharparkar.

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