Land Rights and the Indus Flood, 2010-2011: Rapid assessment and policy review

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The floods of 2010-2011 devastated homes, lives, and livelihoods across the country. The loss of a house or land upon which to earn a living affects people not only in the immediate aftermath of a disaster, but for months and possibly years to come. This research paper investigates how the floods have affected the poorest and most vulnerable in relation to land rights – assessing the different levels of land insecurity as well as how the government of Pakistan and the international community have addressed land rights in their responses.
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    www.oxfam.org  Land Rights and the Indus Flood, 2010-2011: Rapid Assessment and Policy Review Azmat Budhani and Haris Gazdar  June 2011   OXFAM RESEARCH REPORT     Land Rights and the Indus Flood, 2010-2011: Rapid Assessment and Policy Review, Oxfam Research Report, June 2011 2 Contents Executive Summary ........................................................................................................ 3   1. Introduction .................................................................................................................. 8   2.   Flood and vulnerability of land rights: empirical findings .......................... 9   3.   Policy responses in the context of international experience ....................... 21   4.   Conclusions .......................................................................................................... 27   Notes ................................................................................................................................ 28   References ....................................................................................................................... 29   Further reading .............................................................................................................. 29   Appendix 1: Checklist of questions included in the rapid assessment survey . 31   Appendix 2: Site selection for rapid assessment and map .................................... 34   Appendix 3: Women’s Land Distribution Programme and flood impact .......... 36   Acknowledgements ...................................................................................................... 38     Land Rights and the Indus Flood, 2010-2011: Rapid Assessment and Policy Review, Oxfam Research Report, June 2011 3 Executive Summary The Indus floods of 2010-2011 were the direct cause of over 1,700 deaths and the displacement of an estimated 18 million people across Pakistan. Official estimates of the economic costs of the damage caused by the floods range from $8.74bn to $10.85bn, which include the estimated costs, early recovery for the provision of relief, rebuilding destroyed infrastructure, and other economic losses to individuals, communities, firms, and the government. Access to land, for homesteads as well as agricultural use, is a key correlate of economic opportunity and social position in rural Pakistan. A majority of the households in the flood-affected regions of the country, however, do not own agricultural land, and by extension, enjoy diminished rights of possession over homestead land. This study addresses the following questions: How have the floods affected the security of access to agricultural, homestead, and common lands for people belonging to poor and socially-marginalized communities across the country? How have the entitlements to land rights of different classes, social groups, and genders been affected? In what way might rehabilitation policies or programmes become more sensitive to the position of people who had low, weak, and precarious land entitlements before the floods? Are there opportunities for the reversal of the long-standing structures of inequality and hierarchy in respect to access to land, as a result of new flood-related interventions? The floods impacted on different regions of the country in different ways. The initial impact of extraordinarily high rainfall was first felt in the mountainous districts, where major flash-foods and landslides led to the destruction of houses and villages, farms, orchards, and infrastructure. Second in line were the plains regions immediately downstream from the mountainous districts, where flood waters arrived quickly, and caused the highest number of deaths and injuries as people were left stranded with little advance warning. The third areas to be affected were regions in the floodplains all the way down to the Indus delta, where floods submerged of riverine zones and breached embankments and other protective structures. Large parts of these regions remained water-logged several months after the floods. Those who were displaced by the floods and lost their assets and means of livelihood consisted disproportionately of landless tenants and labourers. Regions badly affected by the floods, particularly those suffering from the second and third round of effects mentioned above, are areas where the distribution of land ownership is known to be highly unequal. The proportion of rural households who own land is low, and large holdings account for a high proportion of the total area. The regions covered in this rapid assessment include: the plains of Khyber Pakhtunkwa (KPK), southern Punjab, eastern Balochistan, and upper and lower Sindh. There were wide variations across the regions covered in economic conditions, agrarian structures, and flood impact. In eastern Balochistan and upper Sindh regions, land ownership is dominated by powerful tribal leaders. In the plains of KPK and southern Punjab, there are strong class-caste dimensions to the agrarian hierarchy. Here, historically marginalized communities such as traditional labour castes and semi-nomadic populations face particular disadvantage. In lower Sindh, caste and tribal structures are less conspicuous, even though land ownership remains concentrated in the hands of a few families.   Land Rights and the Indus Flood, 2010-2011: Rapid Assessment and Policy Review, Oxfam Research Report, June 2011 4 Three categories of land security Among those belonging to poor and marginalized communities interviewed for the rapid assessment, there were three categories of land security: 1   Smallholders.  The most secure among people living in poverty were those who happened to own some agricultural land, even if it was a small plot. In all regions, even those dominated by powerful tribal landlords, there were numerous individuals and groups from among former landless tenants and labourers who had succeeded in purchasing land. There were also smallholders who had inherited land from their parents and succeeded in retaining it. 2   Landless tenants and labourers with secured possession of their homesteads.  Less secure than smallholders were landless tenants and labourers who, through a variety of processes, had acquired some level of secure possession, at least of their homesteads. In nearly all regions and fieldwork sites covered in this report, such individuals, families and, groups were found to be vulnerable to the economic and political demands of dominant landowners. There were instances when they were able to resist these demands and times when they acquiesced. Demands included support during elections and the provision of customary unpaid service at particular times. 3   Landless tenants and labourers with no residential security.  Finally, there were individuals, families, and even entire communities, who neither owned land, nor enjoyed secure rights of possession over their homesteads. Within this latter group there were some tenants or labourers who lived on privately-owned land belonging to their landlords or employers. There was a clear understanding that their rights of residence extended only insofar as they remained in an economic relationship with their landlords or employers. There were others in this category who were socially marginalized due to their group identities or individual circumstances. These included people belonging to ethnic and religious minorities, and historically oppressed caste groups. Title, while important, is not always a guarantee of the right of ownership if, as in a number of cases, politically-powerful individuals are able to wield influence over land administration officials through bribes and patronage, or harass the owners to the point where they cede their rights. Social networks and political capital are important factors in ensuring security of ownership and possession. A family that is unsupported in the community – either because they are considered to be social outsiders, or due to conflict – may face difficulties in asserting their legal claims. The same holds true for individuals who are not able to count on the support of their immediate and extended families. There were landless tenants and labourers in all regions who were confident that their prior entitlements to land would remain secure following the floods and displacement. For some, entitlements depended on their landlord and/or employers, but these were secure because the economic relationship was expected to continue. In many cases such economic ties are highly exploitative. There were others whose entitlements were held autonomously and are not dependent on landlords or employers. The ownership of even a small plot of agricultural land signals that an individual or family enjoys some measure of political enfranchisement or social support. Smallholders interviewed were confident that their property rights would remain secure following the flood. The conditions of smallholders cultivating land in the riverbed areas of Sindh represent the most vivid cases where factors other than formal title are seen to be determinants of the security of ownership claims. Since the land was never officially surveyed, claims of ownership are premised on mutual recognition within and between communities, rather than formally-enforceable legal title. In the settled areas (outside the riverine area) where
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