Climate Adaptation, Land Acquisition and Security: the Gendered Politics of Dispossession in Pakistan

Lead Research Organisation: Imperial College London
Department Name: Grantham Institute for Climate Change


This research will investigate the impacts of land acquisition for climate (adaptation) related mega development projects on the security of vulnerable and marginalised citizens and communities. The research will use a gender lens to uncover how citizens face differentiated experiences of dispossession and access to legal mechanisms of accountability and redress.

Two categories of land acquisition that are being developed in response to climate change will be investigated at sites across two of Pakistan's provinces: (1) rural land sold/leased to foreign investors and/or converted to Corporate Agriculture Farms (CAF); and (2) rural and urban land acquisition by local-foreign investors for the construction of climate-related mega development projects.

The primary concern is to investigate how local security and livelihoods are impacted by these processes. Secondly it focuses on how various actors/institutions use diverse transparency, accountability and litigation mechanisms.

The two provinces - Sindh and Punjab - have diverse histories of conflict, development and land use, offering important analytical and comparative avenues. The case studies reinforce the importance of the rural-urban nexus by bringing to the fore the complex interplay between international investment, governance regimes, land acquisitions, and differentiated forms of land dispossession and indigenous reactions.

Two mechanisms to be investigated are, first, the expectation that climate adaptation developers consult communities and obtain Free, Prior and Informed Consent. Secondly, the role of The Right to Information Ordinance 2013 (RTI) which, supposedly, enables ordinary citizens access to official government documents and approach a court if access is denied concerning any project, scheme or development. Previous research has highlighted that a core driver of local conflicts in Pakistan is the lack of fair legal recourse and grievance mechanisms for ordinary citizens.

This research will provide valuable data on how citizens see the state in climate-related development and if/how they can hold developers accountable. Such data will support appropriate capacity building to foster peaceful legal resolutions and mitigate for security risks of climate adaptation.

Planned Impact

The research will have impact in multiple sectors including:

1. Research and Students - the team, particularly Dr. Nausheen Anwar and Dr. Aradhana Sharma, have an excellent record of publications in top-tiered academic journals. By May 2017, the team will have compiled a list of specific journals to target and provisional timetable for producing at least 3 academic manuscripts. The team aim to have submitted all 3 manuscripts by the close of the project. We believe that by utilising, both, rigorous inter-disciplinary theoretical inquiry and participatory data, our writing will be powerful and will contribute to the development of inter-disciplinary social science.

One of the most important impacts will be on the future careers of students and researchers, especially in Pakistan. IBA is leading an agenda in high-quality social science research and training in Pakistan. Its students range from the working classes to the elite - which is very rare for a higher education in Pakistan - and so it is providing a vital interface for people from multiple social, class and ethnic groups to explore debates and learning in a safe environment. IBA has been truly pushing boundaries by delivering new courses (led by Dr. Anwar) on equality, gender, sexuality and rights in Pakistan. The students who learn about this project are set to benefit greatly, and take these dialogues and debates out into the wider communities. We have witnessed this transformative process over the last few years.

Furthermore, the rigorous training provided to the research assistants - especially in the matter of negotiating 'triple subjectivities' between themselves, the participants and us - will have positive impacts on their research capacities, career trajectories and the institutions in which they will later work. We emphasise their talents and treat them as equals. We truly see this as a huge contribution of our approach.

2. Civil society - through this project Shehri will co-construct an evidence base which they have expressed they really need. This will positively impact their future operations, provide them greater recognition and give them new opportunities to write about their work. We will co-produce a policy brief with Shehri which will support them in future engagement with the government. More broadly, this partnership and its data will be made open access and available to any other actors who are interested. A professional training course will be developed between the partner organisations to support civil society actors to engage with the Right to Information and 'Free, Prior and Informed Consent' laws. This will also be open to government.

3. Policy - the policy actors who are already engaged with the team have expressed an urgent need to understand how land acquisitions are taking place and their impacts. They are also especially interested - at least the multi- and bi-lateral donors- in the issue of gender and how to ensure access to services and the law are gender-appropriate. The data produced will powerfully demonstrate how these issues transpire. Furthermore, the workshops to explore viable policy options and resultant policy guidelines will provide practical options for government actors at local, provincial and federal levels. The donors will therefore have a better grasp of what kind of funding mechanisms are needed to support the government to deliver more equitable and gender responsive policy and law.

4. Citizens - we sincerely believe that this research will have a positive and sustainable impact on citizens lives by providing them i) an avenue for expression of their marginalisation and experiences of gender through ethnography, workshops and participatory photography, ii) data to support their claims to rights - in accessible languages and formats; iii) new linkages with civil society and state actors and iv) advocacy of their plight to government and donor actors at multiple scales from the local to the global.


10 25 50