Lahore School of Economics

A distinguished seat of learning, teaching and research

PRODUCTION OF NATURE

SECOND INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON ENVIRONMENT


PRODUCTION OF NATURE

15– 16 December, 2016

(Abstracts)

Keynote Address

Un-natural resources

Barbara Harriss-White


While natural resources are substances that can be exploited by society, the term un-natural resources draws attention to natural resources that are exploited – and landscapes created – through the criminal violation of laws intended to regulate the economic processes of extraction. The propositions that these crimes may be unpunished – and even incentivised – because they supply the financial preconditions for electoral democracy and because political immunity protects criminal accumulation, are explored in this paper. Four case studies: illegal coal mining and un-doused subterranean fires in Jharkhand, illegal sand-mining in Tamil Nadu and hydro-criminality in Arunachal Pradesh, India, reveal social relations of criminality in the extraction of resources for the energy and construction sectors, the relations between criminal accumulation and party political funding and behaviour. They also alter the orthodox narratives of local politics in the states studied in ways examined in the paper.

Dr. Barbara Harriss -White is Emeritus Professor of Development Studies at Oxford University and holds emeritus appointments – at Oxford, SOAS, London and JNU, India. Trained in development economics, she has researched and taught South Asian development, and political economy ever since driving from Cambridge to New Delhi in 1969 to climb in the KishtwarHimal. (Co) author and editor of 40 books and research reports, 250 papers and chapters and 80 working papers; she has advised 7 UN agencies; supervised 40 doctoral students and as many post-docs. Her research fields are agrarian transformations and the food economy; informal capitalism; the long-term study of a market town; dimensions of deprivation; the (informal) economy as a waste-producing system; energy; and aspects of policy processes in these fields.
barbara.harriss - white@area.ox.ac.uk

Seed politics: Food sovereignty, legal regimes, and farmers’ rights in Pakistan

Amna Tanweer Yazdani and Nosheen Ali

This paper analyzes the commodification of seed and delegitimization of farmers’ rights in Pakistan, focusing on the impact of recent agricultural laws that have been passed to promote plant breeders’ rights as well as GM crops. It connects the effects of this new “Gene revolution” to the previous “Green revolution”, identifying continuities as well as new trends in land, seed, and forest control under the new food regime of neoliberal enclosures. The paper highlights comparative trends from contexts such as Bolivia and Europe, where struggles for more sustainable and just seed policies are ongoing, while also offering recommendations for promoting food sovereignty in the specific context of Pakistan.

Amna Tanweer Yazdani is an anthropologist with an MSc in Social Anthropology from Oxford University and a BSc in Social Sciences from LUMS. She works as a senior social scientist at the Department of Pediatrics and Child Health at Aga Khan University Karachi and designs research geared towards investigating the social determinants of health. amna.yazdani@aku.edu

Nosheen Ali is a sociologist and founder-director of KartiDharti, a research space that promotes the study of land, culture and community in South Asia. She has a Ph.D. in Development Sociology from Cornell University, and has served as the Founding Director and Assistant Professor of Social Development and Policy at Habib University. She is the editor of the digital humanities initiative Umang Poetry, a founding member of the international network GRASP (Group for Research in the Anthropology, Sociology and Politics of Pakistan), and serves on the editorial board of SAMAJ. Her writing has been published in Third World Quarterly, Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East, Current Sociology and Himal South Asia, amongst other avenues. nosheen.ali@cornell.edu

Growing up immersed in a virtual world
Anika Khan

With growing access to cyberspace, children and adolescents are increasingly experiencing the world virtually. Simultaneously, virtual technology is becoming more immersive in both senses of the word: three dimensional and more ‘real’ but also carrying the capacity to engage our attention more than the world of flesh and bone. The growth of the internet and virtual media has been accompanied by the hype and anxieties that historically seem to surround technological developments. While virtual mediums have opened the door to knowledge and experiences that were previously inaccessible to many, they have also raised concerns about the gradual replacement of first-hand encounters with nature, sensory experiences and social interaction - for instance, experiencing a natural location through an immersive app, tending to virtual pets and virtual friendships on social media. In particular, there are grave fears about the unforeseen impact on children growing up in a virtual universe where they may be no moral boundaries and no consequences for perpetrating acts that would be immoral in the ‘real-time’ world. Cyber-bullying and witch-hunts on social media are the artefacts of our time.

Research literature emerging in the last two decades has explored different dimensions of human activity in the virtual realm. Historical research shows a fascinating symbiosis between the internet and its users who have shaped virtual media and given the internet its evolving form through the uses they put it to. However, there is still ambiguity about how virtual mediums are influencing patterns of socialization and morality, particularly in the generation that is now passing through adolescence and which has never experienced a world without the internet.

Research conducted so far presents divergent accounts of virtual human engagement. Some studies indicate that while young people spend increasing time socializing online and ‘friending’ others, they are paradoxically at risk of becoming more isolated as they interact in loosely connected groups in which participation is temporary. A number of papers have addressed the nature of virtual friendship and questioned whether it can have the same depth and meaning as the ties of friendship that bind us in physical life.

Other studies, some conducted very recently, show a different picture: they posit that virtual mediums are frequently used for augmenting existing relationships, maintaining contact with acquaintances and staying abreast of news and events within families and communities. Contrary to the dystopian bent of some literature, the bulk of emerging research indicates that adolescents use virtual mediums for the same activities they have engaged in over millennia: playing games, exploring the world, creating identity, ‘hanging out’ in public places with other young people and creating private spaces, away from parental supervision. The majority of these studies conclude that virtual technology is just one more technology that humans will incorporate into their lives and take in their stride.

Through a review of scholarly work this paper discusses whether human interaction with ‘natural’ and virtually constructed worlds is qualitatively – and morally - different. To augment an understanding of the topic, the paper also explores informal conversations piloted with two focus groups: adolescents who use gaming forums or social media and parents of adolescents.

The themes emerging from the group discussions tend to corroborate recent research: adolescents see the online world not in contradistinction to the ‘real’ world but as a part of the same reality, in which they can express certain aspects of their identity. Nonetheless, the author concludes that while the turn-of- the-century moral panic engendered by virtual technology may be subsiding, the coming decades will show us the subtle ways in which technology has changed us, as surely as we are changing technology.

Anika Khan is faculty at the Centre of Biomedical Ethics and Culture (CBEC), an academic arm of the Sindh Institute of Urology and Transplantation (SIUT), Karachi. CBEC is at present the only centre in Pakistan dedicated to ethics-related education and research. At CBEC, Ms. Khan participates in academic and research activities as well as public outreach events. In the two formal academic programmes run by CBEC – the Master in Bioethics and the Postgraduate Diploma in Biomedical Ethics – Ms. Khan takes sessions related to humanities. She is a member of the ethics review committees of SIUT and Ziauddin University Hospital, Karachi. anikatahir@gmail.com

Order and disorder in uncontrolled urban waste in India

Barbara Harriss-White

All human activity – in production, distribution, consumption, the production of labour and the reproduction of society – generates waste. This paper will reflect on the rift between waste and nature and on the epistemological and discursive incoherence of the social conceptions of waste through which this rift is experienced and understood. The case of a small town, where waste is growing uncontrollably, is introduced. Three aspects or consequences of the lack of coherent social control are compared and contrasted (order and disorder; waste as a ‘problem’; and the question what is to be done?) from the positions of workers in the waste economy and of local government officials formally responsible for waste management – all interviewed first-hand by the writer. Class-specific understandings are shown to be the problem not the solution, while the consequences and limitations of the prevailing ‘problem-solution’ mind-set itself are clarified.

Dr. Barbara Harriss-White is Emeritus Professor of Development Studies at Oxford University and holds emeritus appointments – at Oxford, SOAS, London and JNU, India. Trained in development economics, she has researched and taught South Asian development, and political economy ever since driving from Cambridge to New Delhi in 1969 to climb in the KishtwarHimal. (Co) author and editor of 40 books and research reports, 250 papers and chapters and 80 working papers; she has advised 7 UN agencies; supervised 40 doctoral students and as many post-docs. Her research fields are agrarian transformations and the food economy; informal capitalism; the long-term study of a market town; dimensions of deprivation; the (informal) economy as a waste-producing system; energy; and aspects of policy processes in these fields. barbara.harriss-white@area.ox.ac.uk

Can money compensate? Stories from a suburban frontier

Huda Javaid and Rabia Nadir

Suburban sprawl is fervently denigrated in urban planning and environment discourse yet it is relentless especially in the cities of the south. The loss of valuable agricultural land and ecological cost of segregated, high consumption lifestyle of the new gated suburbs is standard fare but the social ecology of the villages, they displace is seldom recorded. This paper is a case study of the ongoing leapfrog mega suburban development in southeast of Lahore. The villages present different stages in the process of change in their respective communities as they apprehend, negotiate, wait to migrate, migrate or are surrounded by the new upper class suburbs. The acquisition of land for development has brought monetary gains for small farmers and even owners of rural homes without any agricultural land to sell. Such monetary gains were unimaginable prior to this development.

In the South Asian context, this greenfield suburbanization has been researched and theorized broadly as a process of ‘accumulation by dispossession’ under conditions of globalized capitalist expansion (Guha 2009, Sarkar 2016, Levien 2016, Kennedy and Sood 2016). This paper is more narrowly focused on the relatively unexamined role of cash compensation in transforming the socio-ecological environment.The villages examined offer a sampling of stages of dislocation and settlement offered in the context of suburban development in southeast Lahore.Need for cash had been steadily growing in the villages with use of inputs for industrial farming and taste for urban lifestyles. However, life was defined by a rural culture based on clan relationships and access to commons and not a cash nexus.

Research consisted of a series of site visits and semi-structured interviews conducted in villages and the new settlement areas between 2014–2016. Satellite imagery of villages was also acquired to study spatial change since 2002.Emergent from their stories is the less known narrative of accumulating social distress and the vast destruction of productive land. Business in land, property dealing has emerged as a major livelihood option among the villagers. There is also a vast mining of topsoil as earth filling for the new raised roads for the suburbs spreading the loss of agricultural land farther into the landscape and pulling the villagers into a commerce in land.

Most strikingly the largely illiterate villagers love for historicity and community emerges almost as a revelation and forms the backdrop for the moral economy of the peasantry which they had enjoyed over generations.

Huda Javaid has completed her MPhil in Environmental Science and Policy from Lahore School of Economics. Her thesis was on the Environmental Impact Assessment of a rapidly expanding elite housing colony being developed by removal of villages east of Lahore. As her thesis was structured within the narrow confines of the EIA format it only obliquely touched the enormous social outcomes of the project. However, what she witnessed in the villages and heard in the narratives of thousands who were physically displaced drew her to delve more deeply into further research. hudajavaid89@gmail.com

Rabia Nadir is Assistant Professor at the Centre for Media Studies with concurrent appointment at the Department of Environmental Science and Policy. Her research interests include urbanization and study of social change. She has recently completed studies of ethnicity and social change in Walled City Lahore followed by one on Bhera. Her ongoing research includes land transformation in Burki – Bedian area of Lahore and on representations of nature in literature. rabianadir@gmail.com

Songs of production and exchange: Reading the ‘Production of Nature’ in the poetry of Guru Nanak

Huma Safdar and Rabia Nadir

The poetry of Guru Nanak (1469-1539) forms a large part of Guru Granth Sahib, central scripture of the Sikh religion and a seminal text of philosophical, historical and literary import in the Punjabi language tradition. This paper turns to this heritage to read the concept of nature and bring it in conversation with contemporary discourse of ‘production of nature’.

‘Qudrat’ variously translated as creation, nature or power is the subject of many shabads (sacred songs) of Guru Nanak. Nature is described here as an uninterrupted process and creative power. Nature encompasses the whole universe and how it is experienced, understood and imagined. It is not an abstract or fixed entity but a constantly changing reality navigated and shaped by real actors in historical social settings. Images of production, exchange and social life pervade the verse of Guru Nanak as he explicates the nature of saram (labour), sach (truth), Kar (action), taksaal (mint) in an uneven social world.

Intellectual labour, contemplation and transfer of knowledge as social and ethical practice is another significant theme of this poetry. The lead author draws on her own experience of teaching and theatre to make a case for the immense value of Guru Nanak’s poetry, a veritable living capital for critical pedagogy and theatre for social change.

Huma Safdar teaches art at Lahore Grammar School, she is a practicing artist, published poet,critic,theatre performer and director.  humaa.safdar@gmail.com

Rabia Nadir is Assistant Professor at the Centre for Media Studies with concurrent appointment at the Department of Environmental Science and Policy. Her research interests include urbanization and study of social change. She has recently completed studies of ethnicity and social change in Walled City Lahore followed by one on Bhera. Her ongoing research includes land transformation in Burki – Bedian area of Lahore and on representations of nature in literature. rabianadir@gmail.com

Depositing at the doomsday vault: India’s first deposit to the Svalbard Global Seed Vault

Iris Yellum

Can biological heritage be archived? Why would it need to be preserved in seed form rather than grown in situ? India deposited seeds to the Norwegian Svalbard Global Seed Vault for the first time in April 2014. The Svalbard Global Seed Vault is intended to catalog crop diversity, and is often termed the “Doomsday” vault by the media in an attempt to reflect its creation as a backup for environmental disasters. It has been accepting deposits since 2008. Overseen by an official delegation from India, Cajanuscajan, or the pigeon pea, was distinguished as the first specimen to be deposited by India to the collection, which is located in permafrost above the Arctic Circle. This paper examines the archiving of biological heritage as a global environmental history, one ranging across time and place, and with precedents from colonial botanical gardens to libraries. In this history I find ties to universal knowledge, colonial history, industrial agriculture, and biopiracy.

By creating and contributing to seed vaults, nations self-consciously show food security to be part of national security goals. Yet, seed collections and their specimens can be fragile and subject to the whims of changing political regimes and the global order. A history spanning time and place, India’s seed deposit is a transnational story. Utilizing contemporary newspaper articles, seed vault websites, and historical sources, I trace the long-term background to India’s deposit with scientific histories of botanical collections and notions of universal knowledge. Finally, I consider precedents in India’s past that inform present-day notions of environmental peril as it relates to food security.

While the organization of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault (its organization, mission, and donor base, for example) is indebted deeply to the past, it also indexes fears about the future. In India’s history in particular, food security has been a major source of anxiety for governments, colonial and postcolonial. This seed deposit by India is a demonstration of agricultural planning, but with an ex situ approach to preserving diversity.

The vault is predicated on a global context of genetic diversity, but it is divided into separate deposits by nation-states. But if the vault is in preparation for a “doomsday,” what is the appeal of nationally organized deposits? According to The Crop Trust (the organization that leads the vault, based in Germany), the vault “… is a fail-safe seed storage facility, built to stand the test of time – and the challenge of natural or man-made disasters. The Seed Vault represents the world’s largest collection of crop diversity.” Though the vault’s website and The Crop Trust’s website presents the vault as practically an impermeable fortress, it has its own unique vulnerabilities.

Two discourses emerge from The Crop Trust’s website, the vault’s own website, and newspaper articles: the first, that the vault is a secure stronghold striving for the preservation of crop diversity, and second, that despite certain technological advantages the vault remains vulnerable and disconnected from real world issues. Ultimately, my goal is to explore the meaning of India’s seed deposit in the context of colonial histories, industrial agriculture of the twentieth century, and emerging ideas about environmental security.

Iris Yellum is a PhD student in South Asian Studies at Harvard University. Her research interests include social anthropology, and agricultural history and knowledge in India in the 20th century. Iris studies Hindi, Urdu, and Tamil, and has recently started research in Madurai, Tamil Nadu. She has been awarded Critical Language Scholarships in Hindi and Urdu, and has studied Urdu in Lucknow at the American Institute of Indian Studies.  

Organic, natural, local – Hybrid practices, lively soils and conscious consumption of organic agriculture in Pakistan

Julia Poetring

Developments in agricultural science have, and continue to do so, contributed to significant transformations of social, economic and ecological nature. The introduction of chemical fertilizer in the 19th century, the green revolution in Asia, Africa and South America from the 1950ies onwards and the recent expansion of GMOs worldwide have not only changed agrarian practices, but also affected human health, national politics, global economies and local environments. Proponents of organic agriculture have taken advantage of the detrimental effects of the green revolution on farmers, soils and landscapes as well as the current concerns over GMOs and their suspected impact on biodiversity, health and livelihoods. Fears over a gloomy environmental future have moved farmers to adapt so-called environment-friendly and sustainable organic farming practices and consumers to buy local or certified organic products that guarantee a certain process quality. Organic standards and labels were introduced in the 1970ies as a result of a movement against industrialized chemical agriculture in California and the almost simultaneous foundation of the now most influential international institution in organic agriculture, the International Federation for Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM), in France.

Organic agriculture’s history not only reads as a history of opposition against conventional agriculture but also as a history of hybridity. Early proponents of organic agriculture, like Albert Howard, a mycologist by training, formulated their theories based on studies conducted in Asia and Europe. “Hybridity” therefore not only points at the variety of practices subsumed under organic agriculture but also at the postcolonial mix of so-called scientific and indigenous knowledges.

This paper examines organic agriculture as it is practiced as an alternative agriculture in Pakistan. Just like in many other South Asian countries, rural Pakistan experiences multifold socio-ecological agrarian crises. Many of the solutions proposed by agricultural universities, national research institutions and NGOs are of technoscientific nature. However, some solutions, dismissed by many for their seeming unproductivity, are based on agroecological practices, among them organic agriculture. While some farmers and scientists highlight organic agriculture’s holistic approach to soil fertility in particular and agrarian landscapes in general, entrepreneurs and NGOs foreground the economic benefits of organic value chains and urban consumers put emphasis on the reduced distance between them and their farmers. Accordingly, variegated associations with and understandings of organic agriculture exist. Concomitant with these different associations are dissimilar conceptualizations of nature and environment. Different ontologies of nature and the environment do not only pose theoretical challenges, but also translate into distinct practices of farming and consumption.

I therefore ask two questions: How do different conceptualizations of nature translate into different practices in Pakistani fields? And, how does organic agriculture become an alternative agriculture? The answer to the first question draws – theoretically – from both political ecology and (feminist) science studies. By zooming in to soil microorganisms, I show how a soil scientist translates his understanding of organic agriculture as a holistic approach towards soil fertility into practices and technologies (nutrient management, restoration of organic matter, evolvement of plants). In this context I look at different temporalities of soil care that can involve, besides human temporalities, multispecies temporalities. Zooming out again, I analyze how an understanding of nature as external to society, here exemplified by the reduction of living soils to ‘land’ as practiced by entrepreneurs, can be understood as “violent abstractions” (Moore 2015). The discussion of the second question then presents different ways of how organic agriculture becomes an alternative agriculture in Pakistan; (1) a scientifically legitimized alternative for the environment, (2) a sustainable alternative for the economy and (3) a local alternative for moral food consumption.


Julia Poerting studied geography and political science at Heidelberg University and Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. Her master thesis focused on the recent conflict in the Swat valley in Northern Pakistan with a focus on socio-agrarian change, vulnerability and land tenure systems. Her PhD Project “Certifying Futures? Knowledge, Practices and Governance of Organic Agriculture in Pakistan”; examines how organic agriculture becomes an alternative agriculture in different ways in Pakistan. Her work is based on multi-sited ethnographic fieldwork in North and Central Pakistan. The theoretical basis of her research draws from Political Ecology, Agrofood Studies as well as Science and Technology Studies. julia.poerting@asia-europe.uni- heidelberg.de

Desiring the data state in the Indus Basin

Majed Akhter

The distribution of water between co-riparian regions in the Indus Basin has been an extremely contentious issue since at least the early 20th century. The veracity of water measurements, in particular, has caused much controversy at multiple scales. This hydropolitical tension has catalyzed a key social group - the hydraulic bureaucracy or “hydrocracy” - to enact strategies of depoliticization. These strategies aim to suppress political contest by calling on external expertise and/or technology to assure the objectivity of water measurement data. This paper draws on archival data and interviews with water engineers to argue that technocrat-led depoliticization operates in distinct but related ways across different scales. Further, I argue that to analyze the technocratic desire for a data state - a state that governs primarily or exclusively by number and calculation - a multi-scalar theoretical framework that connects the politics of technocracy, territory, and nationalism is needed. The paper develops such a framework by situating hydrocrats and their strategies in the broader context of state formation. This framework is offered as a way for critical scholars of resources, development, and expertise to engage with depoliticization and repoliticization of resource governance as complex geographic processes.

Majed Akhter is Assistant Professor of Geography at Indiana University - Bloomington. His research interests include the politics of water development, drone war and imperialism, infrastructures and regionalism, Marxist geographical theory, and the political and historical geography of Pakistan and South Asia. His research has appeared in journals such as Antipode, Political Geography, and Critical Asian Studies. His next research project will examine how the export of Chinese infrastructural capital is shaping processes of uneven development, region-making, and state-formation in Pakistan and Indonesia. maakhter@indiana.edu

Commodifying nature and marginalising ecosystems

Mayanglambam Ojit Kumar Singh

It really is not an easy task to see in the real sense of the word what commodity stands today and the chains of activities associated with it. An attempt is being made through this study not only to analyse the social and ecological and cultural consequences of the mass consumption age as far as the local products (especially food) are concerned but also to understand the real things in a fair and equitable manner. Local or traditional foods have links with the historical livelihoods and cultural meanings. It enfranchises and empowers local populations. Local foods have significance in the daily and seasonal activities, employment, and community understanding and biocultural adaptation. In the Northeast India (North Eastern States of India) the traditional knowledge of insect bioresource utilization plays a vital role. Being situated in the biodiversity hotspot region varieties of insects found here are many and endemic. Many ethnic groups utilize many different insect species as food (entomophagy) medicine, edible oil, cultural and aesthetic and ornamental categories. Due to commodification of the edible insects, opening of markets, increase consumption of the edible insects by the urbans tremendous pressures on the insect species and their habitats are happening. And at the same time there are evidences of the supply of the edible insects from other markets to local markets to supply the increasing demands. The present study is situated in the state of Manipur, India. The study sites show the presence of edible insect markets supplied by the locals as well as by the other markets. The study traces some of the chains and the actors of the commodification of the edible insects besides documenting the insect diversity. Has nature or the natural environment become an emporium or commercial warehouses or shopping centres? The networkings of the different organisms, symbiotic relationships among many plants and insects may be endangered or broken due to excessive collection and harvesting by the locals for the commercially viable demands. Understanding the embedded relationships and interactions shall be necessary for the safer future. It is the interaction not combat that sustains diversity and a secured future.

Mayanglambam Ojit Kumar Singh is Associate Professor of Zoology at Ramjas College, University of Delhi and Research Fellow at the School of Human Ecology, Ambedkar University Delhi. In 2015 He was awarded the National Honour in the memory of scientist ShambhuNath De for popularization of Science among children. His area of interest is Biodiversity, Biocultural adaptation and Conservation of resources. ojit102005@yahoo.co.in, moksingh.13@stu.aud.ac.in


Changing ‘assemblages’ of irrigation agriculture in the high mountains of Gilgit-Baltistan
Michael Spies

Theories of agricultural change often fail to grasp the complexity of farming dynamics by narrowly postulating a dominant driver of change (e.g. population growth or externally-induced innovations). In a similar manner, debates about environmental or climate change often tend to follow a reductionist perspective on agricultural systems by elevating climate (or the ‘natural’ environment) to the prime determinant of (future) change. This paper follows a different perspective. In a case study on high mountain irrigation agriculture in Nagar District, Gilgit-Baltistan, I draw on ideas from assemblage and actor-network theories to apply a more balanced analytical framework on agricultural change. Irrigation agriculture is conceptualized as a complex and dynamic ‘assemblage’ of diverse social and natural, material and immaterial, small-scale and large-scale, and local and external components. These heterogeneous actors and elements – or ‘actants’ – actively engage with each other, while none of them fully determines another: all kinds of actants can be considered as equally valid ‘drivers’ of agricultural change.

Based on this conceptual framework, the paper describes how in recent decades, irrigation agriculture in this high mountain environment has transformed from an already sophisticated endeavour of subsistence farming to an increasingly complex socio-natural assemblage that involves a variety of new local and external actants. In the arid to semi-arid environment of the populated valleys, crop production relies on the utilization of glacier melt water through channel networks that have evolved over centuries. Until the 1980s, farming was mainly subsistence-oriented and modern technologies were largely absent, with dominant crops being wheat, barley, millets, buckwheat, maize, alfalfa, and apricots. Over the last three decades, new technologies have been adopted, traditional crops have been replaced by potatoes and other cash crops, and agriculture has lost significant importance in the diversified livelihoods of the village population. At the same time, local changes in the physical environment have partially altered the usage of land and water resources. The village of Minapin is selected as an exemplary case for the changes that occurred in this region. While describing the main changes in local irrigation agriculture since the 1980s, the paper draws attention to the active roles of various human and nonhuman actants. Rather than postulating any ‘underlying’ driver of change, the paper identifies roughly four different groups of actants that have played major roles: (1) Starting in the 1980s, the Aga Khan Rural Support Programme and local activists have successfully introduced new crop varieties, and triggered various changes in local practices and technologies. (2) In particular since the 1990s, agricultural markets in ‘down country’ Pakistan, as well as individual traders and trading companies have played a central role in the increased commercialization of local crop production. (3) As an ongoing process since the 1970s, new ideas, education and off-farm income opportunities have altered agricultural practices, among others due to an increased lack of workforce. (4) Infrastructure and the physical environment have played major roles as well: the above-mentioned developments would have turned out very different without the construction of the Karakoram Highway and new link roads since the 1970s. Furthermore, glacier changes and related adaptations of irrigation channels have led to considerable changes in the natural resource base of local agriculture, particularly in Minapin.

The paper concludes that only when the various roles of these heterogeneous actants are properly mapped out, conclusions about the relevance of broader socio-natural processes such as economic development, social change, and environmental or climate change can be drawn. It calls for for more inductive research approaches to agricultural change, where conclusions about ‘underlying’ drivers should only be drawn on the basis of sound empirical investigations.

Michael Spies is a research associate and Ph.D. student at the Centre for Development Studies, Institute for Geographical Sciences, FreieUniversität Berlin. His Ph.D. thesis (in preparation) focuses on transformations of high mountain agriculture in Nagar District, Gilgit-Baltistan, in the context of socioeconomic and climate change. He previously worked at Potsdam-Institute for Climate Impact Research (Potsdam, Germany) in a science and policy project on adaptation to climate change in cities of India and the Philippines. His further research interests include theories of the relations between humans and their biophysical environment, and climate change discourses in science and policy. michael.spies@fu-berlin.de

Production of disastrous geographies in the Brahmaputra Valley (Assam), India

Mitul Baruah

This paper critically examines the political ecological processes of the production of disastrous geographies in the Brahmaputra Valley, Assam. The twin processes of flooding and riverbank erosion have always been part of the Brahmaputra valley landscape; they have defined the valley over the long haul of history. People have been living in the valley for centuries, practicing a wide range of livelihoods, keeping in mind the specific biophysical characteristics of the valley.

Agriculture, for instance, has been traditionally flood-dependent. Similarly, fishery-based livelihoods, pottery, and livestock-rearing, among others, have co-existed for years with the processes of flooding and erosion. However, the hydrological cycle in the valley has drastically changed since the colonial period, especially with the construction of large hydraulic infrastructures, ostensibly aimed at flood and erosion control. Processes that were part of the natural landscape came to be considered as calamities that have to be “controlled” through embankments, spurs, dams, and other such infrastructures. The postcolonial Indian state has not only continued this colonial legacy but far accelerated the process of infrastructure building. This has resulted in disastrous flooding, shrinking of the valley geographies due to erosion, large- scale displacement of the local population, and an overall breakdown of the agrarian economy in the valley.

This paper draws on ethnographic fieldwork conducted over a period of sixteen months in different parts of the Brahmaputra valley, with a specific focus on Majuli river island, located in the middle of the Brahmaputra river. Through a mix of semi-structured interviews, focus groups, participant observation, household survey, and analysis of government documents, I present an in-depth analysis of the socio-ecological transformations that the valley has gone through over the years. The central argument that I make in this paper is that the role of the Indian state (both the colonial and the postcolonial states) is fundamental in the (re)production of disastrous geographies in the Brahmaputra valley. In examining the question of the state, I have drawn on both Marxist and postcolonial scholarship on state. I demonstrate that the Indian state’s obsession with large hydraulic infrastructures is driven primarily by the objective of accumulation of capital. This has been a colonial legacy, and it has gained far more salience today with the increased neoliberalization of the Indian state. At the same time, however, my paper pays careful attention to the historical-geographical specificities of the postcolonial state. Hence, by looking into questions of the ‘shadow state’, the (arbitrary) role of the bureaucracy, and corruption, among others, I have tried to present a nuanced analysis of the role of the state vis-à-vis the Brahmaputra valley hazardscape.

This paper has the potential to advance scholarship in two broad areas. First, it can contribute to state theorizations, especially the scholarship on the postcolonial state. The paper promises a novel understanding of the state by combining Marxist and postcolonial perspectives. Second, it will potentially inform political ecological scholarship in hazards research.

Mitul Baruah is Assistant Professor of Sociology and Anthropology at Ashoka University. His broad area of interest is nature-society relations, with specific focus on political ecology, land and water governance, the state, social movements, hazards and vulnerability. He obtained a Ph.D. in Geography from Syracuse University in 2016. Prior to this he had studied at the University of Delhi, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai, and the State University of New York and College of Environmental Science and Forestry at Syracuse. He has worked extensively with NGOs in the field of environment and development in India. mitulbaruah@gmail.com

Nature as source of creative arts and social science for transformation of society

Mohammad Rafiq Khan

The debate on relationship between nature, literature and society has continued in the history of mankind over the centuries. The major players have been the poets, artists, prose writers, political philosophers and so on. The objective of the study reported in this article is to discuss on this important issue to see to which direction it leads humanity in the current scenario. The spectrum of documentation being very large, a few representative joints were revisited and reviewed. We choseAllama Iqbal, Josh MaleehAbadi and Faiz Ahmad Faizamong Urdu poets from Pakistan, RobindarNath Tagore from India,Wordsworth and Coleridge from England, and Robert Frost from America. The Urdu fiction writers such as Manto, Intizar Hussain and Qura-tul-Ain Haider were also included, and among political philosophers Hobbs, Locke, Rousseau, Hegel and Marx.

Their work shows, it was the interaction between nature and man which produces food for human thought whose intake ultimately translates into production of different forms of literature. that interpret life as a dynamic phenomenon and playing a big role in transformation of society. The study shows such concepts as “Appropriate Technology” and “Sustainable Development” being preached for the survival of ailing and oppressed humanity in current era are not new but have been extensively highlighted by creative writers throughout history. The terminology may be new but the concepts are not. The great lovers and writers of nature have ever condemned the misuse of natural resources to satisfy greed or dominate over others. They strongly favoured an end to exploitation of nature to secure a sustainable future environment for a free and prosperous life.


Dr. Mohammad Rafiq Khan is Professor of Environmental Science and Policy at the Lahore School of Economics. He did his PhD from Strathclyde University Glasgow in 1973 and a Post-Doctoral at the David Livingstone Institute of Overseas Development Studies, Strathclyde University with its “Appropriate Technology Group”. Since 2004, he is involved in research on energy, environment and Pakistan’s economy. He has published extensively and has authored many books. He is also recognized poet and writer in Urdu. drrafiq@lahoreschool.edu.pk

Disaster and help in Balakot: A case of compressed social change

Munir Ghazanfar, Rabia Nadir, Fizza Batool Bukhari and Ayesha Ijaz Cheema

The small town of Balakot is known for the 2005 earthquake disaster. The fault line long which the earth jolted passed right through it. No wonder maximum damage was done in Balakot where some 80% buildings collapsed causing some 25000 deaths in the larger Balakot Tehsil.

Socially, too, the earthquake was no less cataclysmic. Trends of social change in place before the earthquake remained the same but a 50 year time span was compressed in less than 10 years. The international ‘AID’ that followed introduced cash and market. These two along with the physical displacement caused by the earthquake destroyed the community.

The introduction of cash and market induced a change in the mode of production. People moved away from agriculture and home based crafts like making of sheep wool blankets, leather shoes etc. At least half of Balakot’s milk requirement was met by the local livestock in the past. Now it is mostly met by packed milk from the market. Once a family is deprived of livelihood and community, education and migration are left the only hopes of a distant future.

Cash and market also introduced quantification and a race for status. There is no quantification in subsistence and community. Once cash is accepted as a measure other factors making life are relegated to the background and become less and less important. Monetization has promoted greed and individualism creating inequality and breaking down the barriers of tradition and community.

Cash compensation for destroyed homes in many cases was used to buy a visa to the Middle East. Interestingly joint family makes emigration possible but is weakened in the process.

Balakot is additionally characterized by uncertainty because a large part has been declared a “red zone” in terms of seismic risk and thus unfit for habitation. Out of the international loans that Pakistan contracted people were promised housing at a nearby safe place. Ten years in the making even the infrastructural development has not been half completed and acquisition of land itself has become disputed. Meanwhile the rich have provided for themselves, many migrating to Mansehra and Abbottabad but the majority poor are still waiting while they have long spent whatever little compensation they were paid in lieu of their destroyed homes. People are unsure where they are ultimately going to live and do. More than 50% continue to live in hazard prone climatically unsuitable shelters.

Balakot’s economy in the past was underwritten by small scale agriculture, a small market town and transit tourism. Balakot had also supported a pastoral economy whereby people from Balakot’s surrounding villages moved with community herds to Upper Kaghan’s grassy pastures (mahlis) in summer. Balakot thus had a share in the pastoral, seasonal and tourist economy of the snowbound Upper Kaghan Valley. Many small entrepreneurs from Balakot set up seasonal or semi-permanent hotels in Kaghan Valley, others took herds for grazing on the lush green mahlis of Upper Kaghan. Many others were engaged in transporting tourists, materials, shepherds to and fro from Balakot. Balakot had many workshops and base for four wheel drive jeeps and other vehicles. The small stone-walled canvass topped hotel spaces at Burawai, Besal and Githridasin Upper Kaghan once owned by worker entrepreneurs have given way to modern glass and concrete structures electrified, heated and flush based where living has been gentrified and rents shot up while both water and soil stand polluted and waste management has become a major issue. The old hotel spaces were mixed where the rich and the poor, the foreign and the local shared the same spaces and dishes. Now it is all segregated.

Small scale agriculture, pastoralism and crafts have all suffered because of the cash injection that came as ‘help’. Transit tourism has suffered because of the construction of Balakot_Chilas highway, a development project, which has drastically reduced time to destinations in Kaghan and permited use of personal cars by tourists. It has facilitated the tourists but marginalized the role of local facilitators.
Balakot’s economy today has become more dependent on remittances and less on local production. The economy might have grown in economic sense but the society has been desertified.

The death and destruction caused by the earthquake and the prolonged uncertainty has created a community scarred by tragedy. Even years after the event a palpable sense of tragedy masks life in the poor households. It has only deepened by the loss of homes, sustainable livelihood, malnutrition, poverty, a belief in the failure of the state and loss of hope during a downward trajectory.

Dr. Munir Ghazanfar is Professor of Environmental Studies at the Department of Environmental Science and Policy at the Lahore School of Economics. His research interest include urbanization, water and ecology. Along with Dr. Muneer Ahmad he edits Lahore Journal of Policy Studies.

Rabia Nadir is Assistant Professor at the Centre for Media Studies with concurrent appointment at the Department of Environmental Science and Policy. Her research interests include urbanization and study of social change. She has recently completed studies of ethnicity and social change in Walled City Lahore followed by one on Bhera. Her ongoing research includes land transformation in Burki – Bedian area of Lahore and on representations of nature in literature. rabianadir@gmail.com

Fizza Batool is a Teaching and Research Fellow at the Lahore School of Economics. Her research interests include the study of urban environments and education. She continues to research various small towns of Punjab as well as school education in Lahore. She is an Assistant Editor of the Lahore Journal of Policy Studies. fizzab@lahoreschool.edu.pk

Ayesha Ijaz Cheema is a Teaching and Research Fellow at the Lahore School of Economics. Her research interests include water treatment and , occupational health and safety. 

The ‘ecology-building technology’ correlation and the impact of timber siphoning on vernacular architecture in Chitral

Rabia Ezdi

The Chitral region is characterised by a cold composite climate and falls in Pakistan’s seismic zone-4, denoting high magnitude tectonic activity. The October 23rd 2015 Hindu-Kush earthquake, in which the Chitral region was only 67 km from the epicentre, left in its wake a substantial number of casualties and damages to structures and homes. With reference to the ‘appropriateness’ of construction technologies, inquiries into the destruction caused by the earthquake shows that indigenous architectural knowledge passed down through the centuries often surpasses contemporary research and alternatives. However, a survey of the seismic resilience of structures in the Chitral region in April 2016, showed that much of the vernacular wisdom in this region is in the process of being lost. Further, while vernacular construction practises typically fulfilled three essential conditions- energy efficient design in a climate dominated by a harsh winter, resilience to earthquakes, and affordability by the community, broadly practised modern construction technologies today meet at most one or two of these necessary requisites.

The traditional ‘bhattar’ confined structure, where an inter-locked series of timber beams brace together the building, and are in-filled with stone, is now becoming redundant due to reduced access to local diyar wood. This construction technology was appropriate to the Chitral region, where the timber frame provided both flexibility and strength to the structure in the instance of seismic activity. Here, an essential question must be asked: what are the causes behind this decrease in access to diyar for the local populace of main Chitral? The general perception is that due to widespread deforestation, the availability of diyar in main Chitral has been curtailed, both by government policy and by default. In contrast, Chitral’sBumboret region lying at an altitude 3,600 feet is still rich in diyar forests and local availability, and here building damages due to the same earthquake were few, as vernacular construction methods are still able to follow the traditional bhattar or confined timber-frame method. While this premise holds, this research argues that the restricted access of diyar for the local population is not due to its deforestation alone, but due to its siphoning by the timber-mafia to commercial markets down-country.

This paper explores the above scenario in the form of a case study, with the premise that vernacular construction practises are deeply tied to the conservation of local ecologies as well as to the political economy of the timber market.The crux of the argument is that the availability of local resources such as diyar to indigenous populations,arises not merely from reduced availability of the wood, but from its reduced access. Being a high-end,high-demand consumer product in the construction industry country-wide, its access to local populations in Chitral is restricted. Further, the paper argues that appropriate building technologies that lie within the three-pronged requisite of seismic resilience, energy efficient design for the thermal comfort of occupants, and affordability for the local populace, stand to be re-evaluated and re-developed. Also local access to appropriate and affordable building materials must be secured for the welfare of the Chitral populace. This is particularly necessary as the aim must be to reduce damages to lives and property during high-magnitude earthquakes in the region, while safeguarding the wide-ranging well-being of local communities.

Rabia Ezdi is Associate Professor at the Department of Architecture, National College of Arts, Lahore. She is an independent researcher with a focus on cities and equitable development, and also contributes to the print media.raezdi@gmail.com


Understanding Waste in a Colonial Paradigm: Questions of Modernity and Waste Disposal in North India

Rajni Chandiwal

Questions around waste are deeply embedded in the realm of historical transformations that come with modernity.These transformations have not only changed the very definition of waste but also drastically changed the way it was understood and managed. It suddenly turned into a pathogenic and disease infesting thing that had to be pushed outside the boundaries of the living places. Waste not only became an imminent danger to health but also posed a challenge to the status quo. It remained a constant problem for the colonial government as they could not find a proper solution to get rid of it. As the population in the cities increased, the older ways kept becoming redundant. It is not surprising that, this problem continues even today. While waste challenges the very idea of a city- clean, ordered and a well governed space, it remains in its dirty, uncontrolled, ever-increasing form.

This paper deals with the historical journey of waste. It argues that waste per se becomes a problem with the coming of modernity, a system that had no place for waste or rather a place always outside the system, a system that did not care about what was left behind but worried with how more and more could be produced and sold. It also tries to show that this transformation from waste being part of the system to it becoming a thing of outside.

This paper, by looking at a particular case of colonial Uttar Pradesh, attempts to understand the larger issues related to waste. By using archival sources, from the late nineteenth century to the second half of the twentieth century, it would also try to show that issues around waste in present go back to the new definitions of waste that emerged with the new scientific ideas during this period. At the same time, it became a prism that reflected the power dynamics and biases in the society. Not just in its materiality but also as social and cultural marker, waste continues to challenge the dominant system.

Rajni Chandiwal is Assistant Professor at the University of Delhi. She has just completed her Ph.D from the Center for Historical Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi in 2016. Her Ph.D work looks into the questions of dirt and cleanliness and how they have historically transformed with the coming of colonialism or modernity. She covers almost a hundred years (1850s-1940s) to analyse this transformation through various kinds of primary sources including archival research. In her work she traces the transformation in the sensibilities of hygiene and dirt through various tropes such as landscape, architecture, municipal policies and public debate.rajnidu@gmail.com

Contemporary constructed environmental narrative in Pakistan

Rao Nadeem and Syed Mahmood Nasir

There is a prevalent compartmentalization of knowledge in Pakistan, these rigid invisible lines between the social and natural sciences are caveats for scholars not to dare cross the boundaries set by the disciplines. The nuances on the question of “realism” versus “constructionism” are the missing links that jeopardize scientific advancement. Forestry and its subsidiary, the discipline of range science, are applied sciences that build on the basic research and accepted norms in the biological sciences. In this paper an analysis of the historical construction of the concept of ‘ecology’ that forms the basis of modern biological and environmental sciences, is undertaken. However, as the concept developed, so was the belief amongst natural scientists, that it is a reality, not a ‘construct’.

In Pakistan we applied this concept in our practices for managing large ecosystems and the term perfected by E. Odum in the 1950’s still prevails notwithstanding the many refinements and developments that keep on adding to existing knowledge that revolves around this concept of “ecology”.

Ian Scoones and other authors in the discipline of ‘production of nature’ have been able to stress that ‘ecology’ is a construct than a reality. Others have also shown that correlated and other contemporary manifestations of ecology are also leading to creation of unpredictable effects that can be analyzed and termed as démarche to halt natural processes to a status quo; so as to favor the capitalists.

This duality of epistemological ontology is a major challenge that brings things to the arena of ‘interdisciplinary’ with contested positions on ecology. This paper aims to identify areas where joint efforts of social scientists are needed to better understand and keep the scientific approach vibrant and relevant in Pakistan. Range Science is taken as a case study and that how failure to catch up with the global discourse has led to stagnation of this valuable resource in Pakistan.

This study aims to produce a theoretical trail of arguments embedded in the realm of ‘practice in ecology’ within the context of Pakistan. Methodological position taken is ethnographic epistemology using qualitative and inductive approach.

Dr. Rao Nadeem Alam is Associate Professor in the Department of Anthropology at the Quaid-e-Azam University Islamabad. He holds a PhD in Social Anthropology (University of Vienna 2011) and has supervised more than ten M.Phil thesis during the last four years. He holds professional affiliations with International Institute of Asian Studies (IIAS), TALAASH, Teaching Anthropology Network (TAN) a group under the auspices of European Association of Social Anthropologists (EASA), and World Pastoralists Gathering. His diverse interests keep him engaged in multidisciplinary research. He teaches graduate students courses in Anthropological Theory, Narrative Studies, Visual Anthropology and Applied Anthropology.  raonadeem@gmail.com

Syed Mahmood Nasir is the Inspector General Forests at the ministry of climate change. He is also affiliated with the Global Change Impact Study Centre. He has had a diverse academic and professional career. He holds a masters degree in Forestry, postgraduate diploma in GIS and is currently a Ph.D candidate in the Department of Anthropology at Quaid-i-Azam University. He has introduced new concepts in ecological conservation such as REDD+ in Pakistan. His publication on Howard’s Life Zone Classification of Pakistan’s diverse ecosystems provides new understanding of climate change. igf.moenv@gmail.com

Narratives of a fractal city: The mapping of urban identity in AnisShivani’s Karachi Raj

Shireen Rahim

The development of spatial theory in the geographical and environmental sciences in recent years, has contributed significantly to the debate about the centrality of space and place, in shaping individual and collective identity in the socio-cultural, economic and political contexts. Edward Soja uses the term ‘fractal city’ (2000), to describe the fractured social geometry of the contemporary urban landscape which is marked by inequalities and social polarization. This paper contends that AnisShivani’s novel Karachi Raj (2015) is a fictional representation of Karachi as a fractal city. Shivani’s narrative directs us emphatically to the complex social stratification resulting from spatial configurations, that cause uneven development. This in turn leads to social and cultural barriers amongst different individuals and communities who are mainly identified by the specific locations they inhabit in the city. The strong sense of exclusion that marks the characters of the katchiabadi, the Basti, in the novel, impacts on their daily lives as they aspire towards social acceptance, by shifting their identities, in a rapidly expanding and turbulent urban space. The narrative shall be read as a segmented metropolitan panorama, in which the fragmented socio-cultural identities of diverse characters, are defined by the emerging urbanization processes in the city itself.

Dr. Shireen Rahim teaches at the Centre of Humanities and Social Sciences, Lahore School of Economics. She has a PhD in English Literature from the Punjab University and a post-graduate Diploma in ELT. She has previously worked as Assistant Professor at the Department of English, Punjab University, where she taught courses in Modern Poetry, Modern Drama, American Literature and Travel writing, in the MA and M.Phil programmes. She has also served as the Convener of the Diploma in ELT Programme at the English Department. srahim@lahoreschool.edu.pk

English as medium of instruction in Punjab: The 2009 experiment

Soha Bashir and Fizza Batool Bukhari

The Government of Punjab changed the medium of instruction in government schools to English from 2009. The policy, however, has proved more like a great experiment which, though not officially withdrawn, has been allowed to dilute and sour. Not only were the teachers not consulted but also this major decision concerning some 56000 state schools in Punjab was kept more or less secret from the body of teachers until one day they were handed the textbooks in English and asked to teach them.

The success rate decreased, grades fell, student cognition suffered tremendously, the teachers continued to teach in Urdu, or first in English then in Urdu. Rote learning or ratta greatly increased. The government first took steps to salvage the situation. The examination system was changed to incorporate more than 50 percent objective type questions and short answers, short teacher trainings for some were arranged with the help of British Council, students were given questions in both English and Urdu in the exams and permitted to choose the medium they felt easy in. Finally the project has at least partially been abandoned without clear announcement and without saying so in so many words.

When the project was launched the most important reason given was that the government wanted to provide an equal chance in life to students from poor household studying in government schools, who deprived of the important capital of English proficiency, lost many higher education and career opportunities. Parents of poor children were delighted. But their joy proved short-lived. The experiment failed. This study was carried out to find the evidence to prove that the experiment failed and considering the enthusiasm of parents and the students for learning English and a genuine effort by the teachers, why did it fail?

Although the Punjab Government had owned it as its own idea but gradually the same policy was adopted by other provinces and, in fact, by many other countries of Asia and Africa, interestingly, at about the same time, and with the same damaging results. The language question has always been most important in early education and its role as medium of instruction is of absolute importance in cognition and in defining the environment of learning in schools.

Soha Bashir has just completed her Mphil studies at the Lahore School of Economics. Through her years of teaching at school she has accumulated experience of dealing with students from different social backgrounds igniting a passion for pedagogy and class. She chose the role of medium of instruction for this study. She is currently teaching ‘O’ Levels of Beaconhouse Liberty Campus. sbashir75@gmail.com 

Fizza Batool is a Teaching and Research Fellow at the Lahore School of Economics. Her research interests include the study of urban environments and education. She continues to research various small towns of Punjab as well as school education in Lahore. She is an Assistant Editor of the Lahore Journal of Policy Studies. fizzab@lahoreschool.edu.pk

Compensating loss of forests or disguised forest offsets? A study of compensatory afforestation in India

Soumitra Ghosh

Though the phrase ‘compensatory afforestation’ (CA) has been much in use in official environmental literature (like EIAs) in India in recent years, the political economy of the new environmental product known as ‘compensatory forests’ remains to be studied. This paper aims to show that CA is accelerating the invasion of India’s forests by corporate entities in collusion with a permissive state, first by greenwashing the land-grab and more directly, also by encroaching upon common property resources and community-held lands in several ways. A brief discussion of the institutional aspects of the forest diversion process under the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980 follows, where we trace the evolution of the process in history. Finally, taking as illustrative examples; randomly selected cases of forest diversion for development projects (and ‘commensurate’ afforestation) i.e. Polavaram multi-purpose project in Andhra Pradesh; Durgapur mines of Western Coalfields Limited in Maharashtra, the Teesta Hydro Electricity Projects (HEP) in Sikkim and Lower Subansiri HEP in Arunachal Pradesh, the studyargues: 1. Compensatory afforestation is but another form of dubious and controversial environmental ‘offsets’ going on in various parts of the world. Such ‘offsets’, instead of mitigating or compensating environmental damage, substantially adds to it. 2. The process turns nature into value-added but largely fictitious exchangeable commodities; 3. Licensed deforestation, known as forest diversion, as well as compensatory afforestation to offset that— both narratives depend heavily on virtual marketable products like the spectrum of environmental services a forest produces, artificially segregated and broken into commodity- components, such as ‘compensated forests’; 4. CA is a legend concocted by capital and the state—it is simply not true.

Soumitra Ghosh is a social activist and independent researcher based in North Bengal, India. Soumitra has been working among the forest communities of North Bengal and India for more than last two decades, and has intermittently contributed research papers on forest and climate change issues to various journals and anthologies. soumitrag@gmail.com

Creating a hybrid commodity: The political economy of regasified-liquefied natural gas distribution in Pakistan

Tabitha Spence

Well after half a century since gaining independence, postcolonial Pakistan is commonly diagnosed by commentators, both local and international, as facing extreme challenges in terms of security, poverty, and development. The so-called “energy crisis” actually lies at the crossroads of these concerns, as is revealed when considering prevalent narratives associated with these concepts. The crisis is experienced daily by the public in the form of the frequent power outages disturbing lives in the domestic sphere, and simultaneously ripples outward in a series of contradictory processes across Pakistan’s economic, socio-ecological and political terrain. While the degree to which different residents experience loadshedding varies dramatically across space and time, all of Pakistan’s society is (re)shaped by the apparent scarcity.

This paper hypothesizes that the country’s transforming fuel mix, which at the moment involves a scalar shift in the direction of importing considerably more liquefied natural gas and coal, while drastically decreasing the contribution of oil and hydel to the country’s energy mix, is a phenomenon that reflects shifts in the global political economy, rearranging geopolitical formations, and reinforces processes of uneven development, unequal exchange and relations of dependency.

In order to explore this phenomenon in its specificity, this paper focuses on particular processes operating on two planes of the new hybrid commodity, regasified-liquefied natural gas (R-LNG). A new market for this product is being actively constructed in both material and financial terms. Tracing the material flows of regasified-liquefied natural gas from point of extraction abroad all the way to the point of consumption in Lahore, this paper reveals the socio-natural back story that is largely obscured or completely left out of dominant discourses around R-LNG. Moreover, findings from a simultaneous investigation of the flows of finance into this new market, and the policies enabling them, open up deeper questions about the concepts of poverty, security, and development in Pakistan.

Tabitha Spence is Teaching and Research Fellow at the Department of Environmental Science and Policy, Lahore School of Economics. She is also a PhD candidate in the Department of Built Environment and Development Studies at the University of KwaZulu, Natal. Her research interests are in the political economy of water, energy, and climate, particularly in the global South.

Are there biases in climate science? How does the dualism of society and nature produce strengths and weaknesses in climate science?

Tariq Abdullah

Climate Science does not deal adequately with the injustices in the framing of the issues of mitigation and adaptation to Climate Change. This is manifested in the growing global climate justice movement. Global Circulation Models(GCMs) lie at the foundation of our understanding of climate change and are presented as apolitical representations of the science of climate change. This paper argues that climate science institutions and practices reproduce the dualism of society and nature in many forms including the separation of science from politics. Here the dualism built into the fabric of capitalism can be seen in the separation of science from policy and the institutions of the IPCC from the UNFCCC. Why is this dualism built into capitalism and what are the consequences of this dualism for present day climate science. This paper argues that this dualism manifests itself in both strengths and weaknesses inside climate science which ultimately present an apocalyptical perspective on global warming. What is the consequence of this apocalyptical perspective. Certain social aspects are hidden from view and the social is represented as a monolithic and undifferentiated entity. This is reflected in the concept of anthropogenic climate change where the social has to be reintroduced into the natural. The contradictions built into this concept appear as climate fetishism with the agency of change oscillating between two poles, the fetishism of GHG molecules and the concept ofanthropos as the hypothetical climate machine manager. This paper explores the genealogy of GCM models and how the externalisation of Nature enables Capitalism to engage with the displacement of responsibility. In this way climate science continues to sustain the myth of the irrelevance of global capitalism to the global climate crisis. In particular climate science ignores certain kinds of social and historical distinctions which limit its role as a guide to address global warming. This paper explores the contradictions of addressing climate change as a politically neutral process.

Dr. Tariq Abdullah is Professor of Environmental Science at the Department of Environmental Science and Policy, Lahore School of Economics. He has been engaged in postgraduate teaching and research on sustainable development and climate change and the culture of capitalism. He was a Professor of Physics at the Centre for Solid State Physics, Punjab University, Lahore, until his retirement in 2007. There his research interests focused on the emergent properties of driven damped non-linear systems. He has a BSc.(Hons) degree in Physics from London University and a D.Phil in Theoretical Physics from Oxford University. drtariq@lahoreschool.edu.pk

Political ecology of solid waste privatization in Lahore

Usman Ashraf

In this research privatisation of solid waste management in Lahore is analysed by employing political ecology perspective. Main argument of this paper is that higher efficiency of private sector is based on externalities or “socialisation of costs”. The success narrative of privatization is deconstructed by considering economic cost of waste collectionand cost paid by the people, public sector and environment.

In 2007 study of solid waste management (SWM) in Pakistan by JICA and World Bank concluded that public sector has not been able to achieve required efficiency in solid waste. In 2012 a robust plan to revolutionise SWM in Lahore was introduced. The idea of ‘new SWM system’ was to outsource SWM to private sector that is celebrated as a success story of public-private partnership. The claims of success story primarily focus on increase in collection efficiency from 57% to 88% by private companies. But these claims do not mention that after privatization cost per ton of waste collection has doubled and overall budget has increased from 17 to 114 million. Cost externalised to the people of the city is that they pay twice for waste collection. On one hand they pay to informal sector for actual waste collection and to private companies for ‘formal transportation’. Interestingly public sector paid for establishment of IT based management and monitoring systems but that are being used by private companies to ensure maximization of profit. Apart from economic costs there are many other costs externalised from the system and success narrative. For example groundwater use, de-promoting recycling and exclusion of Informal sector.

Usman Ashraf is currently a student of M.A in Development Studies at The International Institute of Social Studies (ISS), The Hague. He completed his MPhil from the Lahore School of Economics. u.ashraf@student.eur.nl

The trajectory of development and social transformation in the desert communities of  Thar: an ethnographic perspective

Vikram Das Meghwar, Tooba Rafi and Rao Nadeem Alam

One way to trace the social changes in Thar is by following the changes in transport and technology from camel in pre-partition days to Chhakra in the 1950s which moved people and brought wheat from outside gradually expanding to other towns and changing the diet of Thari people.

With the advent of 80s motorized vehicles, second hand Toyota 4-wheel drive, started to be used for ferrying people and goods and as an ambulance in emergency. The connectivity of the village and the town increased and expanded. Trade and transport helped monetize the economy. In the 1990s the main roads started to be metalled. Technology began to make its ways into agriculture.

Trade, agricultural machinery, monetization of economy and the cash incentive in the garment factories of the nearly metropole, Karachi, initiated a process of migration.

Over time monetization has expanded, trade has been consistently taking over subsistence farming, and migration has increased in the quest for cash. Monetization changed the social status of shopkeepers, taxi owners and the salaried government primary school teachers. In the decade of 2000 government servants, many of these, primary school teachers, were allowed a loan against multiple salaries. This cash injection prompted many to start taxi service and other businesses making them rich and transforming them into local leaders.

In the 1990s a huge coal exploration project started and the immense energy potential associated with it brought extensive print and electronic media coverage. The NGOs arriving with it termed the subsistence farming and nomadic life and the cycles of drought, a life of poverty, deprivation and non existence of health facilities.

While the NGOs emphasized a need for development in Thar, the government has termed the land transformation and changes in water aquifers associated with coal mining and power generation as necessary for development.

The changes in infrastructure, arrival of high investment in coal, promises by government of making Thar Dubai and the media focus have transformed the imagined future prospects and the price of land in big towns is rising bringing about rural-urban migration and demographic change.

The stability of subsistence farming, nomadic cycles and local life have been replaced with rapid social and demographic change creating inequality, marginalization and deterioration in food and health.


Vikram Das Meghwar is Research Associate at The Department of Social Science and Liberal Arts (SSLA), Institute of Business Administration Karachi. He is currently working on "Climate adaptation, land acquisition and security, the gendered politics of dispossession in Pakistan." Until recently he was at the Institute of Rural Management Islamabad.  vikramghamwani@gmail.com

Tooba Rafi is working in Pakistan Reading Project. tooba.rafi@hotmail.com

Rao Nadeem Alam is an Assistant Professor at Qauid-i- Azam University, Islamabad. raonadeem@gmail.com

Mapping lively encounters: An alternate approach to disasters in regional areas

Zahra Hussain

Taking a constructivist approach, this paper will examine the role of culture in the production of landscapes and worldviews. Focusing on inhabited landscapes, this paper will explore the various connections between communities and their landscape and how disasters can disrupt this relationship. The paper will highlight the modern approach to ‘manage’ and ‘govern’ nature and populations, and discuss alternate modes of engagement by presenting a project that exemplifies an alternate mode of inquiry, to engage with nature and culture. This paper will discuss a recent case-study on the Attabad Lake formation in the North of Pakistan. By engaging with the lively encounters of the communities with their landscapes, this paper will present the various practices and processes that must be taken into account in order to understand the local worldview while intervening with regularized solutions.

Zahra Hussain is an architect, academic, theatre practitioner and culture observer. With an MA in visual cultures from Goldsmiths in London, she is currently doing her PhD in human geography at Durham University. Founding Laajverd in 2007 as an undergrad, she has taught at National College of Arts in Lahore, Pakistan, directed plays and exhibited international projects that experiment with communication strategies often relating to the sub-continental and post-colonial debates such as the InfoBomb; subcontinent newsroom and her recent research titled “Halo-caust; the architecture of counterinsurgency” which examines the ways in which Pakistani Urban spaces have rapidly transformed due to geopolitical conditions and various natural and man-made disasters. Zahra also leads the Academy for Democracy - Laajverd Visiting School project under which a 10-day intensive interdisciplinary school/think–tank is set up on a site of conflict or crisis in Pakistan to explore innovative ways of connecting the creative academia to current environmental and cultural challenges. zara.husain@gmail.com

Ecological role and social significance of vultures: a study in central Punjab

Zenab Naseem and Sadia Imran

Vultures being a keystone scavenger provide one of the most important yet under-appreciated ecosystem services of any avian group. As they feed by scavenging, vultures are highly specialized to rapidly dispose of large carcasses, thus playing a critical role in waste and nutrient cycling. The population of three species i.e. White-backed Vulture, Slender billed Vulture and Long billed Vulture in the wild has declined drastically over the past decade. The decline of Gyps vulture in South East Asia mainly India Pakistan and Nepal has been put at 97% in 2005. Based on the widespread and rapid decline of these three species of vultures IUCN listed them critically endangered in 2005.

This dramatic decline is associated primarily to a veterinary drug Diclofenac Sodium. Other plausible causes of vulture’s decline are loss of habitat and nesting sites, deliberate poisoning of carnivores leading to secondary poisoning of vultures, etc.

Although vulture declines might decrease overall diversity, certain species may benefit, small predators like rats and feral dogs if vultures become extinct. Therefore, an increase in population of other scavengers at carcasses could increase rates of disease transmission.

This review paper highlights the importance of vultures and how the changes in their population size leads to the ecosystem imbalance; as the vulture population is directly linked to the feral dog population, dog bites and spread of rabies in humans. The study will explore the increase in the incidences of dog bites and rabies cases in the government and private hospitals in Lahore. The salient features of the Changa Manga Aviary have been discussed and recommendations have been given for such aviaries all around the country for the conservation of this endangered species.

Zenab Naseem graduated from P.E.C.H.S College Karachi and completed her Masters from Kinnaird College Lahore in Environmental Sciences. After finishing her Master’s degree she worked as a Conservation Officer for WWF (World Wide Fund for Nature). She joined Lahore School in 2009 as a Manager at CREB (Center for Research in Economics and Business) and completed her MPhil in Environmental Science and Policy from the Lahore School of Economics. Her areas of interests include biodiversity and energy. She studied the feasibility of solar energy during her M.Phil research. Her work was published in the proceedings of two international conferences in Spain and Italy. naseemzenab@gmail.com

Sadia Imran graduated from Kinnaird College for Women University. She completed her Master’s in Environmental Science with distinction and was awarded gold medal. She is currently teaching at the Lahore School of Economics. During her M.Phil research she worked on “Socio-economic and environmental impacts of biogas in the rural areas of Punjab”. Her research interests include renewable energy, energy conversion, waste management, bio-diversity and education. sadia.sher.imran@gmail.com

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posted by S A J Shirazi @ 12/15/2016 01:54:00 PM,

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