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Number of Downlaods: 36

Published Date: Feb 1, 2010

Land Tenure: Issues in Housing Reconstruction and Income Poverty Case study of Earthquake-affected Areas in Hazara (W-113)

Kaiser BengaliWorking

February  2010


The massive 7.6
magnitude earthquake that hit a 27,000 square kilometer area in nine districts
of North West Frontier Province[1]
and Azad Kashmir on 8 October 2005 caused an estimated 80,000 deaths, an equal
number of injured, over 400,000 houses destroyed or structurally damaged, 3
million people rendered homeless, thousands of livestock killed, farms lost due
to landslides, irrigation systems ruined, and roads and communications

The widespread
devastation evoked a massive relief, reconstruction and rehabilitation
response. There is universal acknowledgement among the affected people of
assistance arriving within a day or two of the disaster; except in some remote
parts where it took as long as a week for relief to arrive. Individual groups,
NGOs, and religious organizations from as far as Karachi are said to have
appeared almost overnight with relief goods and medical supplies. The
Government of Pakistan was slower to respond, but once mobilized, it set its
relief machinery in motion. The distribution of tents and, subsequently, CGI
sheets was extensive. There was not a single family in the survey sample that
did not at least possess a tent. Relatively more resourceful families that
received winterized tents passed on the ordinary tents to tenants, servants and
homeless persons. Many built shelters with a combination of tent, CGI sheets,
bricks, wooden planks, and stones; some of these retrieved from destroyed
homes. Tented and CGI sheet shelters, and combinations thereof, are still

The Pakistan
Army’s airdrop of tents, blankets, food and medical supplies constituted a
significant contribution to the relief effort, particularly in areas rendered
inaccessible by the collapse of the road network. In Allai (Batagram district)
for example, the survivors first lived off food in the market stores and
roasted maize obtained from the then standing crop for a full week, before army
helicopters began to drop tents, blankets, food and medical supplies.[2]
The Army opened the road to Allai after about 20 days to enable other
organizations to bring in relief goods. The Army’s role in restoring road
communications and establishing air bridges throughout the earthquake-affected
areas is accepted as critical.[3]
Also mentioned with gratitude and admiration are the roles of rescue and relief
missions from Turkey, Cuba, Europe, USA, and other countries and the pervasive
roles of UN organizations in the relief operations. Airlifts of heavy road
construction equipment by US Chinook helicopters were critical to the Pakistan
Army’s task of opening the road network.

One of the key
response measures on the part of the Government of Pakistan was the creation of
the Earthquake Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Authority (ERRA), with
responsibility for a range of issues. Of these, housing reconstruction tops the
list. ERRA’s mandate on housing reconstruction includes: help in reconstruction
of houses, recommending architectural designs, specifications, and construction
materials for housing and so on.

There are many
commendable successes with respect to relief, recovery, reconstruction and
rehabilitation tasks. The same, however, cannot be said unambiguously about
housing reconstruction. Partly, the obstacles are rooted in ERRA’s rigid
procedures. In many areas, though, housing reconstruction has also become mired
in the traditional land tenure regime.

This paper deals
primarily with issues of land tenure, its impact on housing compensation
benefit incidence and ERRA’s handling of the matter. It also looks at the
income implications of land tenure patterns and compares the situation in
Hazara with that in Azad Kashmir. The study is based on a survey of two
affected districts in Hazara: Mansehra and Batagram. The lessons that emerge
with respect to land tenure, rural housing construction and incomes can perhaps
be of indicative relevance to the rest of the country as well.

Section 1
provides a background to the situation, profiles the main features of the area,
and presents an account of data collection and information gathering. Section 2
outlines the immediate relief measures undertaken in the wake of the earthquake
and the efforts at housing reconstruction. Section 3 looks at the issue of land
tenure in terms of the conflict it generates and its impact on incomes.

It is appropriate, herewith, to place upfront
the limitations of the paper. The study was conducted over a brief period of
four weeks, two of which were devoted to gathering information from the field.
The interviews – using a checklist type questionnaire – were carefully
structured and an attempt was made to record information in a uniform and
systematic manner. Respondents were cross-examined and responses based on
hearsay were discarded. Given that the sites and the respondents were not
selected randomly, no claim is made as to the statistical representativeness of
the data. As such, the statistics presented herein need to be regarded as
indicative and the conclusions drawn read with due qualifications.

Given that the earthquake had
almost exclusively affected the former Hazara Division of NWFP (a part of
Shangla district was also affected, though not as seriously), the area is
referred to in the paper as Hazara. This appears appropriate, as the land
tenure patterns in the rest of NWFP are not the same as in Hazara.

However, the importance of the
weeklong delay for the Army to begin airdropping relief supplies in Allai is
not lost upon the affected people of the area.

The casualties that the Army (and
UN personnel) suffered in opening the roads and providing relief in difficult
and dangerous terrain have not been adequately recognized.